Over at Racked, Elizabeth Segran had a really good post this week on the death of the hipster brand.
Specifically, she writes an obituary for the heyday of American Apparel and Urban Outfitters, both of which are struggling for relevance in today’s quaint economy where consumers are worried about who made their products and what the story behind them is. Companies that have brands tied to authenticity. Companies like Etsy (or Everlane, or Reformation).
It’s notable that Urban Outfitters and American Apparel’s moral failings became more pronounced just as its target demo started developing a cohesive sense of personal principles. In recent years, hipster culture, in so much as it even still exists, has become much more about internalizing a set of ideals about how to live ethically, rather than simply rejecting everything mainstream.
“To use two stereotypes, there was a shift from the Vice hipster to the Portlandia hipster,” says Brandes. “It’s about being environmentally conscious, knowing where your products come from, and supporting local artisans.” American Apparel once attracted customers with its sweatshop-free manufacturing, which stood in contrast to brands like Nike and Gap that made headlines for their poor factory conditions. But whatever credibility this lent the brand, it was all but erased by Charney’s disturbing behaviour. Urban never had a core ideology behind it to begin with, which made it even easier for offensive merchandise to make it to retail.
“There was a shift from the Vice hipster to the Portlandia hipster.”
Another reason these stores are doing so poorly? What was once considered “hipster style” has gone completely mainstream. Urban Outfitters and American Apparel are trying to sell an aesthetic that is no longer fresh and exciting. Your mum can buy herself a pair of skinny jeans at Eileen Fisher. Warby Parker has brought thick, Buddy Holly-style glasses to the masses.
It’s a wonderful coincidence this post was written the day before Etsy announced its $US100 million IPO. Hipsters are out. The quaint economy has gone mainstream.
But every mainstream culture spurs a counterculture — so what’s next?