What is fashion merchandising

The T-shirt thing was never planned that way. The two Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton had actually only opened their first diner in London in 1971 to finally be able to eat smart burgers in the city. A few years later they sponsored a local soccer team, so the jerseys put the restaurant's logo on white t-shirts: Hard Rock Cafe, London. The remaining ones they distributed to regular customers, and what they did with them could be seen at some point in the deepest province of West Germany: People wore the t-shirt of the expanding restaurant chain with proudly bulging chests.

One was there! (Or at least someone you knew who was kindly in line for the thing.) In London! Later in New York, Tokyo, Berlin! The hard rock cafe shirt was said to be the best-selling souvenir in the world. In any case, it became an early example of insanely successful "merchandising", the perfect squeezing of a brand with fan merchandise.

Almost fifty years later, the round logo is no longer displayed quite so ostentatiously, instead all sorts of other advertising banners are emblazoned on the T-shirts out there: the lettering of the series "Friends", the band Metallica, from DHL or Kellogg's. The fan items with the "artwork" for the new Harry Styles album were sold in specially set up pop-up stores in London, New York and Los Angeles before Christmas. Otherwise, however, "Merch", as it is called in short, is much easier to get than it used to be. You don't even have to make a pilgrimage to a concert, a place or a fan shop - everything can be ordered online. And the fashion houses are kind to help.

H&M is currently offering "Music, Film & Logos" on its online page in the "Trending Now" category. With one click you land in the middle of fan demand for pop stars Billie Eilish and Shawn Mendes. In the summer, Levi's sold a capsule collection in collaboration with the costume designers of the Netflix series "Stranger Things", followed by a "Star Wars" collection in the fall, just in time for the film release of "The Rise of Skywalker". Instead of the normal "Friends" T-shirts, Asos has one for Valentine's Day with a romantic photo print of the characters Rachel and Ross. The phenomenon was christened "Merch-Mania", fan articles as a huge fashion trend.

The industry site "Business of fashion "asked after a surprising revival of band shirts in the summer of 2017, how long people actually wanted to run around with devotional objects, whether the end of the flagpole would not be reached soon. Looking back, the question can be answered with" Um, no ". The end is Far from in sight, on the contrary, the range is getting bigger and bigger. Diesel teamed up with Coca-Cola. For the current blockbuster exhibition in the Louvre, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death, posters were next to the usual museum merch , Pencil and cotton bag launched its own limited fashion collection for the first time: "Off-White x Louvre", designed by American designer Virgil Abloh. White and online retailer Farfetch for a take-away price of 470 euros.

Maximum attention through lettering on socks

Merch is the perfect business for vendors. Stars like Billie Eilish, or previously Ariana Grande, sell a license for the use of certain trademark rights to dealers like H&M and usually collect so-called royalties with every item sold. Paid advertising in the opposite sense - someone pays to get the name out. The Swedes are allowed to print the stars' lettering on jogging pants, socks and bum bags. Minimal design effort, maximum attention, especially when Billie Eilish is announced as the new Bond siren shortly after it goes on sale. A license to print money.

In 2018, royalty revenues from merchandising rose to $ 15 billion worldwide. These figures also include characters, of course, but according to the Licensing International organization, clothing is one of the biggest sellers of sales. Why children so like to wear sweatshirts with their heroes from "Lego Ninjago" or "Frozen" is clear. That teenagers want to feel part of a group with clothing from (human) brands - also understandable. The question remains, why do adults walk around with "Friends", "Star Wars" or Coca-Cola.

It's not about status like with all the logo shirts. Which, if you are to be completely honest, are basically nothing more than simple merch. A t-shirt with the YSL or Chanel logo is the fan scarf among luxury items, the entry-level tariff in the no longer hermetically sealed fashion world. In addition, basics with any font on them go wonderfully with the ongoing nineties revival and make every blazer a bit more street-worthy. Rarity may still play a role in limited collections such as Off-White x Louvre, but obviously this trend is primarily about the tendency to constantly communicate to the people around you what you find good at the moment. The T-shirt has become the analog branch of the Instagram account. You no longer wear your heart on your tongue, but rather in the middle of your chest. Today there is hardly any time to talk anyway, the textile replaces the verbal statement.

This can of course also be an ironic comment. When Vetements, under the then designer Demna Gvasalia, sent a t-shirt with the DHL logo onto the catwalk in 2016, it was actually meant as a hint to the insane postage costs in the studio. But it was immediately understood as "anti-merch", as cool consumer criticism in the age of online shopping. (It was then ordered online, of course.) In autumn, Gvasalia alienated typical Parisian souvenir goods at Balenciaga, this spring there are "Hello Kitty" bags and "Balenciaga's top model" shirts. Wink for a few hundred euros each. But do you really demonstrate something with it - or is it possible that you are demonstrating yourself?

While everyone is talking about sustainability, the half-life of these items of clothing should be manageable. On Instagram, each piece of content is usually only posted once. How often can you put the same statement on the t-shirt? Or you would just have to leave things lying around long enough in between. If Balenciaga returned the Hard Rock Cafe shirt tomorrow, it would be a huge success for sure.

You can only become a real star with your own fan article

Nostalgia, anyway a constant theme of the, well, "current" zeitgeist, also plays a major role in the merch trend. Sociologists have long observed that especially in uncertain times, positive emotional memories of the past offer a welcome escape from everyday life. One in Journal of Consumer Research published study even suggests that consumers are far more likely to spend money when they are nostalgic.

When Gucci first sent a men's sweater down the catwalk with Donald Duck in 2016, the industry was still frowning. Seriously? Gucci goes Disney? No one is surprised anymore, cartoon heroes have long been permanent guests of the Italian brand. In January, for the Chinese year of the mouse, an entire collection with the world's most famous ears was launched. Bags, suitcases, clothes, sweaters - Mickey appears everywhere. "These are the Gucci parts that we order the most from," says Emmanuel de Bayser, co-owner of the Berlin luxury boutique The Corner. "People love that." The Disney group is already considered a master of merchandising and specifically approaches brands. Since managing the Star Wars universe, Disney's licensed product sales have climbed to nearly $ 60 billion in 2018.

Unsurprisingly, Warner Brothers is increasingly following suit. A few weeks ago Etro presented a limited Tom & Jerry collection. From February onwards, the figures will be seen on Reebok shoes. Not only TV series with their never-ending stories keep us in the infantile loop, like the cultural scientist Nathalie Weidenfeld recently in a guest article in SZ wrote - fashion often does too.

The total market for licensed products is said to be more than $ 280 billion. And the whole "Election Merch" from the USA will be rolling out soon. What follows the "I'm with her" slogan that was used to support Hilary Clinton in 2016? Election secrecy was yesterday. In addition to magazines like Monocle and 032c also sells the Vogue own fan articles. When the well-known stylist Giovanna Battaglia brought out a book at the end of 2017, she had t-shirts printed especially for it and then wore them herself to the fashion shows. Providers such as printful.com are already promoting the production of "tailor-made merchandise for Instagram" for influencers. Today you are only a real star when you have fan articles. Or the other way around: you don't even have to try without fan articles.

© SZ from 01/25/2020 / ick / vs