Explaining the IKEA Craze That's Taken over Streetwear and Kicks Culture

Giancarlo Ferrari-King@@GiancarloKingFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2017

Image via Dan Gamache.

Everywhere you turn on social media, the "do it yourself" Swedish furniture giant IKEA is infiltrating different subsidiaries of streetwear. That's right—IKEA streetwear.

How and why is this a trend, you ask?

The general consensus origin story seems to stem back to luxury fashion house Balenciaga. The brand's decision to offer a hyper-expensive look-alike of IKEA's Frakta storage bag—sold by IKEA for less than a dollar—inspired a storm of independent designers and customizers to shift into "do it yourself" mode.

Michael Cherman of Six Ounce Studio became an early trailblazer of the IKEA concept. His blue-and-yellow hats emerged on Instagram, garnering a surplus of steam.

"We were doing a pop up in Hong Kong with our good friends at Pleasures. We were all sitting there and came up with the concept together. From there, the Balenciaga $2000+ leather bag dropped online and it was an instant moment where we realized we had to strike while the iron was hot," Cherman tells Bleacher Report.

"Although our product got a lot of attention, the funny thing is that people have been making DIY products out of IKEA bags for years now."

It's interesting that creating products out of IKEA bags is a years-old hobby, especially considering how polarizing the practice has recently become. On one hand it's bred a clever, creative renaissance and brought media attention to a handful of otherwise under-recognized artists. On the other, it's a clear-cut example of trend-hopping.

Sneaker designer Dan Gamache—better known these days by his kicks pseudonym "Mache"—sees it more as an exercise in having fun. He recently turned an otherwise ordinary pair of Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2s into a web-crawling, social media sensation.

"I had the all-white Yeezys and was working on a custom for myself," Gamache says.

But not all customs pan out how you'd like them to, which Gamache realized after having color issues with a pair of "Cream" Yeezy 350 Boost V2s.

Rather than be saddled with a useless pair, Gamache decided to make lemonade out of his Yeezy lemons. "Let’s turn this negative pair of Yeezys into an exposure thing."

The solution worked. And while developing his own IKEA conversion, Gamache noticed the now-famous Photoshop execution posted by artist Bruce Hatoo.

The picture fueled Mache's fire to create something tangible.

"The colors were dope—yellow and blue. Before I threw the branding on it, they looked like they were for the Golden State Warriors," Gamache notes.

Abstraction soon turned into reality. Gamache finished the pair in two days. Upon completion, he ran down to his local IKEA store and shot a video for Instagram.

"I walked in with the shoes. I was a little hesitant not knowing what they were going to think. They didn’t know about the Photoshops and things like that. I explained what I was doing."

He placed the IKEA-branded Yeezys all over the store and posted the footage. To date, it has registered over one million views, not to mention countless inquiries on how to purchase the kicks.

Gamache created the concept on a whim. "I wanted to make it corny and cheesy."

What started off as a mistake during a rare quiet period for the sneaker customizer is now part of this strange IKEA viral movement, catching the attention of Yeezy heads and sneaker bloggers everywhere. It also gave Gamache more ideas he might work on in the future. "I was joking saying we should do a Target pair."

Los Angeles-based sneaker cobbler, Dominic "The Shoe Surgeon" Chambrone, put his own spin on the IKEA phenomenon. After collaborating with designer Elliott Giffis—which is why his pack also comes equipped with an Elliott Evan custom bomber jacket—Chambrone released the Air Jordan I "IKEA".

Image courtesy of The Shoe Surgeon.

Dropping in a limited capacity, Chambrone's kicks were constructed using actual Frakta bag materials and suede. He's even planning on hiding a manual in a Carson, California IKEA, giving lucky consumers a chance to procure a free pair and jacket.

"I was literally at IKEA for two weeks in a row and all the memes started happening. I wanted to show my take on it," Chambrone says.

Image courtesy of The Shoe Surgeon.

The biggest takeaway here? Exposure. By leveraging Balenciaga's bag with IKEA's affordability, artists found a different avenue to express themselves, all while creating a marketing buzz.

Cherman summed it up best when asked if he believes this IKEA surge will give designers a chance to work with big-box retailers: "I don’t feel like this is opening any doors to work with designers, but it is, in fact, a ton of free, amazing marketing for these companies.

"I do, however, think it would be cool to see big brands like them working with small DIY artists to put them on a higher platform. That's a creative dream."

All quotes obtained firsthand, unless noted otherwise.

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