Charting the brands with the largest increase in sales across 2020, this chart should give some data to explain why you’ve “been seeing” certain brands more than usual over the course of the past year. The brands here are the “fastest growing” in that they are driving the most new dollars being spent on the site (relative to their performance in 2019).
Keep in mind: The brands that make up this chart
are not selected by Grailed. Rather, this list shows where the global Grailed community is putting more of its interest (through its spending power) relative to last year.
Some key things to note:
The Wins and Woes of Warren Lotas
It’s been a big (albeit up and down) year for
Warren Lotas. The Los Angeles-based designer—originally known for his flips on NBA merch, featuring the Grim Reaper or skeletons—made a major expansion into the sneaker market in the last year, building hype and notoriety around his flips of notable Nike SB Dunks. Starting with a flip on the famously unreleased “Freddy Krueger” SB Dunk, sneaker fans would be able to clearly identify his flips on SB Dunk classics like the Stussy x Nike SB “Cherry” Dunk or the Staple x Nike SB “Pigeon” Dunk— which Jeff Staple himself supported on Instagram.
While Lotas attempted to add his own spin on the sneaker silhouettes by fashioning the trademarked Swoosh into a Jason Vorhees-inspired hockey mask, that wasn’t enough for Nike. Before things could even kick off in earnest,
Nike sent Lotas a cease-and-desist, which tangled Lotas up in a public legal battle during the latter half of the year and left the custom sneakers in limbo. Going back and forth with Nike for months, Lotas insisted on Instagram that his reinterpretations were, “PRODUCED FROM SCRATCH BY ME. PLEASE KNOW THAT. NO ALIBABA BULLSHIT. ITALIAN MATERIALS.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t sway the legal team at Nike,
who even filed a preliminary injunction in November 2020 against Lotas’ follow up sneaker design—the “Reaper”—created as a way to both appease Nike and provide an alternative to deliver for the thousands of people who ordered Lotas’ original bootleg sneaker.
Lotas and Nike did come to a settlement in mid-December 2020, the result is a little mixed for Lotas. Finally producing a Nike-permitted sneaker for the public (at least, it appears so—if Lotas’ Instagram account is anything to go by), there’s clearly a lack of interest in Lotas’ latest design (at least when compared to his original “Dunk” bootlegs that were buzzing around the internet in early 2020).
While it’s hard to say where his brand goes from here, there’s no denying that Lotas’ legal headaches helped propel him into the public eye, hopefully building his public presence and putting the spotlight on his other fashion endeavors; it explains why his name has risen in popularity so much here on Grailed. Given that the designer has fans in
Post Malone and Travis Scott—he might not be producing a coveted sneaker, but chances are we haven’t heard the last from Warren Lotas.
Aimé Leon Dore
It would be unfair to say that
Aimé Leon Dore is new to the scene; the brand has long-been a cult favorite in “grown-up streetwear” circles thanks to a strong stream of seasonal collections and collabs with brands like Drake’s (to be clear, not the OVO rapper). In 2020 however, Aimé Leon Dore felt almost inescapable (this is a good thing), thanks in no small part to its suite of stellar New Balance collaborations.
This past year saw Aimé Leon Dore tap into both the New Balance 827 and revive the New Balance 550 (a legacy basketball silhouette). Both shoe releases dropped alongside a corresponding apparel collection which added to the narrative surrounding the sneaker. While New Balance as a whole had a banner year in 2020 (more on that later), it was certainly boosted by Aimé Leon Dore’s inherent, distinctly “NYC” cool factor, which blended authenticity and hype in a way few brands are able to pull off.
Case in point? Aimé Leon Dore blended both native New Yorkers, artists, celebrities and local kids into
a concise (and, frankly, endearingly memorable) Fall/Winter 2020 campaign. The effect feels simultaneously intimate and local, but globally appealing. It’s hard not to find yourself in a piece or two from a label that cites New York City’s blend of cultures and perspectives as a key influence.
Consider yourself warned: After this year, sleeping on Aimé Leon Dore simply means you’re out of the loop.
New Balance, the sneaker company emerged as a clear stalking horse in the wider sneaker conversation. Are we saying that New Balance is about to overtake titans like Nike or adidas? While that would certainly make the “sneaker wars” more interesting, it’s unlikely that we’ve reached that point. However, a brand better known for its “dad shoes” was able to insert itself into the conversation—thanks in part to its chunky, techy (some might say orthopedic) sneakers like the New Balance 990.
(Of course, followers of Ronnie Fieg’s work over at Kith have been shopping New Balance pairs for years—but we think few would argue that that was outside of the broader appeal the brand has built over the last year or two).
What began as a half-ironic “if you know, you know”
Normcore following has expanded into a full-on fandom.
If we had to guess, this New Balance buzz is propelled by two points that largely go hand in hand. One is the reappearance of New Balance styles (like the 992, 550 or 827), the other is key brand partnerships. As mentioned earlier, Aimé Leon Dore is
just one of the many collaborators that built up the Bostonian brand in the past 12 months. Japanese brand WTAPS lent its hand to the New Balance 992—a once dormant silhouette—and created one of our favorite sneakers of the year. The master of moodboards (and beacon of pure, good taste) JJJJound dropped a small selection of New Balance 992s in a few (tasteful) colorways, adding to an already stacked series of sneaker collaborations. Stray Rats—a cult-favorite streetwear brand from Miami (for those who don’t already know)—launched yet another New Balance collaboration, creating the “Sewer Stompers”: an earthy reskin of the resurgent New Balance 827. Salehe Bembury, notable for his work helming footwear at Italian luxury fashion house Versace, helped bring the New Balance 2002 silhouette into the spotlight with a fuzzy sneaker inspired by the natural landscape in the American southwest and west coast. Emerging brand Casablanca has been tinkering with New Balance 327 in a style that combines contemporary tastes with the aesthetics of the retro-inspired runner.
