By Chuck Dobrosielski
Pacsun celebrated the launch of its back-to-school #MyDenimStory collection Tuesday with a “VIP launch party” at its New York City flagship starring Gen Z pop star Grace VanderWaal.
Like similar events Pacsun has hosted alongside its guest artistic director, A$AP Rocky, the night included a live set from its guest of honor. The 2016 “America’s Got Talent” winner followed up her performance with an intimate question-and-answer session where she discussed her personal evolution through style and music.
“Music is my primary form of self-expression, but style is another way I’ve always shown my creativity,” the 18-year-old singer said. “Denim is super personal to me… my style is always evolving—but jeans are the one thing I always come back to to feel comfortable no matter where I am.”
Music has played “a critical role” in Pacsun’s lifestyle positioning over the past 10 years, Pacsun president Brie Olson told Sourcing Journal. Before Kanye West, now Ye, paired up with Adidas and later Gap, Pacsun teamed with the “Yeezus” artist on a limited 10-piece collection of tour merchandise. That release led to a “working partnership” with the late Off-White founder Virgil Abloh.
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“It informs culture and Pacsun considers our consumers the cultural pioneers of the future, so music absolutely plays a critical role,” Olson said.
Though events such as Tuesday’s will continue to be a “critical part” of Pacsun’s offering, the retailer has no plans to host any particular music series, Olson said. “We’re really excited about opportunities for performances in the metaverse and virtual performances, for example, on our Roblox platform,” she added.
Though VanderWaal’s performance was not broadcast in the metaverse—Pacsun livestreamed it on social—the retailer did take the opportunity to integrate another arm of its Web3 strategy, NFTs, with Tuesday kicking off a seven-day auction of three new NFTs. One of the tokens, the Denim Bear NFT, was recreated as a large-than-life sculpture at this week’s event. Owners of the three tokens will receive “coveted” merchandise, free shipping on all orders, early access to shop select brand launches and “the chance” to win a free denim wardrobe.
Bidding on the Pacsun Denim Bar begins at 0.111 ETH, or $192. The two other tokens, represented by GIFso0- of women’s and men’s denim styles, are priced at 0.221 ETH, or $382, and 0.218 ETH, or $377, respectively. Like the majority of Pacsun’s NFTs, the three new tokens have yet to receive an opening bid.
Olson, however, remains positive about Pacsun’s NFT journey. In the “very beginning,” she said, the retailer’s strategy was to explore “alongside our consumers to see how they would respond, to see what resonated with the audience.”
“I try to encourage our team to constantly be curious and push the boundaries and explore alongside the consumer,” Olson said. “So, if something doesn’t work, then rethink it, and maybe there’s a layer of loyalty or maybe the NFT has also a physical component to it.”
Pairing virtual and physical items is something Pacsun’s consumers are “really excited about,” she added, noting the success of an NFT the company sold at ComplexLand in May that came with a pair of one-of-a-kind sneakers. “We were actually one of the only brands that sold our NFT featured in that gallery,” she said.
“We’ve also had some learnings in terms of price elasticity and how much the consumer is willing to pay and also, to be very transparent, our best-selling NFTs to-date actually have had 100 percent charitable donations,” Olson said. “So another signal from our consumer that they do care about philanthropically giving back to the community.”
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Earlier this month, Pacsun relaunched its denim selection “from the very beginning,” Olson said. The #MyDenimStory collection features more than 200 new denim styles with a particular focus on genderless design, ‘90s nostalgia and workwear-inspired silhouettes.
“Over the last three to five years, we’ve really seen a significant shift in terms of generational behavior around gender,” Olson said. “Understanding the fluidity and understanding how Gen Z perceives gender really without boundaries has been a really important part of our design process.”
Drawing on the retailer’s learnings from launching its first gender-free line, Colour Range, the design team entered this season “with a very open mind around gender fluidity,” Olson said. One of the most significant shifts over the past two years has been “an opening of the leg shape,” she noted.
“There’s a lot of new leg shapes happening and we see a lot of crossover shopping,” she continued. “The legs are getting wider, much baggier and we’re even seeing consumers in our communities sizing up significantly to achieve that really oversized look. And so the shift in proportion has been something that the design team was focused on in the redesign of the denim line.”
To ensure its genderless selection truly fits on all bodies, Olson said the design team conducts its fittings on a range of fit models, including across body types and genders. When Pacsun shot its denim campaign, the retailer allowed its creators, models and influencers to choose the denim they wanted to wear “without any gender barriers,” she added. Online, genderless pieces are shown on male and female models.
Pacsun’s new approach on gender has seen the retailer rethink its store layouts as well. Whereas 10 years ago, the retailer clearly separated its men’s and women’s styles, the Pacsun of today has removed the barriers and divisions within its brick-and-mortar locations, with genderless styles typically found at the center of the store. “Now, we really welcome our consumers to shop in any way that they choose,” Olson said.
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