Basement Fam! Why the latest Nike collaboration goes one-step further to embrace Generation Z.

To many, Nike has stood as a paragon of youth culture- a central fountain in which many generations have bathed. With a history of collaborations almost as diverse as its consumer base, and after making both shoe and apparel collaborations over the last 20 years with Musicians, Designers, Artists, Streetwear brands and even the ­­­likes of large corporations such as Coca Cola and Apple, The sportswear giants latest collaboration with ‘The Basement’ has more directly targeted an audience than ever before.

For the majority of you who will never have heard of the Basement, it is, in a single sentence, A Facebook group dedicated to the buying and selling of highly coveted Streetwear. Much of the talk orientates around Supreme and Palace: the Zeus and Hercules of European Streetwear staples, as well as up-and-coming Streetwear brands, music, memorabilia, WDYWT (what did you wear today) style fits, help posts and generic Internet humour. To the outside world, it could appear to be a community of cultish kids with more money and time than sense, but that would be deeply underestimating their significance. They are a community that create their own tastes away from status quo of contemporary fashion and have reached a stage where they are the new collective of trendsetters in a yet unnamed subculture.

Through finding common interests among sparse friendship groups, designers have built stores; photographers and artists sold their work, and at the end of 2015 the page even helped Lucy Hill receive the emergency blood donations she required. Their apparel often sells out as fast as you can say “but I’ve never heard of The Basement”, and is grailed in a likewise manner to Palace or Gosha. In September of last year, The Basement opened up its first pop-up store in Soho. Since then, membership to the group has doubled. The cultural powerhouse Boasts over 46,000 (February 11th) members, or ‘Fam’, as many refer to each other (although largely sarcastic, it holds an air of sincerity). It is clear that the group is a growing mass of generation Z‘s; many of whom have far deeper pockets for product and design than the rest of their demographic, especially in response to hype.

The decision from Nike to approach The Basement to form this union not only maintains Nikes’ image of being au fait with a largely underground youth culture that is yet to fully unravel, but it highlights how Nike desires to create great product with more than just fiscal value. Many brands have gone over-kill with ‘the collaboration’; using it as a marketing tool, rather than a medium to create new product of cultural or aesthetic value. This is the dilution of an effective brand alliance. As KAWS (artist and designer) mentioned in 2010, he feels that many larger companies “don’t understand the value added to the company in doing these creative projects… [if] they don’t equal dollars”, and although this was in reference to Supreme, you can’t help but see the synchronicity with Nikes values. As their CEO, Mark Parker, said recently in an interview with Hypebeast in response to a discussion on collaborations:

“Our collaborations aren’t transactions. They’re relationships… A Collaboration takes people from different worlds to places they might not have gone on their own. Of course, it invites new ideas from the outside, but it also accelerates your own thinking. In my experience, when the right creatives connect, it can be like setting off a chemical reaction. I find that incredibly stimulating and potentially very powerful.”

It seems wise that Nike should facilitate the demand of a collective to build a relationship. With this collaboration with The Basement, Nike wholeheartedly recognises the cultural significance, rather than just the financial return, in facilitating a growing movement in order to fuse with a generation who are unlikely to forget about it.

However, this Collaboration is a game-changer because Nike have deemed that a conglomeration of Generation Z’s have enough potential to be a direct and viable part of their brand. The decision to collaborate shows how Nike has levelled the playing field between the large corporation and the consumer, and have presented themselves as equals. This is not an unheard tactic- corporations have for a long time collaborated with smaller brands in attempt to tap into a niche market of trendsetters to try and level with consumers. Reebok did just this (their trainers have seen a large revival into popular fashion, away from their previous association with northerners in betting shops and the lost property bin in a changing room) by collaborating with Palace Skateboards in early 2013 and BAPE in 2014. However, examples of companies who managed to go where Nike have to tap into youth culture so directly seldom come around. Although the collection is not large, with it being limited to a ‘Force’ logo T-shirt design granted by Nike London and pin tags with PINTRILL (the pin tags are not even for sale, but are to be given out), any member of this Facebook community has directly collaborated with multi-national company, especially in an era where Blue chip companies are facing the highest rejection levels from a generation in favour of smaller, hands on and ‘authentic’ brands.

The Basement, for whatever reason, has become a melting pot of culture, and Nikes collaboration with them is only their beginning. When asked where he saw The Basement in 5 years time, one of the pages admins said he looked on towards to ‘a full time store putting out great quality clothing with unique designs’. He added; “Maybe it wouldn’t even be a Facebook group by then. Who knows.” It is understood is that further collaborations are on their way, as well as a capsule with The Moving Development to drop soon (although [they] ‘can’t really give specifics or dates’.) However, it was Nike that was a step-ahead in facilitating for a community and allowing them to take from them what The Basement wanted.

Acid House had the hacienda; Hip-hop had the Bronx; Punk had SEX. Whatever future generations will call ‘this’, all we know is: it started with The Basement.

The Basement ‘force’ logo tee is available now.