Supreme. A name that once sent shockwaves through the fashion streets, echoing the very foundation of streetwear culture and avant-garde collaborations. Emerging as an underdog from New York’s gritty skate scene, it soon vaulted to a grand pedestal, becoming the jewel every high-end fashion brand wanted to set in their crown. However, the brand is currently going through a period of huge turbulence. How can this be explained?
Flashback to that groundbreaking moment in January 2017, the fashion world collectively gasped. The runway of Louis Vuitton‘s men’s fashion show featured the iconic red Keepall bags boldly stamped with the Supreme logo. The skate brand that James Jebbia birthed in 1994, starting with a humble budget of $12,000, had ascended to an unprecedented height. For enthusiasts of streetwear, this wasn’t just a collaboration; it was the watershed moment, signalling the luxurious embrace of the gritty and raw street style.
As days turned to months and months into years, the allure of Supreme only grew stronger. Prestigious brands – Stone Island, Nike, Rimowa, Tiffany & Co., Timberland – all vied for a piece of that Supreme magic. Its e-commerce site buzzed with activity every Thursday, struggling under the weight of eager consumers awaiting the weekly “drops.” In a stunning climax, 2020 saw VF, the powerhouse behind Vans and Timberland, acquiring Supreme for a whopping $2.1 billion.
But as with all tales of meteoric rises, shadows started looming. The initial thrill of collaborations began waning. The passionate, zealous queues outside stores began thinning out. Supreme, in an effort to adapt and grow, ushered in structural changes, which inadvertently dampened the counter-cultural ethos it was celebrated for. Enter 2021, Supreme took a direction previously uncharted, appointing a creative director, Tremaine Emory. A formidable name, with commendable stints at Stüssy and his notable collaboration with Kim Jones’s DIOR under the brand Denim Tears.
Yet, the once-beloved brand started facing the music. The buzz that used to surround Supreme was fizzling out. The brand, although still massive, was losing its cultural resonance. A decline not necessarily in product quality but rather in the electrifying buzz it once commanded. The numbers spoke the same language. A few tremors in sales here, a slight dip in revenue there. On resale platforms like StockX, where once Supreme products were sold at premium prices, the tags began to hover closer to the original retail figures.
Challenges didn’t stop there. As Supreme spread its wings in South Korea, marking its territory in Seoul, it was hit by the departure of Tremaine Emory. A decision spurred by the alleged shelving of a collaboration with African-American artist Arthur Jafa. Controversy ensued with Emory pointing towards systemic racism within the brand’s framework. While Supreme denied such claims, the rift was evident. The brand that had recently ventured into appointing a creative director for the first time in three decades, was once again without one, and future plans remain undisclosed.
Does this signify the curtain call for Supreme? Well, fashion, much like history, has a habit of repeating itself. Brands have faced highs and lows, challenges, and revolutions. What remains to be seen is how Supreme chooses to redefine itself in the ever-evolving world of fashion.
“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself,” – Oscar de la Renta. Supreme, in its journey, has taught many about style; it’s time it remembers its own essence.
Click on this link to read this article in French version