The Other fashion innovation
"Telfar is easy to get - if you get Telfar"
Welcome to the Sociology of Business. For those new here, in my last analysis, Why are we paying for things?, I explored the workings of the taste economics, where products and services enjoy different perception depending on how they are marketed. You can subscribe below, find my book The Business of Aspiration on Amazon and find me on Instagram and Twitter.
Today, April 24th, is the last day of Telfar LIVE, a radical economic-social-cultural experiment by the most innovative fashion brand in the world. Described as “an economic model that corresponds to the nature of black cultural invention - in a market where Black culture moves all culture - but Black people don’t own their shit,” Telfar LIVE stems directly from the brand’s purpose of being “not for you, but for everyone.”
For those who missed it, Telfar LIVE works like this: a product assortment drops at its wholesale price; every second, the price increases, until an item sells out. Once an item is sold out, the price it was at stays as its retail price.
In a reversal of the Veblen effect, demand of a Telfar product leads to its lower price - and greater accessibility.
Telfar LIVE is the latest innovation in a string of this brand’s initiatives. For the past few years, Telfar have seamlessly and organically been mixing entertainment with community with commerce, putting forward a new fashion brand-building model. TELFAR’s website, Instagram account and TELFAR TV deliver a world that, at a first glance, seems to exist purely for its own enjoyment purposes. This is true; it is also true that it exists for enjoyment of the vast TELFAR community, members of which regularly find themselves on the giant screens at the TV studio and on TELFAR’s Instagram feed. The brand fans are at the main source of entertainment and its main audience.
In turn, entertainment is the main source of product communication. TELFAR TV is described as a “black-owned AKA un-owned AKA unknown, 24 hour live-linear public access tellyvision network: submit videos, watch LIVE shows and get exclusive drops from the NYC based non-gendered fashion brand.” Anyone can submit their video. The brand’s products - most notably its vegan Shopping Bags - signal the TELFAR fandom’s identity (imagined and literal, as reflected in the name Corned Beef, released on last year and this year complemented with a mustard-colored one, launched with the appropriate corresponding content, below).
In a “consumers-as-investors” model, TELFAR’s Bag Security Program ensures that everyone can get a bag (waiting only makes it more desirable, and owning it more rewarding), without resale markups. Bag Security Program also ensures that TELFAR can manage its production in a profitable way, giving the brand independence: “Last year we messed up the fashion industry and the bots with the BAG SECURITY PROGRAM - letting you get what you want, without the stress - and keeping TELFAR Black Owned and 100% independent. You are our investors - and together we are making history again.” Restocks and shipments are regularly announced to the community on TELFAR’s Instagram account and TELFAR TV.
TELFAR is built a drip business model, where it combines just-in-time production with episodic live entertainment that is as accessible and public as its Bag Security Program. TELFAR’s drip strategy works for two reasons:
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