With the latest season of Supreme drops thoroughly underway, I found myself wondering, when questioned by a friend, why exactly I like Supreme and what makes me buy it over other brands? Do they simply just make nice clothes, is it the clever and cryptic collaborations or am I just trying to fit in with the cool kids?
With literally no background in skating at all most would be quick to categorise me in the same box as the team at Vogue who came up with the genius idea of “Skate Week“: an entire week dedicated to covering the fashion mag’s “favourite” sport or in other words, a step by step guide to being a total poser. Why simply post a bunch of photos of models wearing Thrasher hoodies when you can be Thrasher, right? Read about Vogue getting roasted by Bullett, it’s pretty hilarious. But I will stand my ground as a firm believer in appreciating a brand for its values and how it conducts itself as well as the clothes themselves. In a time when ethics within the clothing industry is always on the tip of everyone’s tongue, it is our duty to put a bit more thought into where and why we buy our clothes.
The hype surrounding supreme is a phenomenon at this stage, likened only to apple, with people queuing for days before the release of new items. You can see teenagers splashing hundreds of pounds of most likely their parents money on something that has “Supreme” plastered all over it, less for the design aesthetic and more to let everyone know that it’s Supreme.
That these kids are keen to let everyone know they’re wearing Supreme represents another important psychological factor in the brand’s success. “They’ve got a lot of things going for them,” says Jonathan Gabay, author of Brand Psychology: Consumer Perceptions, Corporate Reputations. “But importantly, Supreme was started in the right bit of New York by skaters. That makes it authentic, or seen to be authentic. The fact that they’ve brought in other designers over the years is irrelevant; it all goes back to the fact that the original people who wore this stuff were authentic – they weren’t wearing it because it was trendy.”
Over the past decade or so, a huge amount of importance has been put on “authenticity”, both by brands and individuals. We’re terrified of being exposed as fakes; being called a poser can be hurtful to some because it implies they’re living a kind of false reality or that they don’t have ownership over their own self. Granted, that sounds a bit strong in a discussion about a clothing brand, but psychologically it all plays a role.
“A brand is an extension of one’s self – psychologically, in terms of how you want the world to see you, or what you want the world to believe you are,” says Gabay. “But deeper than that: what you believe you are, through that brand.”
I guess for me, what’s fascinating about Supreme is the fact that they genuinely couldn’t care less about your opinion. They make clothes for them not for you. With pieces being resold for double and triple the price online, they know the demand is there. So why not meet it? Supreme choose to remain a small New York run brand and that’s what makes them so admirable. They could be opening up new stores twice a year, increasing their production and marking up their clothes by 200% and people would still buy them, but that’s not the point is it?
They collaborate with artists like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, and create collections sold at the same price point as any other, but these artists aren’t in it for the profits, they understand that Supreme is more than just a brand, it’s a concept.
As each new season comes out it feels like all of the clothes are part of a puzzle. The fact that they subtly plagiarise other brands or sample bizarre imagery like the New Yorker logo or the end title from Goodfellas is all part of the game. Trying to figure out what the references mean will drive you crazy but don’t we all just want to be in on the joke?
And that’s exactly what it is, an elaborate joke. As David Shapiro writes in his fiction novel “Supremacist”: “The ultimate joke of Supreme is on the customer. The receipts from the L.A. store say “You are being lied to” on the bottom. Their logo is taken from Barbara Kruger, an anti consumerist feminist artist, from a piece that says, ‘I shop therefore I am.’ They’re making fun of the customer for even being a customer.” They are still pleasantly surprised people are buying into it all.
There’s a whole insta account dedicated to the Supreme brick
What keeps a brand focused is the desire to generate revenue. More present today than ever before, long term brand vision and ethos are being sacrificed in exchange for profits. Yet supreme stays perpetual. It never has and never will be about the money. Supreme isn’t really a brand in it’s purest form, I guess it’s more of a long-term conceptual art project about consumerism and theft.
Question is, are they laughing with us or at us?
words by Geri Dempsey
This post is via her blog Threads of London, make sure you take a look