Soaring Resale Demand for Off-White Product Puts Platforms in a Bind

The sad news of Virgil Abloh’s death on Sunday sent demand for his label Off-White soaring, with resellers reporting a spike in sales of the streetwear brand known for its signature crossed-arrow graphic and use of quotation marks. But the surge creates a dilemma for resale platforms, which could be seen to be enabling profiteering from the death of a much-loved industry figure.

San Francisco-based The RealReal saw sales of Off-White increase 18 times on Sunday compared with Saturday, while searches increased 893 percent. Shoppers were buying graphic tees, logo sweatshirts and low top sneakers, the platform said. Searches for “Virgil Louis Vuitton,” where Abloh served as mens artistic director, were up 344 percent.

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On StockX, one of the biggest sneaker resale marketplaces, “Off-White” was the most searched term on Sunday, according to the company, while sales volumes and prices of sneakers from Abloh’s white-hot collaboration with Nike and Jordan spiked. The average resale price of the Off-White Jordan 1 Chicago, one of the most sought-after shoes from The Ten, Abloh’s 2017 project with Nike to reinterpret 10 of its well-known styles, surged to more than $7,000 on the site, according to the publicly available sales data StockX posts on listing pages. On Nov. 29, a pair in size 10.5 sold for $11,607.

Because StockX sells only unworn merchandise, supply for these sorts of sneakers can be extremely limited, driving prices up. Other Nike collaborations with Abloh, including various Jordan models and other styles from The Ten, such as the Presto and Air Max 90, recorded more modest increases but have also seen prices and sales volumes rise.

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But the sales surges pose a difficult problem for platforms that operate marketplace models. While they don’t want to be seen to be benefitting from a tragedy, or enabling profiteering among sellers, their business models are based on supply and demand. At StockX, buyers and sellers determine the price of goods — when demand for an item increases, so does its price. Platforms have dealt with this exact issue in the past, most recently with the death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant in January 2020.

StockX said it will make a donation to the VIRGIL ABLOH™️ “POST-MODERN” SCHOLARSHIP FUND “in recognition of the designer’s legacy.”

Abloh popularised streetwear at the highest echelons of the fashion industry with the launch of Off-White in 2014 with the help of Milanese company New Guards Group, which operates the brand through a licensing agreement that will last until at least 2026. Earlier this year, luxury conglomerate LVMH acquired a 60 percent stake in Off-White LLC, the owner of the Off-White trademark, with Abloh retaining the remaining 40 percent stake.

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He died of a rare form of cancer on Nov. 28, aged 41. The news was announced on the designer’s Instagram account.

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