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Pandemic Shopping: We’re Turning Into Eco-Conscious Bearbrick Collectors

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For months—months!—consumers and fashion industry thinkers alike have wondered what the pandemic would do to the shopping habits of Americans. For the most part, of course, a crunched economy and staggering job losses mean that many of us are shopping far less. But when people are shopping, are they more conscious in their choices, or do they seek out quick and inexpensive thrills? Can the hypebeast cycle give way to a quieter kind of hunt?

A new report from The RealReal reveals that, at least when it comes to that platform’s own customers, shoppers are becoming more eco-conscious…and more interested in streetwear. How about that! Tracking buying behavior over the year so far, the 2020 Resale Report found several somewhat predictable patterns: “a new wave of influence emerged,” as the report notes, during COVID-19. It is a chart of our shifting psychology and interests over the past several months: searches for silk scarves spiked in early April, as GQ reported earlier this year; loungewear searches went up 194% year-over-year shortly thereafter. In April and May, when The Last Dance took over our televisions, we looked for grails that might make us feel somehow connected to history, and Jordan searches went up 23%. Tie-dye peaked in June, up 101% year-over-year—TikTok, where the technique is wildly popular, had by then come into its own as a cultural force. (Well done, Hedi Slimane!)

But two larger and perhaps less predictable themes emerged. First: shoppers are flocking to sustainably-minded brands. Three GQ favorite brands are leading the way—eco-raver Collina Strada (up 413% year over year), quilt queen Bode (342%), and couture recycler Marine Serre (259%). Notably, all three of these brands are major upcyclers—old fabric turned into new jawnz, not new “smart” fabrics made out of waste, seems to be what resonates with consumers. (Louis Vuitton was onto something!)

On the flipside: hype has not dissipated. If anything, the RealReal has found a lot of success moving further into the hypebeast space occupied by Grailed and StockX—on the RealReal, the usual suspects of Yeezy, Nike, and Balenciaga are leading the market. In the past two years, demand for streetwear pieces by traditional luxury brands went up 486% on the site. Louis Vuitton, which merges the savoir-faire of a French luxury house with streetwear bonafides sharpened by Kim Jones and imploded by Virgil Abloh, is now the most searched brand across the site, overtaking Chanel and Gucci.

Most wonderfully, for our Bearbrick-collecting readers: throughout quarantine, hypebeast passion has zeroed in on art and objects as users look for ways to improve their homes. Searches for art and objects is up 57%, and demand for Bearbricks—those kitschy, streetwear-inflected collectible bear toys—is up a whopping 71% over last year.

And whether or not you think the Bearbrick market has matured, many Real Real shoppers are growing into shrewd investors. In late May, for example, Rolex sales went up 32%, as buyers searched for collectible pieces that might accrue value instead of seeking more moderately-priced thrills. Handbag trends reflect a similar shift. Now, at last, analysts and critics alike can imagine all of you checking the time on your second hand Rolex, and wishing your army of Bearbricks a beautiful night.

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