Take a good look at the $2,690 Saint Laurent palm print jacket above. Are your hands twitching trying to grab at your wallet? Are you mentally calculating how many weeks you could live off ramen noodles before your body succumbs to lethal sodium levels? Did you just Google the blueprints for your nearest bank in a trance-like state? Or are you simply cursing the fact that you’ll never be a bonafide hashtag influencer? If so, don’t be alarmed, for these are all extremely normal symptoms of coming across the season’s, for lack of a better term, “It” piece.
The Saint Laurent jacket isn’t the only must-have item for spring 2016, but it’s the one that put the most celebrities under its spell. The jacket’s been seen on a diverse range of celebs, including Justin Bieber, The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, Olivia Wilde, and Kourtney Kardashian.
The cavalcade of celebrities has already spurred infinite pieces of content (including ones by us), but it will serve as a great case study for how these “It” pieces get made and why.
Step One: Right Piece, Right Time
Timing really is everything, and it’s the first thing an “It” piece needs to nail in order to get labeled with that coveted two-letter word. For example, a couple seasons ago, when the ‘90s were blowing up like the leg opening on JNCO jeans, Calvin Klein hoodies and T-shirts were all the rage because of their ability to vividly recall that decade. For the past couple of years, designers have treated bright colors and bold patterns like they was the Ebola virus. Many seemed to be as committed to minimalism as Kanye West’s house.
But, at a time when designer Alessandro Michele's more-is-more mentality for Gucci is so hot that even the dead want a piece of the action, consumers appear to be embracing bold patterns and colors again. “Right piece, right time,” Mr Porter’s buying manager Sam Lobban told Complex. “Spring/summer 2016 saw a number of L.A.-inspired prints, from florals to palms, through to Marilyn Monroe [photos] in the ‘50s. To me, this jacket evokes that California cool in a striking, but relatively easy, wearable way.”
Step Two: Combine ALL the Trends
The Saint Laurent jacket manages to combine many trends into one standout piece. It throws Los Angeles cool on top of the souvenir jackets everyone’s been wearing and paints it with bright colors. "The souvenir jackets have got a huge big buzz around it and have got people talking on Instagram, and celebs are wearing it," Catriona Macnab, head of fashion at trend forecasting company WGSN, told Complex.
“Souvenir jackets are an item we've seen in a number of men’s collections, so it was clear the style was going to be the standout outerwear trend for the season,” Lobban said. “Couple that with the overarching L.A. cool vibe of the Saint Laurent Paris show, and you've got yourself a winner.”
Step Three: Separate Yourself From the Pack
If souvenir jackets are quickly turning into the piece that even, to borrow some language from Twitter, your most swagless homie is now rushing to his nearest fast-fashion purveyor to buy. The power of the “It” piece, though, is that is separates itself from other designers and the Zara knock-offs—no matter how many thinking face emojis it may evoke.
There are a number of factors that could contribute to this souvenir jacket being the souvenir jacket. Maybe people are trying to catch what will quickly become a relic of the past: a Saint Laurent piece designed by the now-departed creative director Hedi Slimane. "Designers have a following, they’ve got a connection," Macnab said. "A lot of people will be looking to be part of that particular time when their favorite designer was part of a brand."
Another possible explanation is simpler: You just can’t keep good design down. “It was one of the strongest pieces from the runway show, so we were pretty confident it was going to be one of the key highlights of the season,” Lobban says. Macnab concurs. "It’s this whole feeling of escapism and adventure," she said. "It shows this feeling of relaxing, and it’s a real fantastic holiday item that has this rock n' roll vibe, as well. So it checks lots of boxes."
Step Four: Be Versatile
From a practical standpoint, for a piece to be worn and beloved by many, it must be easy to wear. "The other jackets that have been trending are the trucker jackets and the biker jackets, which have sold for seasons and seasons," Macnab said when asked about the souvenir jacket's staying power. "So you’ve got these perennial core items that are very, very versatile that men or women can wear at different times to different places. You can dress them up or dress them down. When you’ve got versatility, that’s when you know you’re onto something ."
A piece that permeates through culture can look great, but will only sell so much if it impossible to wear with what's already in your closets. "Consumers know how to wear [the souvenir jacket], and that makes a big difference," Macnab adds. "Because if you put a difficult item in front of a consumer, they don’t know how to style it. Once they understand it, that’s when you’re onto a winner."
Step Five: Design It and Celebs Will Follow
Bieber, Kardashian, Richards, Wilde. These are some of the celebs that have put Saint Laurent’s palm print jacket on the map. “Celebrities definitely play a strong part in the success of trends now,” Lobban said.
Bieber and Richards actually wore the jacket on the same day, and Lobban says they felt the impact in their books. “”We saw an instant reaction in terms of sales,” he said.
Celebrities not only put the design in front of tons of eyeballs, but the right stars can add a certain cache to a piece. If you need proof of this, look no further than the brands that have sold out items or blown up thanks to an appearance on the backs of Kanye or Kylie. While Bieber doesn’t have that same type of selling power yet, he’s added impressively to his fashions resume and can certainly move units among his massive group of Beliebers. Kourtney Kardashian kourts a whole different population and her own selling power is evident in the fact tea brands keep paying her to shill their products.
Step Six: Selling Out
How coveted can an item really be if anyone off the street can just buy it at retail price? Years of covering Supreme have taught us: not very. Searching for this jacket on places like Mr Porter will lead you to a sold out message. Saint Laurent's website simply reads, "Not Available." When an item that costs almost three grand is able to sell through all of its inventory, it's proof that it's highly desirable. And not being available only adds to the allure, consequently making shoppers want the jacket even more. Unfortunately for us (but fortunately for Saint Laurent's covetability), the best chance for those who still want to buy the jacket is through resale sites like Grailed, where sellers are asking for as much as $3,782 a pop.
These star pieces go through a life cycle similar to an actual star, though—they shine brightest while in the process of dying. And pieces like Vetements’ DHL T-shirt pass through the Supernova stage quickly, before inevitably cooling off so much that even Lorde is calling it out for being lame. Will it be too washed to wear next spring? Such is the nature of an “It” piece. So, the next time you see a cluster of trends converging like it did on this Saint Laurent jacket, treat it like you would every other astrological happening, and at least Instagram a picture of it, so all your followers know how on it you are.