#TBT: That Time 'Vogue' Compared Supreme to Chanel

"This is a tale of two boutiques."

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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As Supreme's notoriety grows in fashion circles, it may not seem that much of a shocker to see a box logo in the pages of Vogue. But back in 1995? That's an entirely different story. Don't forget, this is an era when Vogue, whose content was quite different 20 years ago, and was less likely to cover something like streetwear. 

A hidden gem tucked in the magazine's March '95 issue (and later included in the Rizzoli Supreme coffee table book); Vogue visited Chanel's 57th and Fifth Avenue boutique, and compared the culture and devotees of the then 86-year-old luxury stalwart to the experience of shopping at Supreme's SoHo shop on Lafayette Street. The takeaway? Supreme's had global box logo disciples from the jump.

Think of a fashion powerhouse like Chanel. What defines a brand like that? Hard-to-acquire product? Absolutely. The product is almost prohibitively expensive, with even the smallest of accessories fetching prices in the hundreds of dollars. An easy-to-spot logo?  It's interlocking "C" logo is immediately recognizable—whether you're at the boutique in Paris, or on the street in Tokyo. Naturally, the aforementioned attributes (combined with decades in the game) foster an intensely loyal following from Fifth Avenue, to Abu Dhabi.

But considering Supreme was roughly a year old in '95, and Chanel was an octogenarian, it's almost unfathomable that this scrappy skate shop on Lafayette had as much of a following as "the house that Coco built." As Vogue connected the dots between the brands' New York boutiques, it's shockingly obvious that—whether on East 57th or Lafayette Street—a powerful brand is a powerful brand.

We think of today's fashion world as one that's far more accommodating to streetwear aesthetics, but even in 1995, luxury fashion was getting inspired by the downtown cool kids who'd be found at a shop like Supreme.

"Generally the vector of fashion influence points from downtown toward uptown, from the young-and-street to the mature-and-moneyed...Chanel's heavy molded-rubber boot echoes Supreme's affinity for practical workman's gear. You would probably see the construction-worker jacket translated into Chanel before you would see Chanel knocked off for Supreme.

Don't get it twisted: Chanel may be one of the biggest victims of logo flippers, but Vogue pointed out that Chanel is more likely to sell products that are somewhat similar to Supreme's and not vice versa. 

Maybe the similarities between the stores and/or brands aren't that far off after all.

Starting with the atmosphere, both have videos playing at their store, with Chanel displaying its latest runway offerings on a video loop, and Supreme broadcasting "skateboard videos running simultaneously on six Sony's in the window."

Each shop has its own uniforms as well; though Chanel's seasonal, runway-inspired dress is somewhat of a far cry from Supreme's staff style:

"The Supreme ensemble is the baseball hat worn backward or the beanie, the fingertip length construction-worker jacket, tailored to stand slightly away from the body, protecting and concealing...The rumpled jeans, neither flared nor pegged, are worn low, and a few sizes too large. Then there are the flat Vans sneakers. Whereas at Chanel the outfit is finished by the high-heeled, platform-soled shoe...[At Supreme] The whole package will run you anywhere from $200 to $300, which is a hefty investment, but you can wear it with confidence, knowing that everything you buy at Supreme is cool and won't bind or constrict when you are skating. As with the Chanel suit, you are certain of always looking correct."

Curiously, it's the Supreme shopper who's more likely to be decked out in their brand's logo from head-to-toe.

"But even more than at Chanel, at Supreme you are likely to see customers outfitted in the complete look—sometimes dozens at a time."

What's also interesting about the article is the mention of prices of items back in 1995. The most expensive thing at Supreme at the time was a Ben Davis lined workman's jacket for $66—SIXTY SIX DOLLARS. Not counting jewelry, the most expensive thing at Chanel was a $6,410 evening pants outfit. While that may still sound like a shit ton of money, the most expensive item now is closer to five or six figures. 

For both stores, the appeal to stop by their boutique is an absolute must if visiting NYC from abroad.

There is the foreign tourist—Japanese, South American, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Russian—who comes for accessories, shoes, ties, bags, all clearly marked with the double C's logo, Coco, or Chanel, certified totems from the bastion of Western wealth and chic...As at Chanel, there are the tourists (mainly British and Japanese) who come for a prize item—usually the Supreme T-shirt—to prove that they have been to Supreme.

And while Chanel has perks for "preferred clients":

"She has her favorite sales associate, who might tactfully set aside something she feels is exactly right. The client receives flowers on her birthday, a card on Valentine's Day. She's invited to the trunk show, where she can order in advance."

Supreme also takes care of its loyal shoppers. While it may not be as personal as a birthday gift, or an opportunity for advance product, the article makes note that regulars can look forward to "Supreme stickers, postcard mailings, and free use of skateboard repair tools."

But above all else, both of the brands' respective devotees are always in search of the logo—especially if it's on Kate Moss' bikini:

"As at Chanel, name is very important at Supreme. All the apparel is emblazoned with the logo of either a skateboard manufacturer or Supreme. Employees as well as customers are encouraged to place red-and-white eight-inch-long 'Supreme' stickers on posters around town as Supreme's seal of approval. One especially favored spot was over Kate Moss's bikini in Calvin Klein ads. Apparently, Calvin Klein lawyers didn't get the concept, that the sticker was a compliment, and threatened consequences, so that particular location is now off-limits."

This is nothing short of ironic, especially when you realize that Moss ended up officially collaborating with Supreme in 2004. 

Take a look at the full article below [Editor's Note: we recommend zooming in your browser]. With Supreme's presence in fashion now as big as any other global fashion empire, it's refreshing to know that some things never change—even 20 years on:

"Only Chanel has cold drinks served in crystal glasses. Only Supreme has a skateboard team."


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