First published on Fashion Journal
Image credit: Pinterest
There is no denying that the boundaries between pop culture, high fashion, and music artists are becoming more and more blurred. But in a way, this new wave of fashion-focused band merchandise is total bullshit. The reason we bought our first band tee was less out of choice than it was pure reflex. We lived and breathed for the artist on the stage, and buying the show merch was just another step closer to our idols.
I strongly doubt that the kids that lined up to buy the latest Saint Pablo t-shirt have the same devotion to Kanye as my older sister did to Kurt Cobain. But this is less about music merch than it is about fashion merch. It’s not a band t-shirt, it’s a fashion artefact. And these are the artists that are doing it best right now.
1. Kanye West
Resist it all you like, but Kanye is a trailblazer. The man could get you hyped for a pap smear. From his Yeezy shows to his Pablo pop-up shops, Ye’s got the entire fashion world’s attention. He’s tapped into the Supreme street-style aesthetic so convincingly that even if you hate him, you’ve gotta give credit where credit’s due. That something so outstandingly basic as a cotton t-shirt could cause such a shit storm obviously speaks to the cache of Kanye and his marketing genius. But it also speaks of our crippling desire to identify with a certain type of insta-friendly street fashion.
And to think just a few years ago the guy dressed like a camp Jordan Belfort.
Where’d this guy and his perfect facial hair come from? Zayn is the kind of guy that you probably ignored in high school only to bump into him 5 years later to find he’s a massive solo artist and going out with the hottest girl in the world. No, wait... that’s literally Zayn. Oh, and also it turns out he’s REALLY good at fashion. You can tell that his Zayn Malik shop is selling the kind of stuff that he might wear when Gigi and him go out for pizza. Think bomber jackets with Arabic inscriptions of Zayn, and long-sleeved skate tops in simple monochrome tones. Everything he’s selling is ridiculously appealing for shit that’s so unassuming. A bit like Zayn himself, actually. I think the lesson we’ve learnt from this is to never ignore boys in high school, especially if they’re part of a chart-topping global sensation.
Beyonce and fashion have always had a bit of interesting relationship. We all know that nothing and no one can touch her but still she'll wear the most perfect jacket you’ve ever seen like she’s battling to try and out-flawless it. But Bey’s not exactly trying to create super high-fashion merchandise in the way that Kanye and Justin Bieber are. Her brand of merchandise is more about the message behind her music. Literally. Her sweaters and t-shirts are printed with her snazzy little cult one-liners. Not much chop if you're trying to get your street-style fame game on, but this is more of your good. old-fashioned type of merch. It's simple and fun, and feels v. Bey.
The best part about Drake, is that for all his swagger, the Canadian-born rapper is still a good Jewish boy who makes me proud of my inner nerd. He is living proof that it’s completely possible to get you a man that does both. His record label OVO (October’s Very Own) has its own fashion line attached, and it’s not so much merchandise as it is a fully fledged fashion label. That chocolate brown terrycloth baseball cap that you always wanted? You can get it from OVO, and a matching t-shirt to boot. You’re welcome.
5. Justin Bieber
When I first heard that Justin Bieber was selling a t-shirt at Barneys with Marilyn Manson’s face on the front, and BIEBER written in Slayer font on the back, I fell into a rage blackout. My standard Bieber response. But when you really think about it, even though Manson and Bieber are literally polar opposites, they’re both controversial and unpredictable. Bieber just wants to prove he’s grown. If he wants to wear a $2000 plaid coat then you can’t stop him. But in all earnestness, the Barneys collaboration with Bieber’s Purpose Tour fashion line is a certain sign that artists like Bieber want to be taken seriously within the fashion world. And a sign that the fashion world gods have approved it. Even Chiara Ferragni says yes.