Nearly all serious skaters are aware of the fashion superpower brand, Supreme. From backpacks to baseball caps, bags to polo shirts, the Supreme brand draws a cult following from all over the world. Here’s a bit of the history of the incredible success of this brand.
The founder of Supreme, James Jebbia, has been making skater clothing since 1994 under the Supreme label. As a teenager and devoted skater himself, he experienced the energizing and freeing power of buying cool clothes but without patronizing the big brands or kowtowing to their marketing messages. He began to see Supreme as a kind of space where the open-minded can explore their own preferences and be exposed to the preferences of others. He envisioned a space where people of every race and preference could find something that they liked and feel both welcome and unique. There would be something to buy that they could relate to.
To truly drive demand, Supreme needed more than a popular set of styles. They needed a playbook that would keep them relevant in a world where fashion drops in and out of favor in mere seconds. Supreme has deliberately created a culture where people will feel that if they love something they should buy it because it won’t be available in just a little while. Supreme deliberately avoids overexposure of their products and keeps advertising to a minimum. What keeps interest high, though, are the limited releases of Supreme brand items. Only a few pieces will come out on Thursdays and inventory is always limited.
After his teen years, the founder of the Supreme brand left England to become a sales associate in New York. He also worked in a nearby flea market and then founded his own store selling British goods. He found an excellent designer, Shawn Stüssy, whose items sold very well, and this convinced Jebbia to try opening his own skate shop on Lafayette Street. He employed skateboarders and found them to be much like himself: cool, opinionated, but not harsh or close minded. This inspired him to desire culture for Supreme that would be both specific and also universal.
In 2017 fashion magazine Vogue declared that the Supreme brand had reached “legendary global status.” Today, Supreme has opened stores in several major cities across the world , and Jebbia works with a variety of designers who share his vision and values. He proudly declares that Supreme’s formula for success is to have no formula at all, but simply respond to the desires and preferences of youth rather than try to drive them.
The future seems bright for Supreme. Every year, consumers in the United States alone spend $1,800 on average in e-commerce transactions. As Supreme spreads out and becomes ever more available online, it’s tapping into this market as well as markets overseas. Jebbia himself never lets success go to his head and always treats each season as if it were the last. Perhaps this is the secret to his success, as well as keeping overhead low and inventory small. The future seems bright for Supreme, and so long as people want something that reflects their desire to fit in and they are need to be an individual at the same time, Supreme is likely to reign supreme.