A Rare Chat With Supreme's Brendon Babenzien

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Complex Original

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I have a lot of memories of going to the Supreme shop on Lafayette in the ’90s, but I don't really reflect on them too often since I still visit regularly. I go just to look at graphics and touch jackets and take in the atmosphere that the store creates around itself each day.

I'm always the only guy in there wearing a suit, which makes me feel happy, old and based all at the same time.

Supreme is fly in the present tense. When I say "the kids" (like in an SSD sort of way) go nuts for this stuff, I really mean it. Understated in its modern silhouettes, but with plenty of colorful swagger, the brand's well made, shockingly fresh merchandise feels like a secret, despite having a logo printed on it.

Who else can make a color blocked hooded down jacket in black, red and green leather look so necessary for your winter wardrobe? Why include a metal locker strap on the inside of a thin wale purple corduroy club jacket? Three 6 Mafia, greaser clothes and Harris Tweed, in the same collection. Everything makes sense and that's part of the magic, part of the power.

I was super stoked that Supreme's Creative Director, Brendon Babenzien, was down to have a chat. He hit me with some info about his craft, being yourself and the importance of people creating. The man who makes beautiful products just wants the kids to make things, too. That's wassup.

Elliot Aronow: Where does Supreme's sensibility end and where does yours begin? How closely are they related?

Brendon Babenzien: That's actually a great question. It's been so long that it is really hard to say. Most of my life has been around skateboards and music and stuff and that is basically the Supreme lifestyle, so they're pretty close. I think everyone that ends up at Supreme ends up there for a reason. The interesting thing now is seeing more than one generation and how they relate to each other.  You can see the same type of attitude and how it manifests itself at different ages.

EA: Do you agonize over and continually refine your pieces or just go with it once it feels right?

BB: We definitely start with a very organic, this feels right approach. That tends to be the best stuff.  When you have to deliberate too much, it usually means something is wrong.

EA: Has there been a take away from being the game as long as you have, something you learned that you have carried with you?

BB: Trust your instincts.

EA: How do you feel about people fetishizing Supreme as a brand? Do you feel like part of the success is doing things other people can't or won't do?

BB: As far as people fetishizing Supreme, it's kinda cool and flattering for all of us involved.  For me personally though, it's a little scary. Any time people use product as ways to define themselves or their lifestyle, I get concerned for our society as a whole. I want kids to do stuff. Skate, play music, sports, write, whatever. But do something, then if you have some time, worry about your gear.

EA: What were the first sorts of clothing items to capture your imagination?

BB: When I was a kid I was into skating and surfing and music. The first thing I saw that felt like my world was Stussy. But I really was into traditional stuff too so it made for some interesting choices. A really close friend of mine started making clothes when we were still really young. His company was called Pervert and I worked with him for a while. That stuff was really us. It was when skate, surf, hip hop and all of the good things about youth culture organically found each other. It seemed really NY since we would be at the beach all day, but then at night would be running around the city to whatever party was happening at the time. Pervert was amazing, and Don was one of the best. If he hadn't lost it and gave it all away, he would certainly have been a big deal in the business. His story is pretty nuts but that's for another time.

EA: What advice do you have for young people who want to resist the rising corporate tide of lifestyle marketing and quick buck sellout shit?

BB: Put what you do above what you wear.

Elliot Aronow is the man behind Our Show with Elliot Aronow and one of the men behind RCRD LBL. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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