274 LaFayette street. A small space for anyone and everyone who wanted to hang around and loosen up. A name inspired by a Grammy Hall of Fame album. Employees picked out of a movie. Keeping its doors wide open all day while cranking up some bangers and constantly playing captivating videos. All in all, the perfect hangout spot.
We are all very familiar with stories of major businesses which started off with just one small store. Supreme is no different. A small skateboarding lifestyle brand which began its journey in 1994 is now a global trendsetter. However the founder, James Jebbia doesn’t see it that way. He has always believed Supreme was more of a ‘space’ for the surrounding communities to hang around and be themselves. A space where there were no rich or poor, no labels, only good vibes. His inspiration for the aesthetic he wanted Supreme to carry came from his teenage years. As Jebbia lived in West Sussex, he would spend his breaks from work at the Duracell factory to visit London to shop for clothes. He always felt greatly allured towards one shop in specific; “the cool, cool shop”, says Jebbia. This store carried all the cool stuff everyone was wearing regardless of none of it being attached to any brand.
The birth of Supreme
It is not possible to talk about Supreme without making everything about the man behind every great success achieved by Supreme since day one; James Jebbia, who is the heart and soul of the brand. His commitment to the brand and his love for the 90’s era NewYork inspires most of the articles made by Supreme and is the essence of the brand. However it wasn’t so easy to get the brand where it is now. After turning nineteen, Jebbia left England and began working as a sales assistant at Parachute, a boutique in SoHo. He then went on to working a table at the nearest flea market. Prior to creating Supreme, Jebbia’s greatest crowning glory was Union; a store which initially sold British goods and streetwear. Then Union went on to working with Shawn Stussy, the skateboarder and surfer. This move proved to give the brand the concept Jebbia was always so attracted to. Later he went on to assist Stussy run a shop until Stussy decided to retire. Following the retirement, Jebbia was unsure of what his next move would be. Jebbia’s love for the skating community and everything they represented laid out his plans for his ‘next big thing’.
“Always keep the street kids in the driver’s seat”
Upon setting up Supreme, Jebbia had a clear vision of what he wanted the store to be and who he wanted shopping there; the cool kids who get it. An exclusive skateboard and skatewear shop, not to get confused with streetwear. Supreme was meant to be an exclusive brand catering only to the skating community and the kids who religiously live and breathe skate culture, but over the years the hype grew and it lost the image Jebbia envisioned for it. The brands need for seeming mysterious and exclusive only made everyone want to acquire and flaunt anything with the Supreme logo slapped on it. Nowadays the Supreme box logo is something we tend to see a lot, from kids in high school trying to earn cool points to trend hopping influencers and celebrities on instagram attempting to trick us into believing they’re bougee.
We’ve all heard of the consequences of companies not advertising enough and not putting in extra effort to connect with their target audience, well Jebbia believes in not over advertising Supreme and limiting how much they connect with their community.
Fashion over gender
How does a skate brand end up dominating the entire fashion industry? Initially Supreme was a male centred enterprise focusing mainly on male skate-wear, but considering the recent rise in gender-bending fashion; Supreme’s target audience expanded to girl skaters and women influenced by youth culture. Supreme no longer conforms to conventional gender dynamics. This is the age of genderless fashion, and it’s working out perfectly for Supreme.
Supreme’s identity loss
Is Supreme an exclusive skatewear brand, or a trendy streetwear brand which one must cop in order to gain clout? Despite Jebbia’s best efforts, Supreme has strayed too far from the image he intended for it, along with the target audience he had in mind.
Supreme is and always will be the quintessence of 90’s New York and the skate culture and no one can take that away from Jebbia’s legacy.