James Jebbia, Supreme's normally press-averse founder, sat down with i-D to discuss the brand's evolution over the past two decades, its watershed moment, collaborating with renowned artists, and the strategy behind the most successful streetwear company in the world.
The brand's high-point, according to Jebbia, marks a pivotal time in promoting 'Preme as not just a skate brand. "When we did the posters with Lou Reed, shot by Terry Richardson," Jebbia tells i-D when asked about the brand's pinnacle moment. "Simply because before that, there was a perception of what a brand like Supreme could be about and what we represented to a lot of people - and to most it's skateboarding and it's hip-hop. In my head, it wasn't just that. But when we worked with Lou Reed, it made people question what that was all about. To us it made perfect sense, he was an awesome musician and he was a rebel. It allowed us to do other things that wouldn't be expected from a skate/streetwear brand, in a way that we could go in other directions if and when we wanted to and it would still feel real and natural."
Jebbia also says that the brand's myriad collaborations with artists developed very organically. "That came through us doing a deck with Larry Clark," Jebbia says. "We weren't looking at Larry as this high-end artist, we just loved Larry Clark the photographer who loves skateboarding. One of my guys was working with Jeff Koons, and Jeff asked if we'd be down to do one with him, and of course we were. And then we started to see that musicians and artists are no different from normal people — they're down to do cool stuff. That's always how it's been and we're not overthinking what we can do. It's just got to feel right; we're not bound by any parameters."
The blueprint for Supreme's success is really to have no long-term blueprint at all, Jebbia reveals. "I don't look beyond a year," he says. Jebbia only hopes his brand will keep producing relevant items and seizing opportunities when they come about. "We're not trying to please the masses. We just want to grow at a reasonable pace. Supreme hasn't changed for 20 years, and that feels very simple to me."
The quest to always stay relevant and an extremely humble long-term plan are just two reasons that Supreme will never fall off.
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