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The problem with KITH and overdosing on collabs
A few thoughts on what happens when a brand scales.
Sprezza is a new kind of newsletter exploring men’s style.
We talk about independent menswear, WTF style means, cover drops, review products, and the business of retail.
A few weeks ago I saw some folks hyping up KITH’s latest collab with, wait for it…Cheerios!
They dropped some hoodies and tees, threw their logo on a cereal box, and released it into the wild.
Some people called it innovative; said it was “textbook KITH” to do something like this. That they’ve really nailed the collab formula.
All of this is true. It is textbook KITH, and this is their formula.
And it sucks.
Let me first say this: I try to refrain from dunking on brands because I know that building one is hard as shit, and it’s always easier to be a critic than it is to be a builder.
But KITH continues to get cringier the more it grows.
That was my favorite KITH era.
I remember walking down Bleecker Street years ago and I’d always pop into the store to see what they had. You’d walk into the foyer with AF1’s lining the ceiling, they hired kids who were always part of the NYC IYKYK downtown scene, and they were really trying to establish themselves as a modern curator of independent streetwear.
More than that, KITH prided itself as being rooted in “NYC culture,” and how the brand was an homage to the 5 Boroughs.
In the early days, KITH’s stuff felt novel, and in the spirit of supporting independent brands while crafting an image of their own.
Until they didn’t.
Slap a logo on it and call it a collab
Now, their stuff now is just glorified logo-slapping. Their formula is they find a big-ass, commercial brand, make a bunch of the same apparel, and slap a logo on it.
And Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Gone are the days when it felt like KITH’s collabs actually meant something, which sucks because I liked their Moncler x Aspen stuff, and Tommy Hilfiger campaign in NYC.
Felt like there was brand alignment in those ones, a specific customer to reach, a nostalgia to tap into, and a story to tell.
But there’s no soul in it anymore, it’s the same record.
Securing the bag
Look, KITH is crushing it. They’re easily a 9-figure brand with retail stores in the hottest luxury markets like NYC, LA, Paris, and Tokyo.
They’re securing the bag. And getting the bag is completely fine with me; I will NEVER look down on someone for wanting to make money.
My issue is that KITH wants the bag and they wanna stay cool.
But you can’t have both.
You can’t routinely logo slap with commercial brands and convince me it’s innovative and provocative.
You can’t put Larry David’s face on the cover of a hoodie and sell me on it that it’s for locals. Locals aren’t buying KITH.
Rich people are.
Bobby Hundreds talks about this in his book This is Not A T-Shirt (highly recommend reading it). He’s gotten ripped over the years by OG fans who claim he sold out, yada yada. And he knows that anytime you scale anything, you’ve got to leave something behind.
Personally, I’d love for KITH to take a beat. Stop collab’ing with brands. Do some soul-searching, dig deep, and figure out how to get to the root of what made people love them in the first place.
But this is something they won’t do. Feels like they’re too far gone and have their exit in mind to turn back now.
AND THAT IS COMPLETELY OKAY.
Make your money and call it a day!
But also be okay with knowing there’s a trade-off. You can’t secure the bag and demand that people treat you the same way. Doesn’t work like that.