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From Beyoncé to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Telfar is now one of the leading brands in the industry. As the so-called “Bushwick Birkin” shopper bags got meteorically popular, Telfar’s simple and genderless designs became a voice for the socio-political messages. As a Black-owned brand, Telfar is widely known for his unique motto: The designer creates genderless bags for everyone and he tries to keep them accessible for any class of the society. Brand's motto of “not for you, not everyone” explains his interpretation of gender, class, and race issues through fashion. For all those who don’t know it, Telfar also follows an eco-friendly approach by adopting the use of vegan leather instead of the real one. Though his “politics through fashion” was heard a lot and we observed people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and social classes wearing the Bushwick Birkin; with his new sportswear collection, the designer pioneered a new model of accessibility to luxury fashion.
Some people might get satisfied with Telfar’s popularity, but seemingly, the designer himself does not. Thus, he is not afraid of experimenting with new techniques to create his egalitarian microcosm of fashion. The brand’s new collection containing 29 pieces of sportswear was launched on March 27 with a greatly experimental pricing mechanism: Telfar Live. According to the brand’s website, the mechanism follows these processes: Items drop at the wholesale price and go up every second. The prices increase until they reach their full price and if an item is sold out before reaching the full price, then the selling-out price becomes the forever price. Telfar describes it as “You decide the price: the more you want it- the lower the price”. What makes it unique is not only giving the customers the power to decide on prices but also the fact that the mechanism works against the classical capitalist principles: It is based on the inverse proportion of pricing and demand. The more a product gets desired, it basically stays cheaper. This can be reviewed as a contemporary act of reinventing luxury. Because the designer himself approaches the industry with the question of “Is luxury equal to overpriced?”.
One recent interview with Telfar was interesting. Telfar Clemens said, “I want people who want my clothes – and will look cool in it – to be able to get it,” and criticized brands for using prices as barriers for people from various socio-economic backgrounds when reaching luxury. Looking backward at the history of fashion, the fact that Telfar is the first designer to experiment with something like this with his unique motivation presents a historical milestone. Since the collection has already dropped and some of the items are sold out – then it is okay to say that the mechanism succeeded. This can mean a lot of things but what we can conclude is a new future in the fashion industry that defines luxury more progressively and cohesively seems possible.
Although we appreciate the designer’s current project, still we need to question everything to reach the sustainable world we need. In theory, Telfar’s project offers a chance for customers with different stories to meet in accessible luxury fashion. However, the mechanism’s principle of determining a forever price when being sold out might create problematic results in the future. If this mechanism of Telfar Live becomes a global phenomenon in the upcoming years, this might lead people to consume more just to catch the wholesale prices. Accordingly, brands might produce more because of the increasing demand to these prices. In this sense, though Telfar is intended to remove the class barriers in high-end fashion – an indirect contribution to mass consumption can be a result. There, the responsibility is embarked on us. We must regulate our sense of consumption and rearrange them in an eco-friendly tradition. Additionally, if Telfar Live becomes a common phenomenon; our sense of luxury will be reinvented, too. To be ready, we have to be careful about what “luxury” means to us and to our world and contribute to a future where people with different backgrounds will be able to reach qualified and sustainable fashion, too.