Hot retail news of the month so far comes from Pharrell Williams’ new online auction platform, Joopiter. “Pioneering a modern collecting economy”, it’s a way to sell off his extensive (11-storage units worth) archive of cultural artefacts, while the site simultaneously serves as an online archive of the archive, complete with content to add cultural clout to the pieces.
The first sale goes live next week (but previews from today here) and will consist of one-off items such as an 18k gold Jacob & Co BlackBerry (est sale price $15k-$25k) and blinged-out Swarovski-ed Stan Smiths (est sale price $2,500-$3,500).
Why should we care?
It all points to a trend that’s been building for the last few years in which young hype collectors are redefining the collectibles world according to CNBC. Sotheby’s and Christie’s have been alert to this new collector base ever since Louis Vuitton and Supreme dropped their game-changing street-luxe collab in 2017.
Sotheby’s launched its dedicated streetwear category in December 2021 with 80% of bidders new to the auction house. And Christie’s has just launched ‘Department X’ online sales, focusing on sneakers and street wear, plus music, art and sport history collectibles, with live previews taking place in New York.
It also speaks to a sweet spot in which legacy auction sales (think Cartier jewels and Hermès handbag sales at Christie’s) meet ‘new vintage’ online platforms like Byronesque, who specialise in the now highly covetable Helmut Langs, Margielas and Raf Simonses of the 1990s and 00s. All the more desirable when the pieces are accompanied with a strong cultural heritage story. “We go for what tugs at our own past experiences and heart strings,” says Caitlin Donovan, Christie’s head of Handbags, Streetwear and Sneakers, who heads up Department X. “So for these collectors in their 30s and 40s, it’s a celebration of their culture.”
The online drop model aligns with the FOMO culture of hype commerce (ironically created to imitate the buzz of old school auctions). This has been particularly strong in Asia’s new money economy.
According to Jing Daily, China became the world’s second-largest luxury market, as well as the second-largest art market in 2021. High-profile collabs are super-popular with the new Gen-y and Gen-z luxury customer, although with a Covid-driven economic slowdown in China, there’s a question mark whether the boom will continue.
However, Pharrell may not have cause for concern just yet. According to Humphrey Ho, managing director for Hylink Digital USA, “Chinese consumers like exclusivity, unique products, and Pharrell Williams in that order. Therefore, I believe that Pharrell Williams’ new global auction platform Joopiter has a chance.” To be continued…
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
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