When David Fischer started a blog under the name Highsnobiety in 2005, little did he know that 16 years later it would be reaching a worldwide audience of millions.
Using his personal passion for selected products from streetwear and luxury brands as a starting point, Fischer edited his blog’s content unconventionally, casually mixing expensive luxury products and sneakers from widely popular sports brands. What was then an unconventional view of the world of fashion now moves even global corporations such as Mercedes-Benz, whose collaboration with Virgil Abloh, the pre-eminent representative of a new generation of designers, is a current example.
On his blog Highsnobiety, David Fischer features selected products from streetwear and luxury brands.
The founder of Highsnobiety, David Fischer.
Abloh’s work is devoured by Highsnobiety readers like that of a pop star – whether he is creating a new men’s collection as the design director at Louis Vuitton Men, or designing a new pair of sneakers for Nike. A young and affluent target group comprising Gen Z and Millennials (those aged between 18 and 36) is changing the way companies create sought-after products.
On top of quality and price, a product’s story now plays a more prominent role, as well as the mindset with which a brand markets and manufactures the product. All of this gives the product a cultural appeal which is becoming increasingly influential when taking purchasing decisions. In all, this shift in focus has created a new understanding of luxury. David Fischer recognised this trend particularly early on and thus influenced a new generation of fashion enthusiasts.
Mr Fischer, what is luxury?
I don’t have a simple answer to that. I suppose everyone has their own particular take on it nowadays. Luxury can be a special experience, a long-awaited holiday for example. For others, it may mean buying an expensive jacket or owning a pair of strictly limited-edition sneakers. Basically, it is becoming increasingly clear that the aura of luxury is no longer created by price, special craftsmanship or its reliance on a brand tradition alone. The young target group that comprises the majority of Highsnobiety readers sees luxury in a new way. I myself feel in between these generations. I’m influenced by the “old” world in my understanding of luxury, but I do know owning a pair of strictly limited-edition sneakers can also mean luxury – even if limited doesn’t have to mean expensive.
Major sports brands often deliberately produce less with a view to making their products more desirable, and in doing so forego sales volume – even though they don’t actually have to.
True luxury almost always has to do with limitations. This can arise through use of rare raw materials, but in recent times the limitations have been artificially created. This is a strategy typical of new luxury: a targeted shortage increases desirability. This then radiates to other products.
Let’s take the example of diamonds, which are by their very nature scarce. When the generation of 20- to 30-year-olds trades a pair of Nike Air Jordans for €1,000 on resale platforms such as StockX or even eBay, this matches the asking price of a pair of Balenciaga or Gucci shoes, both classic luxury brands. So the price tag and people’s willingness to spend heavily on fashion is stronger than ever.
Highsnobiety caught on to this trend early, accompanied it and helped shape it. The book “The New Luxury” chronicles this development – and indirectly the history of Highsnobiety.
Work of art made out of basketballs: a sculpture by Tyrrell Winston in the Highsnobiety office in Berlin.
You started Highsnobiety in 2005 as a blog for sneaker fans. In the meantime, it has become a mini media empire. Millions of readers access your website and social media channels every day. What is the secret of your success?
I started the blog because I was a fan. I particularly liked streetwear clothes from America and Japan; Tokyo in particular. However, as a European, I have always been influenced by the classic luxury of French and Italian luxury brands. I brought these two worlds together on Highsnobiety very early on – and I clearly struck a nerve. Why not combine sneakers from Nike with a bag from Louis Vuitton? Or a Rolex watch? They always went together, as far as I was concerned. This meant my team and I started breaking down boundaries very early on. At that time, however, the brands concerned did not really get it that a large market was ready to open up for them.
The hugely successful collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme has changed all that. Supreme is a New York clothing brand that has been revered like a cult, especially by skaters and hip-hoppers. The most unlikely of partners for the luxury giant.
Both brands, however, perfectly embody each of the worlds from which they come: Louis Vuitton has a tradition of over 100 years as a bag manufacturer. Their products have become desirable through craftsmanship, price and their history. Supreme was also luxurious in its own way, as the brand has always worked with stringent limitations. Fans sometimes had to queue for days outside the few Supreme stores worldwide to be first in line for a new “drop”. At the same time, those waiting couldn’t even be sure they’d actually get the hoodie they wanted. This urge to own rare pieces has always fascinated me. Finding new things – that’s what led me to start Highsnobiety.
Most recently I discovered the jewellery manufacturer Werkstatt:München. Its founder, Klaus Lohmeyer, has been making the jewellery for an avant-garde fashion label for years. The company headquarters is in a backyard. There’s no sign on the door. Customers instinctively know why they come to him. That’s what I like about it.
But such real-life discoveries have become rare – Highsnobiety’s audience mostly finds its inspiration on Instagram, doesn’t it?
Yes, it does, and that also changes Highsnobiety’s function. It’s almost impossible to discover something any more, because someone has already done it on Instagram before you. I often get lost on Instagram myself, jumping from account to account. Unlike a decade ago, Highsnobiety is now about giving context to such phenomena and fashion trends. We want to explain to our community why something is important and wonderful, why you should pay attention to certain trends and products.
Mercedes-Benz Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener created a G-Class in collaboration with designer Virgil Abloh.
This hype culture, in which special products can only be bought in limited quantities, led to the growing trend of collaborations. Because collaborating with artists, pop stars or designers increases the desirability of an already limited product even more. A principle that Mercedes-Benz has stayed true to in its collaboration with Virgil Abloh. What are the characteristic features of a successful collaboration?
It’s important to act authentically. Why does collaborating make sense? The connection to fashion has a long tradition at Mercedes-Benz through its partnership with the Fashion Weeks. Virgil Abloh has always been a big Mercedes-Benz fan – creating an incentive for collaboration. If that natural affinity is not there and brands take too many shortcuts, it will have an adverse impact on the product’s desirability. And we know this from our readers: they are a very demanding target group, and at the same time loyalty is a lot more fickle than it used to be. This opens up opportunities too: the more clearly I position a brand – even with political issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement – the higher regard it will be held in. Taking a stand may be polarising. In the end, though, it gained us more fans and followers than we lost. That’s how the new media world works.
And in this new world, brands have a status that is probably higher than ever before.
Gen Z and the Millennial generation express themselves through brands today the way young people used to express themselves through band T-shirts. Brands are the new bands; they have pop-star status and similar cultural power. This power evolves primarily through this clear positioning.
In the digital world, you have a huge global reach, but the Highsnobiety magazine comes out twice a year. Why is that?
The magazine is not about reach as far as we are concerned. Print, however, has a strong signalling effect. Magazines have a certain authority and charisma that digital channels just don’t have. And as a medium, we also demonstrate a certain authority with it. Of course, the high-quality production of the magazine as far as the photo series and articles are concerned is very important for us, but so too is the feel of it.
This is something special and desirable nowadays to a generation that has grown up with the internet. Like a distinctive business card you can take with you. And for many of the young artists we feature, a print cover is still something they’re very proud of.
What is particularly important for brands in this complex media world?
Brands need to inspire people over and over again, staying in constant contact with the public. Our readers have become used to this by now. And it is only a few years before they will be part of the population group with the most purchasing power. They already have more disposable income than most other generations. That is why the shift in the understanding of luxury is so significant: the generation of 20- to 30-year-olds is reshaping it, changing it for the future and, in a way, is changing the world with it. Because fashion and youth cultures are always shaped by young people, they also always provide a foretaste of how the world as a whole will develop.