Racked posted a piece titled “The Fall of the Hipster Brand: Inside the Decline of American Apparel and Urban Outfitters” yesterday, which doesn’t include any perspective from anyone associated with either brand. It does however, tell the story of the fallen subculture, through the lens of Daniel Bernardo.
After graduating art school in 2005, Bernardo was magnetized to Williamsburg, Brooklyn because he wanted to start a handmade shoe business and he had a mustache that required wax. No, he didn’t found Toms shoes a year later and get picked up by Urban Outfitters (an early adopter of the brand), but he did move above a skateboard shop with some creatives. Then he noticed that Urban and American Apparel were trying to sell HIS look, and man, that’s pretty fucked up and they were even making tons off it.
Wait there’s more earth shattering observations here from a 28-year-old LA-based creative director named Katherine Brandes. Brandes breaks down the hipster phylum scientifically, saying, “My friends and I sometimes like to observe hipsters in their natural habitat, which around here is Silver Lake.” That’s it. They people watch. But she does go on to say, “There was a shift from the VICE hipster to the Portlandia hipster. It’s about being environmentally conscious, knowing where your products come from, and supporting local artisans.”
Strange observation, since VICE was started by punks who at one time challenged traditional views and championed being conscious–albeit with PBR in hand–and as stated before, Urban Outfitters has carried several sustainable brands and continues to do so. American Apparel’s entire ethos was based on being made ethically and locally, years before every asshole was pickling things and claiming Lumbersexual farm-to-table superiority. OK, AA founder Dov Charney is a creep and it caught up to him, but who isn’t a little creepy… at least when you’re knee deep in counter-culture.
Oddly, after a massive economic crash, the advent of eCommerce, and spending insane amounts to set up lavish store fronts in expensive places across the US, both AA and UO aren’t doing well–weird. But the economy is never mentioned in the piece, just hipsters–a shit load–and being out of touch, and PBR, and a push towards people wanting to be more conscious. Fuck, they even blame Normcore for the companies’ declines, never mentioning that when the Gap tried to co-opt Normcore it was a fail too.
What’s amazing is the piece implying that the “Fall of the Hipster,” is rooted in some sort of quest for righteousness and authenticity, instead of the fact that AA and UO weren’t the identifiers of anything related to what made Williamsburg and “hipster” (puke) culture so profitable. AA was only in the conversation because they took out massive advertising in VICE–that’s it. Buying anything fake-vintage at Urban Outfitters was never a sign of cool–ever.
So yes, the demise of an imaginary culture happened, because the big brands that appropriated it and marketed it to regular people are losing money. Regular people who were never a part of it and who just buy stuff, because they can. Right on.