This Tumblr image came across my attention earlier today. It supposes that Kanye West's Creative Director, Virgil Abloh, whose recently-launched Pyrex Vision line sold out in a matter of minutes after becoming available, merely screenprinted a handful of Ralph Lauren Rugby flannel shirts and re-sold them for a whopping $550. Now, $550 for a flannel is pricey for most, but in the world of luxury, streetwear-oriented style in which Pyrex is trying to compete, it's not unheard of. Take for example the $355 Givenchy tartan flannel Kanye West sported during an Occupy Wall Street appearance in 2011.
Much of the criticism towards Abloh's new line is directed towards the price points versus materials used. While his tees are printed on Champion blanks, it could easily be argued that Givenchy's graphic tees and the Filip Pagowski-designed heart logo that pushes the price of any Comme des Garcons PLAY basic up a couple of hundred dollars are equally overpriced. There's no arguing that often "luxury goods" get by more on brand cachet than craftsmanship. Upon closer investigation of Pyrex's $550 blue screenprinted flannel and Rugby's Country Workshirt, which retailed for $79.95, but is currently on sale for $35.99 as the brand prepares to shutter forever, I am entirely convinced they are in fact the same shirt.
It's highly possible Pyrex simply bought a bunch of Rugby flannels, slapped "PYREX 23" on the back, and re-sold them for an astonishing markup of about 700%.
For one, you simply can't buy Rugby wholesale. It was a sub-brand that Ralph Lauren sold only in Rugby stores. Secondly, they are definitely made of the same fabric, but what seals the deal are the same construction details (triple-stitched construction at the arms, a pencil pocket on the left chest pocket) and the obvious Photoshop job that shows remnants of an old Rugby tag on the flannels. While the streetwear world has long played on the convention of flipping high-fashion imagery and re-contextualizing in a cultural cool context, Abloh and company's hustle consists of a different sort of swagger jacking. With a limited run of shirts, and the nominal cost of screenprinting "PYREX 23" on the back of each one, it's highly possible Pyrex simply bought a bunch of Rugby flannels, at retail no less, slapped "PYREX 23" on the back and re-sold them for an astonishing markup of about 700%.
Should Abloh be called out for blatantly ripping people off? Or is this absurdity reflective of the current status of the hype game? Yes, it's egregious that these Rugby shirts became such a coveted streetwear item, but what's worse is that they sold out. People who pay attention to the goings-on around Kanye West's crew know that much of Abloh's current pursuits—#BEEN #TRILL and Pyrex among them—started off as inside jokes with other cool guy creatives like Matthew Williams, but what happens when consumers become the butt of it? Is this act to be despised or congratulated? After all, as Jay-Z purported to sell ice in the winter and fire in hell, perhaps Pyrex, and the fact that it's been seen on prominent, style-influential rappers like A$AP Rocky and Kanye West, goes to show that in the world of limited supply and instant demand hype springs eternal.
Update: RSVP Gallery has since removed images of the sold out flannel shirt from their website.
Update II: Union is advertising their stock of Pyrex flannels with the Rugby Ralph Lauren tags intact.
Update III: We reached out to Union's Chris Gibbs for comment...
When Union LA bought the flannels from Pyrex, did you guys know they were Rugby shirts?
“No I was not aware of this. “
If not, did the samples have the tags removed/photoshopped out, as they were on the Pyrex and RSVP Gallery sites?
"There is no way for me to have known that these were Rugby blanks. I ordered them off of an Excel file, so I couldn't see detail like that. That said, I have to admit I wasn't completely surprised or disappointed. I feel like I actually heard the news about the Rugby blanks from the blogosphere while I was in Paris. The goods had already arrived at the store, but I hadn't seen them yet. What I can say is this: Now that the word is out, the customer can make an informed decision. For us we have a very liberal return policy so anyone that is unhappy can return the goods anyways...
Most lines have a following of people who appreciate the line holistically. These customers not only like the product, but they also like what the brand stands for, they like belonging to the community of A-Alikes (like minded) individuals. The Pyrex customer might not really care about Rugby blanks...in fact they might like the whole 'FUCK IT' kind of 'by any means necessary' mentality and the 'LO' [Polo] reference, of course."
Is Union LA now showing the Rugby tags to keep the product's transparency 100% and keep faith in your store?
"We always strive to have 100% transparency..."