How does a small Manhattan, New York based skate shop go on to collaborate with some of the biggest brands of all time and reach worldwide appeal? Well for the brand, it all started in April of 1994 on Lafayette Street. But there’s much more to the story than just assuming a random guy named James Jebbia opened a clothing store and got lucky.
The retail experience was gained through his teenage years working in SoHo at a shop called Parachute. He worked with an employee named Eddie Cruz who later went on to found another great street wear brand in Undefeated. Later on a much younger James Jebbia opened Union NYC on 172 Spring Street and helped usher in what we now know as streetwear. In 2007 the shop moved to a separate location on 176 Spring Street and then in 2009 closed it’s doors to later house the Stussy New York shop.
But in 1991 while running Union NYC, he helped launch Stussy NYC (and as mentioned above, everything came full circle in 2009). Then while he was still running the Stussy NYC location in 1994, Jebbia’s brainchild in Supreme was born. In 1993/1994, around $12,000 (which would be about $20,000 today) was used to launch Jebbia’s newest, and later on, found to be his most successful project. He didn’t create hundreds of shirts for the store upon launch, in fact, there were only three. Three shirts to help put a newly founded store on the map, but the odd part is that it worked.
As the store began to rise in popularity, the infamy rose as well when red box logo stickers labeled Supreme began popping up through out the city. At one point they began popping up on Calvin Klein advertisements that featured super model Kate Moss.
So in 1994, Calvin Klein filed a lawsuit against Supreme for defacing their ads. Since they’re wasn’t any hard evidence that Supreme was doing the sticker tagging, nothing really materialized from this. In 1995, Supreme filmed their first skate video entitled “A Love Supreme” which was used as a small inspiration for a t-shirt in their F/W ’14 release by the same name.
Jump ahead a few years and many drops later and just like James Jebbia’s past endeavors, he’s extremely successful. In the early 2000s, Supreme really began to hit it’s stride. They collaborated on an original boot with boot-maker Padmore & Barnes. Supreme even collaborated on a bike that year with Brooklyn Machine Works, bringing in $1,800 a piece. But even with great success, controversy is always near. So during 2000, Supreme received their very first cease and desist order from Louis Vuitton. Supreme had used a monogram print and color pattern on their skateboards for a new release that was obviously inspired by the Louis Vuitton print.
Later on down the road, Supreme received a few more cease and desist orders from the NHL for their hockey jerseys and the NCAA for featuring similar team logos. In 2001, Supreme did something we’re not use to today and released a sneaker that would not be a collaboration. The original model from Supreme would be the Down Low and then in 2002 a follow up to the sneaker called the Mid Town was released. They were met with moderate success but these models were never released again. Continuing with their fascination with sneakers, Supreme collaborated in one of many with Nike to release the Dunk Highs. In 2003, Supreme intended to release a low version to compliment the release of the high model, but they were denied due to copyright issues. Thankfully this didn’t sour the relationship between the two for too long, and they later went on to collab many more times.
Fast forward to modern day. The man who started out with simply three shirts in his newly opened store went on to feature the likes of Raekwon, Lady Gaga, and even Kermit The fucking Frog in, and some even on, his clothes. Orchestrated many collaborations with the largest sneaker company in the world in Nike. And in 2012, was estimated to have a net worth of $40 Million. After all of that, Supreme continues to put out some of it’s best work of all time and still inspires people of all ages to camp outside for hours, maybe even days. It still gives people the anxious feeling at 10:59AM on Thursday mornings wondering if they’ll be able to get that special piece when the clock strikes 11AM. They have developed one of the biggest cult following of any fashion brand in history, and as of 2014, it keeps getting bigger. This is how to reign Supreme.