Supreme has become in the space of twenty five years a reference in streetwear, by, among others, brilliant marketing strategy as well as the rarity card.
In the world of streetwear, Supreme has become THE reference. Everyone is fighting to proudly display the latest Supreme piece.
The story begins in 1994, when the Englishman James Jebbia opened his first store on Lafayette Street in New York. He wanted to offer skateboarders quality clothing, far from loose cuts and baggy jeans, then in vogue. Quickly the place become a trendy meeting point, on the border between the art gallery and the skateshop. But unlike the others James Jebbia did not push for consumption, and quickly many curious people ended up at the store with the feeling of “The New York underground”.
The 1995 release of the film Kids of Larry Clark,( a generational phenomenon about young looking for thrills on a skateboard background),and the legend of the brand was born. Some of the actors have been cast among the customers or employees of the store. The first collection included an iconic T-shirt with a photo of Robert de Niro from the film Taxi Driver. Very quickly, professional skateboarders appeared with their clothes at international competitions. Supreme has become then popular with streetwear fans around the world.
In addition to being passionate about urban fashion, James Jebbia had a weakness for art. Building on his success with Supreme, he invited renowned artists to collaborate with the brand. Thus, works by sculptor Jeff Koons, Painter Georges Condo or photographer Terry Richardson have been reproduced on T-shirts and skateboards in very limited collections.
Supreme started to collaborate with: Nike, North Face, Jordan, Levi’s and comme des Garcons who have contributed to Supreme’s global success. As well as famous artist: Neil young, Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, Mike Tyson, or Lou Reed.. have all mused for the advertising campaigns.
Supreme or the art of cultivating Rarity
It is extremely difficult to buy a Supreme product. Since the offer is way much lower than the demand, any new collection is sold out very quickly ( average time 6 minutes on the site).
On the price side, a minimum £100 for a t-shirt and no less than £350 for a down jacket or parka. The caps that are very popular are more accessible around £45. With only 11 stores worldwide, including two in Europe (Paris and London) it is very difficult to buy locally. In addition to that Supreme practices”drops”, that is say new products that arrive Thursday in store but in still very limited editions. Very specific collaborations like those with Louis vuitton or Lacoste allow 25,000 pieces to be sold in six minutes. To buy in stores,you need to know the meeting place on monday, you will receive a number and if luck is on your side you will be called by the staff and get the right to buy in store on thursday. But places are scarce and there are more and more candidates week after week. Some are paid to queue for you, others resell at a very high price on the internet. Which lead to an enormous amount of scams and counterfeits.
On eBay, Supreme products are three to four times the original price, a cap at 45 pound can be sold for 200 pounds.
The brand is so popular that it generates a real underground market. Before each exclusivity, a human tide is invited in front of each supreme store. The phenomenon is so strong that it sometimes leads to scenes of violence. The New York times even calls Supreme’s story “Guerilla Fashion”
The brand’s strategic choice not to produce in a large quantity strengthens its exclusive image.
In 2017, Supreme moved away from what makes its DNA by collaborating with Louis Vuitton, Who for the anecdote, had sued Supreme in 2000 for having reproduced their logo on a skateboard.
Presented at Paris Fashion Week, The Supreme & Louis Vuitton collection focuses on streetwear with baggys, sneakers, Backpacks and skateboards. If the prices of this collaboration will not suit all budgets, Supreme achieves a major “tour de force” by rejuvenating the image of Louis Vuitton. These two brands have the same luxury codes:
Product in small quantity, of high quality
At this rate, Supreme may perhaps cut itself off from its original audience. The small skateboard brand has become very big and is now playing in the first league.