Supreme (1994)

The history of Supreme: from niche brand to streetwear giant

Supreme, is a luxury streetwear brand founded in 1994 by James Jebbia. Born in the United States in 1963, James grew up in London until the age of 19, when he returned to America. Here he worked for ten years in various shops and after the experience at Stussy, where he deepened his passion for urban culture, he decided to open his own store on Lafayette Street in Manhattan. Not just a shop, but a concept that also includes an art gallery and a skate park, a space that welcomes and attracts the local skater community. A mecca for lovers of street culture. Thus began the story of Supreme, the brand that Vogue in 1995 defined as “the Chanel of streetwear”.

james jebbia
James jebbia

The growth of the brand

T-shirts, sweatshirts, and caps with the logo, which is inspired by the works of the artist Barbara Kruger, are in full view. These are the products that Supreme initially markets. Over time, attention to streetwear grows, and attention to Supreme grows, also thanks to communication that manages to involve the emotional level. Buying Supreme means being part of a community, and sharing the same values ​​and passions.

In 2004 he opened his second store in Los Angeles, a huge space, double the size of the first opened in New York, with the inevitable skatepark inside. Supreme is now a consolidated reality that finds its success also in the way the collections are released, the so-called drops. Every Thursday at 11:00 am US time, a new collection is released. Few pieces and a lot of demand, a strategy that allows the hype around the brand to grow. And so the white and red logo becomes a status symbol and anything, whether it’s a t-shirt, a brick, a fire extinguisher, becomes an object of desire if it has a logo.


The Supreme stores

The openings followed one another and after New York and Los Angeles, the stores arrived in London in 2011,

Paris in 2016 and then Japan: Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka. With the opening of the store in Tokyo, in the Daikanyama district defined as “The Brooklyn of Tokyo”, the tradition of the “opening tee” also begins, the limited edition shirts launched exclusively to celebrate the new openings. In 2017, twenty-three years after the inauguration on Lafayette Street, the second store in New York was born. The chosen location is Brooklyn, a former warehouse renovated by architect Neil Logan.

Two years later it’s the turn of San Francisco, the skate capital. In May 2021 finally, after years of rumors, Supreme lands in Italy, resolutely in Corso Garibaldi in Milan, and to celebrate the arrival a box logo is released that pays homage to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Box Logo Milan
Supreme Milan
Supreme Milan

The collaborations

From a niche brand, Supreme has achieved great goals and has attracted the attention of fashion greats. The collaborations follow one another over the years, starting from of 2012 with Gomme Des Garçons followed by Nike, The North Face, Levi’s, Lacoste, and Pucci.

The most famous is that of 2017 with Louis Vuitton, a collaboration that changed the world of fashion by sanctioning the entry of streetwear to the upper floors. On the one hand, a niche brand has the opportunity to exploit the notoriety of a historic name, on the other hand, Louis Vuitton obtains the street credibility that allows it to involve millennials and Generation Z (a project that continues today under the creative direction of Virgil Abloh).

Supreme x Louis Vuitton
Supreme x Louis Vuitton

Supreme and legal fake

Since its inception, Supreme has had to fight against the fake market, especially legal fakes. The problem of legal fakes occurs when a company registers the brand in one or more countries before the original brand does, as happened with Supreme Italia, a company founded in Barletta and controlled by the International Brand Firm (Ibf). In 2016 Ibf started the trademark registration process, making its debut at Pitti and opening several stores. In 2017, a sentence by the Court of Milan ascertained that Supreme Italia is a parasitic competition and thus ordered the closure of the stores.

The acquisition and the new creative director

In 2020 Supreme was purchased, with a deal worth 2.1 billion dollars, by VF Corporation, a group that owns other companies in the sector such as Vans, Timberland, and The North Face. In February 2022 the news of the appointment of Tremaine Emory as the new creative director of the brand, the founder of Denim Tears, as well as a prominent personality in the streetwear scene, will work closely with James Jebbia.



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