Product drops, resell markets, coveted collabs and #rare must-haves. Much of what we associate with Hypebeast culture today harks back to a little New York skate shop that wasn’t supposed to peddle fashion in the first place. Now, it’s a global brand with a cult-like following and a logo that may as well represent the pinnacle of streetwear. We’re talking, of course, about Supreme.
Opened in 1994 by English transplant James Jebbia, Supreme started as less of a label and more of a space. Snarling skaters staffed it, the speakers blasted the hottest hip-hop onto the sidewalk, the atmosphere was full of attitude. The store soon became a clubhouse for the downtown New York skate scene, a group that incidentally included artists, filmmakers and cultural shakers who came to define what was “cool.” Cool was Supreme, and Supreme was cool. Twenty-five years later, it’s still cool, but in a special way that has managed to keep the respect of skate kids while earning recognition among the high-fashion elites.
Last year, Jebbia was named Menswear Designer of the Year at the CFDA Fashion Awards. His acceptance speech, made in the presence of industry old guards like Ralph Lauren and Anna Wintour, expressed his company ethos: “I’ve never considered Supreme to be a fashion company, or myself a designer, but I appreciate the recognition for what we do.”
So how has Supreme done what it’s done, going from a counterculture hangout to one of the most influential style powerhouses in the world? We’ve scoured a few rare interviews Jebbia gave to round up his most ingenious business-building lessons.