This morning, Barney’s New York opened its doors, not to those keen to shop their summer sale first or to get to the pre-fall Gucci drop, but to throngs of eager fans of a certain Canadian superstar. They have their eye on one thing: Justin Bieber Purpose Tour merch (that’s 2016 for merchandise), and they will be clambering to get their hands on it before the eBay resellers do. Or will they?
Barney’s New York is somewhat of a fashion institution catering to Manhattan’s elite, so it seems strange that they would pick up this range. It was co-created by Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo – whose line Barney’s also sells – which will have been something to do with it. The fact the Purpose Tour merch’s greatest influence seems to be Vetements and Saint Laurent, undoubtedly constant fixtures in Barney’s best-sellers, will also have been a deciding factor. But what about the clothes themselves?
Taking cues from Fear of God’s own collection, check shirts, joggers and leather jackets all feature, along with some distressed denim and the obligatory tour tees and sweats. Some surprising additions are a Marilyn Manson t-shirt and a tartan “kilt”. The cost? A simple logo hoody will set you back $325, a denim jacket is a snip at $1250 and the kilt is a mere $840 (which is a $145 inflation on the near identical Fear of God design). The top price is the $1695 leather biker. Surely this is a joke, or a mistake at least? It seems not.
American Vogue defended Barney’s decision to stock the “covetable” collection, reminding us the department store was among the first to stock Kanye West’s Yeezy line. Yes there are similarities in how the collection came to be, and with the Vetements-style ‘security’ logos and gothic typography there are similarities elsewhere; the Purpose product isn’t bad. But Yeezy isn’t tour merch, it’s a now-fully-fledged fashion label preparing for its fourth season and although still financially inflated, isn’t solely targetting a teenage market and isn’t claiming to be “tour merch”. When you compare Bieber’s offering to the “Pablo merch” accompanying West’s latest tour where a sweatshirt will fetch $90 – incredibly an almost normal price by 2016’s tour merch standards – Bieber is having a laugh.
The real issue here is who is buying these garments. They are labelled as unisex, but marketed and styled entirely as menswear on barneys.com, even though men are definitely in the minority of Bieber’s fanbase. They are out of the realms of affordability to probably 99% (or more) of Bieber’s fanbase. Rich kids? Maybe. Parents whose children have become almost as consumed by the fame and influence of the singer as Bieber has himself? Probably.
It speaks of hideous irresponsibility that Bieber and his team would allow his fans to be exposed to such blatant commercial greed and disguise it as loyalty, captioning his Instagram with, “Go to barneys now !!! My new collection with @jerrylorenzo! Grab your purpose tour gear.”
The sad fact is that it will sell out and mostly to resellers who will command more than double the retail value on eBay, from parents who can far from afford it. The rest will be to those in New York, so they can wear it to the last nights of Bieber’s US tour at Madison Square Gardens, that has already cost in excess of $100 per ticket.
But I hope it doesn’t. Maybe I’m just too old to get it, but I am still not old enough to afford it.
Words: Mikael Jack