Supreme is a phenomenon in the underground of fashion and culture. It started off a skateboarding shop, and it evolved into a brand that represented something profound and has acquired a ‘cult’ following for a number of people who frequently queue for hours and sometimes days to purchase limited edition items.
James Jebbia started the brand in 1994 in a small shop in New York. There is a similarity to the Japanese fashion A Bathing Ape (BAPE) who started in 1993 and made limited editions of each item and controlled their supply of goods to maintain their high prices and feel of exclusivity, they operated out of a tiny store in Ura-Harajuku, Japan.
The Supreme brand have expanded from their skating roots to young people within hip-hop and street culture in general. Celebrities have gravitated towards the brand and although the demand has increased for the products, the supply has remained limited.
This type of thinking is antithetical to the corporate world who embrace and worship at the shrine of ‘perpetual growth at all costs.’
This tactic maintains a strong brand identity for authenticity and exclusivity, but it opens the doors for people known as ‘resellers’ to charge inflated prices for items that they know will be difficult to acquire. The principles of supply and demand are here for all to see, and yet even though everyone knows the game, they are all still willing participants.
Supreme knows that resellers are buying their products in large quantities and selling them on for inflated prices, the resellers know that people will buy overpriced goods, and the buyers know that they are paying hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars above the market price to acquire a single item.
This is the power of creating a strong brand, and this strategy would not be practical at a publicly listed company with eager shareholders screaming for increased returns each quarter at the top of their lungs.
The resellers and consumers recount their story to Complex in the Sold Out documentary.
Sold Out: The Underground Economy of Supreme Resellers’:
Interviewer: Emily Oberg