Limited editions are everywhere – and for once I’m not talking about the watch world. Yes, there are more than enough new timepieces with special runs – especially after the latest swathe of announcements from SIHH – but even away from that minutiae of ticking mechanisms limited editions are becoming more prevalent than ever.
If you tend to hang around Soho on an almost daily basis, you’ll have come to learn exactly when streetwear brand Supreme is releasing some kind of limited edition. How? The queues transition from pretty big to a game of Snake in just an hour.
But of course, this month we’re all about bespoke, so I’m not here to just list a few limited editions from the previous year, but to have a deeper think about what they truly represent when it comes to style.
You see, bespoke is becoming more and more common, with plenty of brands now letting you create your own designs from scratch, at least when it comes to colours, monograms and the like. There are a ton of ways to make something decidedly individual; so why do we love limited editions?
The most obvious reason is recognition. The problem with something unique, like a bespoke pair of trainers, is that nobody will ever recognise them, which is kind of a downer when you’ve invested in – and are rightly proud of – your purchase. Limited editions, on the other hand, show that you’re part of an elite.
That goes hand-in-hand with your investment in a particular brand. God knows there are enough released recognising a milestone anniversary, or enough that no birthday ending in 5 or 0 goes by without commemoration. Adidas even commemorated their BOOST technology with a limited edition pair of sneakers, and that’s only the 5th anniversary of one relatively small thing.
The only problem is you don’t really get anything extra. Sure, those UltraBOOST sneakers won’t be around forever, and the original 2013 black and purple colourway is cool, but it’s nothing Adidas can’t do at any other time. You won’t find too many sneakerheads going crazy over them, either. Yet limited editions let brands do a hell of a lot more than keep track of their own birthday. Because of the small runs, makers can afford to take risks and, more importantly, collaborate. Collaborations can breathe fresh life into collections, iconic pieces and entire brands, even if they’re a little… unexpected.
Sure, there’s something satisfying about simply having something nobody else has, but that’s a bit artificial. On the other hand, brand collaborations create something worth sitting up and paying attention to. At worst, these kinds of limited editions are at least interesting; at best, they’re greater than the sum of their parts.
Some of those collaborations come out of left field, with the likes of BAPE, UNDEFEATED and Anti Social Social Club’s various collaborations with, of all things, the racing game Gran Turismo. Bathing Ape are actually a regular offender (or if it’s your kind of thing, innovator), seeing as another recent partnership came about with Heineken. Yes, and by that we do mean the beer. Go figure.
Still, if you want more than some overt branding you might want to look elsewhere – and there’s plenty to look at. Between artists using clothes as their canvas to guest designers applying their unique aesthetic fingerprints to brands of vastly different personalities, fashion (and streetwear in particular) is rife with cool, eclectic collaborations.
In sneakers, the biggest player here is Adidas with both their constantly-growing roster of Adidas Originals designs and the behemoth that is Yeezy, but they’re definitely not the only ones. Nike got in on the act with Kith, Jordan Brand took on a bright Gatorade colourway and The Weeknd designed a few pairs of Pumas I wish I could ever be cool enough to pull off.
Elsewhere, Supreme and Louis Vuitton created a bright new version of the latter’s signature monogram trunk; deconstructionist Junya Watanabe reimagined an entire collection of The North Face’s outerwear and their slightly more luxurious rivals Moncler worked with the rough and ready Greg Lauren.
All of these are limited editions at their best. They’re not limited just to drive up interest, not marking some arbitrary date on the calendar; they’re formed from a genuine coming together of creativity for something new and, while not quite unique, rare in the best sense. Those queues around Supreme might be a bit ridiculous, but they’re also surprisingly understandable.