This is to say nothing of collaborations with bonafide celebrities like Jaden Smith, who received a completely new silhouette—
the Vision Racer—or Kawhi Leonard’s series of basketball performance footwear. The bottom line is simple: Don’t expect New Balance to sit on the sidelines when it comes to playing the game of global sneaker domination. You can see that its well-laid plans have helped it gain a massive foothold in the wider sneaker industry—including on the Grailed marketplace.
It’s hard not to love a sneaker brand that manages to blend understated form with functional comfort—make it a core part of its ethos—
and then make it fashionable.
What can we say that hasn’t already been said at this point about
Chrome Hearts? Love it or hate it, the Los Angeles-based brand has exploded in popularity over the last 12 months. What’s so interesting about Chrome Hearts is—outside of its own outposts or very curated roster of partners—it’s virtually impossible to acquire. More to the point: Outside of marketplaces like Grailed, it’s virtually impossible to buy Chrome Hearts online.
Is that mystique the reason why its popularity has shot up on Grailed? Possibly. We think there’s more to the story of its 2020 successes though; it’s a combination of genuine craft, one-of-a-kind rarity and—yes—a straight up desire to show-off expensive brand names.
A regular sight in our weekly
“Most Expensive Sales of the Week” roundups, there’s certainly a contingent (including several of hip-hop’s major players) that rock Chrome Hearts simply as a new-luxury flex. (We’re sure we’re not the only ones who spotted Drake playing 1-on-1 with Kevin Durant in a Chrome Hearts outfit during the “Laugh Now, Cry Later” video). However, Chrome Hearts isn’t just expensive for the sake of being expensive. Sure, its aesthetic language might lead to comparisons to the early-2000s heyday of brands like Ed Hardy, but the craftsmanship goes much deeper than the surface level.
A family-run business through-and-through, the unique thing is that virtually everything Chrome Hearts makes is produced out of its Los Angeles studio. Since the brand began in the late-1980s and kicked off in earnest in 1991, Chrome Hearts has been creating products that tap into founder Richard Stark’s history as a leather dealer and craftsman. That includes its world-famous jewelry, but also furniture, homegoods, interiors and (relevant for us here at Grailed) clothing customization. While the demand for its jewelry is certainly high, one could argue its clothing is what has helped keep it center stage this year. Those who have been on Grailed (or following the fashion industry) for a few years should be familiar with Chrome Hearts' work with Virgil Abloh and Bella Hadid (who is a personal friend of founder Richard Stark’s daughter, Jesse Jo).
Be it modified Rick Owens Geobaskets, upgraded Schott Perfecto jackets or customized Levi’s denim—giving a garment a Chrome Hearts rework means replacing the hardware with Chrome Hearts leather finishes and metalwork (and increasing its value significantly). Of course these pieces aren’t just expensive, they’re practically one-of-a-kind. While there might be several different pairs of “Chrome Hearts Levi’s” on Grailed, each pair has been remixed and customized by hand, by someone affiliated with the brand. The same goes for
any official Chrome Hearts customization or product release (like jewelry or furniture) that bears the mark of Chrome Hearts. Effectively, whatever you buy, if the brand can make it in its Hollywood factory, odds are good that it will be constructed in the Hollywood factory.
Again—once you take a look past the surface, it’s hard
not to respect what the brand represents. While we’re not necessarily calling Chrome Hearts an “American fashion empire” (or even assuming that Chrome Hearts would want that distinction), if there’s a brand that deserves plaudits for its commitment to its own POV (while doing it in a factory that’s based in the States), it’s Chrome Hearts.
Ones to Watch: Stussy
Some notable additions to this year’s rising brands include Carhartt and
Stussy. Stussy is an easy one to explain, given that the brand celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020. With a massive slate of collaborations and celebrations landing throughout 2020 (and, of course, in the years prior) it’s almost impossible to not find something to love from Stussy. Whether it’s a collaboration T-shirt with Rick Owens or a recent resurgence of interest in Nike SB Dunks (which, of course, includes the Stussy x Nike SB “Cherry” Dunk Low), Stussy continues to sit at the forefront of the streetwear—and, to an extent, fashion—conversation. Let’s not forget, one of the year’s biggest sneakers—the Dior x Jordan I “Air Dior”—dropped during a Dior Men’s runway show crafted in collaboration with and featuring artwork from Stussy founder Shawn Stussy.
Ones to Watch: Carhartt
A more interesting inclusion on the “Fastest Growing Brands” is
Carhartt. Now, if you’re based in the United States, there’s little chance you’re unfamiliar with the Michigan-based brand; a bonafide symbol of American workwear (and work ethic), Carhartt may not be a “fashion brand” by any definition, but that doesn’t make its garments any less beloved and iconic. The brand’s double knee work pants—a style we’ve seen a major spike in on the Grailed marketplace—have become a crossover staple. Sure it might amount to what some would call “blue collar cosplay,” but we’re not going to blame people for recognizing Carhartt’s reasonable pricetag and high durability and deciding to add it to their closets. Sure, Carhartt (and its sister brand, the fashion-oriented Carhartt Work in Progress) have had a crack at plenty of fashion collaborations, but if we had to guess, it’s the everyday, run-of-the-mill workwear that’s driving this demand.