Browse all

The inevitable rise of Corteiz, the brand that is rewriting the rules of the game

How streetwear restarted from bonding like its audience

The inevitable rise of Corteiz, the brand that is rewriting the rules of the game How streetwear restarted from bonding like its audience

How did a young London brand become among the most talked about brands in Europe while also being anointed by Virgil Abloh, who wore it during the Met Gala 2021 and called it «inevitable» in his last interview? When it first launched in 2017, Corteiz offered the public a limited selection of screen-printed tees and crewnecks with the Alcatraz logo, symbols of the message that Clint, its founder who never wanted to reveal his full name, intends as a gesture of rebellion and imposing his own rules. Limited drops, skyrocketing resell prices and a password reserved for a few to access the online shop. For Clint, Corteiz is a private club that everyone wants to join, a "door selection" that allows the brand to let in only those who truly believe in its values and ideals. No affiliation reads the brand's founder Instagram bio, a message of independence and distance from the logic of corporate corporations that have long since absorbed the streetwear world. Indeed, Corteiz perfectly embodies the spirit that, five years after its appearance on the scene, has managed to create an aesthetic capable of merging with London's youth culture, where sportswear represents not only the status symbol of icons such as Stormzy and Jorja Smith, but also a uniform symbolic of rebellion against the rigid patterns of tradition. Starting with the idea of being a reference for his community, Clint created a connection with his products, decreeing the success of the brand that to date, in addition to being among the most searched on secondhand platforms, has more than 600 thousand followers on Instagram.

In September 2021, the brand organized an event in SoHo to launch a new tee available only to those who had purchased a metro ticket to exchange for the product. With a stock always very limited, Corteiz events often turn into real meetings for the brand's fanbase, attracted by the strange conditions that make the drops a treasure hunt each time different from the previous one. To inaugurate 2022, Clint inaugurated on social media what had been renamed "Da Great Bolo Exchange", the drop of a puffer jacket organized in a London parking lot, the Wormwood Scrubs Car Park. The conditions for obtaining the Bolo Jacket were simple: bring in exchange another jacket warm enough to withstand the winter. With only 50 Bolos available, the brand managed to raise £16,000 in jackets that were donated to the homeless with the help of St. Lawrence's Larder. After some traditional drops in October 2022, Clint and Corteiz returned with the "99P Market Stall" where new cargo pants would be sold for 99 pence but only if you pay 99 pence exactly, no more. The time window to buy them was only two hours. 

This new event was followed by a collaboration with rapper Meekz that included several balaclavas and a t-shirt and a short film released last December called DA SKYDIVE celebrating the launch of the new leather jacket of the same name. Already in January, the brand broke the Internet again by announcing its imminent collaboration with Nike – a brand that only the year before had sued Clint in March 2021 for copyright infringement on the possible confusion between Nike Cortez and Corteiz, for which the fine to be paid was relatively light, just over a thousand pounds. However, the two brands seemed to have overcome their disagreements and, after some teasers that went viral, Corteiz announced the "Crossbar Challenge" in late February through a video starring Real Madrid's Eduardo Camavinga in which it was explained that anyone who had managed, on the football field in London, to hit the crossbar of the goal on the other side of the field from outside the opposite penalty area. The prize was the Air Max 95 co-signed by Corteiz. After the official release of the sneaker, in recent days a new surprise drop was announced: on March 21st, fans were invited to meet between 34th Street and 7th Avenue in New York where they found a pop-up of the brand where they could buy the sneaker. Needless to say, the next day, on StockX, the resell price had already more than tripled, from the initial $190 to more than $600.

It is precisely the bond with its community that makes Corteiz a different brand than the blueprint that has filled streetwear since the birth of Supreme. If the exclusivity of a product is a fact that cannot be overlooked, the weight of Clint's shares, which to date has never given any official interview, is undeniable. The absolute, not to say radical and anarchic, authenticity of the brand is what has made its rise such an inescapable product. «What the fuck is fashion week when you really in the street?», Clint wrote on Instagram last June, under a photo that saw him surrounded by a crowd during a giveaway on the street. «Corteiz doesn't rely on resell to maintain his popularity», Tarik Halil wrote on Culted«Each garment is made to last, to be kept and cherished. The brand has a strong visual identity, ranging from iconic joggers to balaclavas». Corteiz's is a rare instance where the community truly represents an integral part of the brand, founded on values and ideals of rebellion against a societal system through the creation of a uniform, a series of garments that can communicate the values of the brand and its founder. «It's not about being rich and being able to afford it,» said Felix Katt in Vogue Business, «but rather being part of the community and therefore being in the know». The "Bolo Exchange" has established Corteiz as the role model for anyone aspiring to succeed in today's streetwear world, without losing their values of consistency and attachment to their community.