Hype Beast Heaven: The story behind Supreme’s success


Nate Fordyce, Staffer

Perhaps the most iconic symbol in streetwear, the red box logo spelling out Supreme adds value to anything it touches.

A plain white T-shirt with the red box across the chest sells for over $450, while collaborations with Yeezy have produced shoes reselling for over $1,300.

Celebrities such as Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, Neil Young and Lady Gaga have all been seen sporting Supreme.

However, the box logos’ midas like abilities and iconic status were not achieved through typical marketing techniques.

Supreme is based off of a limited release style, something that has been valued since the first store opened in 1994.

The brand’s founder, James Jebbia described his start with the fashion scene in an interview with Vogue as a sales assistant in a small streetwear shop called Parachute.

From there, James opened his own shop called Union, selling British goods and clothing. Union was a successful shop, however, James did not really get his foot in the fashion industry door until his shop began selling Shawn Stussy’s clothing.

From Union, he left to open up a small skate shop on Lafayette Street in New York. The young shop was remembered by filmmaker Harmony Korne as more of a hangout spot for skaters rather than a store selling designer clothing. It did not take long for designers from all over the world to gravitate towards the small skate shop.

There are many speculations as to how Supreme has maintained its dominant presence in the fashion world.

When asked why he thinks the brand is so successful, freshman apparel and design major and Supreme wearer, Daniel Fabiano said, “It’s really just all the weird items outside of the clothing that keeps the brand running, along with all the hype they’ve worked to build.”

The random items Daniel refers to have ranged from scooters and money-dispensing guns to boxing gloves and nunchucks.

Not only are the items random, but the clothing itself is often seen as unique and sometimes strange. Often times T-shirts will show nude women, guns, profanities, or sometimes all three.

The brand’s unusual style is largely in part due to James’ original philosophy for the company, saying in an interview with Vogue that, “The formula is that there is no formula.” This mindset keeps current customers on their toes for new products and attracts new buyers.

This “no set style” ideology has remained strong with the brand through a wide range of collaborations.

To name a few, Supreme has worked with well-known brands such as The North Face, Champion, Nike and recently even Louis Vuitton.

However, to keep the brand as underground as possible, there have been countless smaller companies to work with Supreme such as Liberty of London and Schott NYC.

Supreme does not only vary in style and collaborations but in their targeted market as well. Refusing to be confined to the skate world, the brand also attempts to attract models, rappers, actors, and punk rockers.

Becoming even more progressive in the past years, James’ clothing offers a genderless approach to dressing by showing both male and female models wearing Supreme in their seasonal lookbooks.

Since their products are released in small quantities and are only sold in the two Supreme stores in the U.S., Supreme clothing is not so easy to purchase even if you have the funds.

If you happen to be near one of the two shops the morning of a release you will be greeted by a not so friendly mob of skaters, hypebeasts and resellers that have been camping in front of the store for days in advance.

Since everyone is trying to grab a limited supply of clothing it is not uncommon for violence to erupt amongst the crowd. In fact, according to DailyMail, on several occasions the NYPD has shut down and postponed the release of new clothing due to an uncontrollable mob.

Among the hundreds of people who wait in line, not all are there because they like the clothing; a good portion of those waiting in line are there to resell the rare clothing.

The limited release style has opened up an entire secondary market. People from ages 12-40 are all making a liveable wage from reselling the clothing online.

This phenomenon even prompted Vice to put out a video titled “How to Become a Millionaire by Reselling Supreme.” An ideal mixture of high demand and low supply allows resellers to set their own prices, often doubling or tripling in-store prices.

Supreme has held down an incredibly lucrative stance in fashion for over 22 years now by doing what many other brands are not willing to do. James’ business model is that of a quality brand, showing care for the fashion world.

Rather than cashing out when the going is good, James’ patience and restraint has been rewarded by creating the most desired brand in streetwear today.

Nate Fordyce is an undecided freshman from Chicago, Illinois.