Streetwear brand Supreme has grown from humble beginnings as a skate wear store in New York City, to a global brand with an evangelical following. The London store opened in 2011 and always has a queue around the block with an average wait of an hour to get your hands on the goods. The store is modelled on those that founder James Jebbia would visit as a young teenager growing up in Crawley, when he saved up to travel into London and buy ultra-cool clothing brands.
The passion of the Supreme brand followers and its rapid growth across the globe has not missed the attention of the fashion world and it has worked in collaborations with several big name designers including Louis Vuitton, Comme des Garçons, and Hysteric Glamour, alongside sports and shoe brands such as Nike, Vans and The North Face.
Here are 10 things you might not know about the cult brand.
1. The store’s first employees were extras in the film “Kids” – a controversial independent film directed by Larry Clark about a group of New York teenagers and their attitudes to sex and drugs. Many of Supreme’s first employees were skateboarders and the cast of the film is made up from young people Clark watched skateboarding and met around the city, without any previous acting experience.
2. The Supreme logo is based upon conceptual art by Barbara Kruger. Kruger’s pieces feature original propaganda images with slogans superimposed in the red and white colours and typeface (Futura Heavy Oblique) now synonymous with Supreme. The brand took Married To The Mob designer Leah McSweeney to court in 2013 after she produced t-shirts featuring a “Supreme Bitch” print very similar to Supreme’s logo. The Supreme logo was trademarked only a few months before the lawsuit.
3. Founder James Jebbia grew up in the UK until the age of 19 and was a child actor. He played the character Tommy Watson in the first series the BBC kids series set in a school: “Grange Hill” and also had a few small parts in other television shows and films.
4. Supreme opened just before the iconic 1994 Calvin Klein campaign featuring Kate Moss was released. The store gave out stickers of its iconic logo, which were plastered by the crew all over the city to promote the brand. One of the favourite locations for stickering was on the Kate Moss ads. Calvin Klein was not impressed and sued the company but Supreme had the last laugh when they released their Kate Moss photo t-shirt featuring the campaign image and well-placed Supreme logo 10 years later.
5. Louis Vuitton collaborated with Supreme on a sought-after collection of clothing and accessories earlier this year. However the relationship with the luxury fashion house has not always been so friendly – Louis Vuitton attempted to sue Supreme for $500 million in 2000 after the brand used the iconic monogram print (replacing the “LV” with an “S”) on a range of skateboards, beanies, and t-shirts.
6. Supreme produced a line of bicycles in 2000 in collaboration with Brooklyn Machine Works. The red-framed bikes with white Supreme logo sold for $1,800 and were produced in a limited edition release of three dozen. Eric Clapton bought one. Earlier this year, they also released a 196cc mini bike in association with Coleman.
7. Supreme recently became a billion-dollar company after it sold a 50% stake in the company to the Carlyle Group for $500 million. This puts it in a group of only 168 companies in the US to have achieved this status according to the Wall Street Journal, including Warby Parker, Michael Kors, and Uber.
8. Supreme products are so limited edition and sell out so fast that fans buy “bot” software to nab the latest releases online and complete checkout faster than a human can. Supreme items often end up on eBay and other resellers marked up well over 100%. In fact there’s a whole group of people who’ve made a business out of reselling Supreme.
9. There are various spellings of “Supreme” on some limited edition items – “Suprème” is inspired by French modernist designer Andre Courreges, and “Supream” is a homage to Mark Gonzales who would send postcards to the NYC shop with the name misspelled.
10. The rarest Supreme item ever made is a 2013 Rolex Submariner watch with “Fuck ‘Em” written on the face. The timepiece was originally created for friends and family of Supreme, rather than for sale to customers, and only 20 are estimated to have been made. The watch listed for sale at stadium goods for $50,000.