Influencer “clothing” brands, and the art of cashing in.

If indie brands are pushing the fashion industry forward with their advertising and branding, influencer brands are presenting a compelling argument for why fashion shouldn’t innovate.

Similarly to the music industry, merchandise has always been present within YouTube and a popular way that fans can support a creators. However, the term merchandise comes with the preconception that the clothing isn’t going to be particularly high-quality, and to counteract this some YouTuber’s have started relabelling their merchandise as a brand.

“It’s not merch, it’s a brand.”

It’s difficult to know who initially came up with the idea of using the term “brand” instead of “merch”, but one of the most significant examples was definitely Logan Paul’s Maverick brand. Significant because;

A) It made him very, very rich in a relatively short space of time.
B) The brand received backlash for its manipulative advertising techniques; encouraging children to harass their parents if they didn’t receive any clothing or accessories for Christmas.

It’s amazing how many of these influencer owned “brands” are coming into existence since Maverick. Sure, Maverick wasn’t the first, but it definitely had an influence on YouTube.

The latest brand to catch my attention is Alfie Deye’s, dubbed Future Self (or FUTURESELF as it’s labelled on the clothing). I’ve chosen to focus on Alfie’s because he unintentionally reflects why these brands are so painful to witness as someone who loves branding and (loosely) follows the fashion industry.

Firstly, my biggest grievance with YouTubers using the term “brand” is that it’s used as justification for a higher price tag.

Sure, Alfie claims that the clothing costs more than his merch to produce, but in theory they should cost similar amounts as both are cotton blend clothing and his merch tends to have more complicated designs (more variety of colour and layered) than his Future Self clothing.

This excuse also ignores why real fashion brands are able to charge more for their clothing.

Brands price their clothing based on how much demand there is to wear it; which is why Gucci can price their suits in the thousands whereas M&S can’t. Influencers don’t understand this concept, and seem to think that the only reason a brand will have higher prices is because people will buy anything if it’s from a “brand”.

However, what is a brand? What makes Tyler The Creator’s GOLF clothing not merch, and why is Tom Ford’s self-named brand also not merch?

Partly because they earned that respect within fashion due to their unique designs, but also other factors such as them having a seasonal collections, and debuting these clothes at their own runway shows. Then, over time and as their clothing becomes more in demand, the fashion industry respects it as a brand.

In the case of Alfie, though, he expects it to be regarded as a brand simply because he calls it such.

Even as a small indie fashion label, Future Self simply doesn’t have the creativity that other indie labels display. All of their clothing “designs” are just their name in black and white with a wave effect; the kind of design that takes less than 3 minutes to create in Adobe Illustrator.

There’s no personality to the clothing (or colour), and even the marketing video for Future Self doesn’t have any identity of its own. It’s a mish-mash of generic indie tropes, including skateboarding and jumpy editing.

This is true of the majority of these YouTuber “brands”, they just don’t have the creativity or originality that successful indie labels create. Without the ties to an influencer, the brands would fail because they aren’t good quality.

Alfie’s Future Self, for example, would flop if it wasn’t tied to Alfie Deyes name. However, because Alfie is the brand’s owner, his fans will purchase the clothing. This, as a result, makes it no different to his merch (as he’s only selling it to his existing audience).

If we’re being honest, it seems like the creation of these brands is to justify bigger profit margins, rather than being passion projects or attempts to expand their capabilities outside of YouTube.

Sure, in the upcoming year any of these influencer brands could do something amazing and be at the front of GQ magazine, but as it currently stands this is just another way to make a quick buck off of an impressionable audience.

These influencers – whether they realise it or not – make the argument that originality doesn’t have to exist within a brand, it just needs to be linked to someone famous and the sales will follow.

One response to “Influencer “clothing” brands, and the art of cashing in.”

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