Founded in 1994 by James Jebbia, the first Supreme outlet opened in little more than an old office space.
To an outsider, this may look like a humble beginning. But in less than three decades, Supreme became the niche that everyone wants to be part of.
How did Supreme blow up? Here are 7 reasons why they went from being a small store in New York City to becoming one of the premier streetwear brands in the world – bar none.
From small beginnings 🐁
Like any successful label, Supreme started out with a real purpose. Founder James Jebbia was interested in skate culture, and wanted to express part of that culture through fashion. The first Supreme store was designed not only as a shop, but as a meeting place for members of the New York skate community.
So it was never just about the clothes. Supreme is about a sense of identity, and creating memories. In fact, many of the people who worked in that first Supreme store were actual skaters themselves, which speaks volumes about how serious the brand takes the culture and people that inspired it.
And it’s because of this passion that, even if you don’t skate, you still get swept up in it: the style, the atmosphere, the aesthetic.
Fashion capital of the world ✈️
The first Supreme store opened in the heart of New York, so its association with one of the biggest cities in fashion was there from the start. Although there are definitely exceptions, most people agree that if you want to be anyone in the fashion world, you want to have a big presence in one of the Big Four: London, Paris, Milan and New York.
But while all of these cities are commonly associated with haute couture – high fashion, which means exactly what it sounds like – Supreme is still doing its own thing, even after all this time. Its New York roots have much less to do with trying to get on the catwalk than maintaining an authentic connection with the skating community.
So it gets the best of both worlds. These days, Supreme is also massive in Japan, a place which holds it own when it comes to fashion. And how many Supreme stores are there globally? Right now, only twelve. Go figure.
Innovation, not emulation 🌀
Ask any hypebeast exactly how did Supreme blow up, and you’ll get a different answer every time. What makes the Supreme aesthetic so appealing isn’t something that can be easily defined. But most people usually agree on one thing: Supreme is kinda the epitome of streetwear.
It looks good without even trying. It’s deceptively simple, with insane details for those who know what to look for. It draws attention without being obnoxious. Whether all these things are true, false or somewhere in-between, there’s no denying that Supreme makes its own rules (and breaks them when it wants to). It doesn’t do what others are doing (even when others are doing what Supreme is doing).
Supreme isn’t Louis Vuitton or Diesel or BAPE or John Varvatos or Gucci. Supreme is its own thing, and it’s been this way long enough to have a reputation for it.
Join the party 🌆
Supreme is a label that started out in skate culture and successfully crossed over to the mainstream. Not only that, but it crossed over without selling out. Supreme didn’t alienate their original fans or dilute their original identity. This is something most people can agree with, even if the Supreme aesthetic isn’t personally their thing.
What changed is just that loads more people want Supreme stuff today than in 1994. The stats speak for themselves: Supreme is still crazy popular. And with so many people now into it, the label has become something to get super-hyped over, together.
This is a cross-culture thing too, which makes this party even bigger. Supreme is big in Japan, China and loads of other countries. And while Supreme fans around the globe all have plenty in common, they also have different reasons for liking the brand the way they do.
Supreme exclusivity ⚜️
Love it or hate it, Supreme is one of the most exclusive brands on the planet. It’s actually kind of genius, how they’ve reversed the rules of supply-and-demand. Instead of producing a lot of stock – which, at this stage, is basically guaranteed to fly off the shelves – Supreme actually produces very little. It still flies off the shelves, but only the lucky few get to buy it.
In other words, demand completely outweighs supply. This is one way to get everyone talking about Supreme, because every drop becomes an event in itself.
It also has some less-than-desirable side effects. Some people buy Supreme apparel only to resell it at a jacked-up price. Supreme is expensive, but its products don’t usually run into thousands of dollars. These insane prices come from opportunistic resellers trying to make a quick buck when the merch is sold out everywhere else.
This is one of the reasons why so many people now choose mystery boxes when shopping for Supreme.
Crazy good collabs 🤝
If we wanted to name some of the labels that Supreme has successfully collaborated with, the list would look something like this: Nike, The North Face, Vans, Playboy, Timberland, Levi’s and Lacoste. And this isn’t even all of them. In 2020, Supreme are as well-known for their collabs as they are for their regular merch.
The Supreme x Louis Vuitton collab is especially cool. Why? Because it brings together Supreme’s bold colors with LV’s world-famous monogram. The result is the kind of unique products that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Supreme x LV collabs are the bridge between two different approaches to fashion: Louis Vuitton’s haute couture, and Supreme’s more down-to-earth, street-ready style.
That little red box 🟥
The Supreme logo speaks to people, even when they don’t know what it is. You might be surprised (or not so surprised) to know that it’s actually based on the propaganda art of Barbara Kruger. No wonder, then, that it stands out so effectively. It’s hard to think of another label that achieves such a distinctive look with so little.
And in many ways, the logo says it all. Supreme is exactly what it’s always claimed it is. With the help of a legion of worldwide fans, the label stands tall above all imitators. How did Supreme blow up? By continually evolving, while staying true to its roots.
But have we got it all wrong? What is Supreme to you? Do you share our hype for it, or are there way better brands out there? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out one of our best Supreme collections.