How Supreme Became the Ultimate Super Brand
Supreme has been around since the ’90s, with a dedicated following of streetwear fans. But arguably it’s only over the past half a decade that the wider fashion industry has properly taken notice. With the increasing influence of streetwear on high fashion, it’s no surprise that Supreme is one of the brands that is taking centre stage. It couldn’t have been clearer that the New York–based label was a major player in high-fashion circles than when it collaborated with Louis Vuitton earlier this year. When we reported on the drop (the technical term for a Supreme launch), the secrecy surrounding the collab was so intense that I could only find out the time and place to shop the items via a source that wanted to remain anonymous on Twitter. But we were talking clothes, not state secrets.
It’s no surprise then that some might describe Supreme as more of a cult. With various Reddit posts dedicated to the question “why are so many people obsessed with Supreme,” I’m also fascinated by this phenomenon. When I spoke to Alec Leach, the digital fashion editor from Highsnobiety, he referred to it almost like a football club, “the way they distribute their clothing is key. It’s a way for young people to get together.” So how is it that the brand—which started off as a small business in New York—is now worth a reported $1 billion? Keep scrolling to find out why Supreme has become the mega brand it is today.
Where did it start?
Created by James Jebbia in 1994, Supreme was initially a skate shop with a difference. It sold skateboards and T-shirts, but it was the layout—people could skateboard inside with the merch available to shop around the edges—that really set it apart. What was in the shop, or rather what wasn’t in the shop, was a key theme of the brand. As Vogue notes, “spare and clean” soon became Supreme’s trademark.
Supreme Brooklyn opened May 2017
If you’re a Supreme fan, then Thursdays are your most important day of the week, as that’s when new pieces get stocked in store. Every week, there are new products offered throughout every one of the brand’s worldwide stores. In London, this has led to the council having concerns about “rough sleepers in £300 trainers” every Wednesday night, notes Vice.
So what’s the key to people being so keen to snap up the new lines that, in some cases, they’re willing to spend a night outside on the streets? Anyone writing about Supreme will always give the same answer: It’s all about hype. Whether by accident or some ingenious trickery we don’t understand, the brand has worked out the formula to make people excited. And it’s a lot to do with supply and demand—with the brand never offering more than it knows it can sell, with pieces often limited edition as well. Speaking to Interview magazine, Jebbia revealed part of his secret: “We’ve never really been supply-demand anyway. It’s not like when we’re making something, we make only six of them. But if we can sell 600, I make 400.”
I’ve previously mentioned that Supreme has become the ultimate collaborator. From the smaller skate brands to big-hitters such as Nike, Commes des Garçons, and A Bathing Ape, there’s a real range of interesting labels Supreme has worked with. All these pieces immediately sell out and start being pawned on eBay or dedicated SupremeFacebook groups.
But, as previously mentioned, it was the collaboration with Louis Vuitton that fully propelled the label into super-brand territory. From Victoria Beckham being spotted at the airport wearing one of the designs (a big deal, considering she usually just wears her own brand) to one of the biggest influencers, Chiara Ferragni, wearing the collab, there’s no shortage of A-list endorsement. Thanks to this, I can see Supreme growing even more, with other fashion houses desperate to gain the same kind of hype it’s so brilliant cultivated.
Next up, the biggest A/W 17 fashion trends you need to know about.