Jeff Hamilton Discusses His Dream Collaboration With Supreme: ‘It’s an Important Part of My Legacy’

Jeff Hamilton's discusses the process behind his upcoming leather jacket collab with Supreme, the design he still gets asked about the most, and more.

Supreme x Jeff Hamilton Ridge Street Leather Jacket

Image via Supreme

Supreme x Jeff Hamilton Ridge Street Leather Jacket

On Aug. 19, Supreme posted a lookbook photo from its newly-released Fall/Winter 2022 collection. The focal point was a colorful leather jacket designed to look like a photo of a Supreme billboard placed at 124 Ridge St. in New York City back in 2006. It was wearable art. The photo wasn’t accompanied with a tag and the caption didn’t note the collaborator, but amid the sea of fire emojis in the comments, some fans already knew who made it. This was designed by Jeff Hamilton.

“The biggest compliment is when someone sees a jacket out there and says, ‘That’s a Jeff Hamilton,’” Hamilton tells Complex over the phone. “For me, that’s really an achievement, knowing that people know my labor of love and the passion that I put into everything that I create.”

Since 1986, Hamilton has been designing his one-of-a-kind leather jackets that have become a status symbol in hip-hop culture and beyond. You may have seen them worn by artists like Cam’ron and ASAP Rocky. Some of his most well-known creations were for the NBA, like the intricate leather jackets worn by legends like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant after capturing championships in the late ’90s and 2000s. More recently, he was tapped by the NBA once again to create jackets for the NBA 75th anniversary team, the same way he made them for the NBA 50th anniversary team in 1997. He’s also deepened his roots in the music world working with some of this generation’s biggest names like Drake’s OVO, The Weeknd, and J Balvin. Despite all of his new endeavors, Hamilton says that the back-to-back jacket he created for Kobe and the Lakers 19 years ago is the jacket that people ask about the most. 

“People still want that jacket. It’s not something that you wear for fashion. I often repeat the same thing, but you don’t buy a Rolex because you want to know what time it is. You buy it, because you want to make a statement,” says Hamilton. “It’s a milestone that you want to have. I think people want that jacket, because it represents so much and captures a moment in time.”

Hamilton’s official collab with Supreme comes five years after the brand released a project with Nike that many people feel was directly inspired by his all-over NBA logo jackets. Although he was not officially involved or told of the project during its creation, he calls the moment bittersweet. He’s just happy he was eventually called to work on something official for the brand.

“Out of the blue, I just got a call from them and in my mind, it was like the old Newman comment from Seinfeld: ‘What took you so long?’ [Laughs.] I was very excited,” Hamilton tells Complex. “The idea was always about making an impact in the culture. It’s an important part of my legacy. Supreme is the holy grail of streetwear.”

Extremely limited quantities of the jacket will reportedly be released this Thursday. Hamilton says that only 43 jackets were created. Each will come with a special carrying bag and an art print showcasing the details of the jacket that has been signed and stamped by him. Rumors circulating suggest a $15,000 retail price, but that has yet to be confirmed.

We got a chance to speak with Hamilton about his latest collaboration, the creation that people still ask him about the most, and whom he would love to work with next.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How did this opportunity with Supreme come about?

A few years back, they did a couple of jackets with Nike and a lot of people said, ‘You came up with the whole concept, and Supreme is doing it.’ I never really understood why they never reached out to me directly. Then one day, out of the blue, I just got a call from them and in my mind, it was like the old Newman comment from Seinfeld: “What took you so long?” [Laughs.] I was very excited. They came up with the idea of creating the street. Based on the images, we worked on some designs. It became a very complicated jacket to get done, but we did it. The only limitation is that we didn’t do a large quantity, which is fine. For me, the idea was always about making an impact in the culture. It’s an important part of my legacy. Supreme is the holy grail of streetwear. 

Can you talk a little bit about the process that went into making the jacket?

Once we create a design, every little piece of leather is hand cut. Every little detail. Sometimes it’s like a quarter of a centimeter. Every little piece is all leather. It’s one put on top of the other. It’s kind of like a little puzzle. Everything is basically stitched on a single needle. The process is very tedious, hence why it took so long to produce them. If you’re in the business, if you’re in art, you can see the amount of work that goes into making it look so special.

How long did it take to make a single jacket?

Altogether, we did 43. So the whole process probably took about six months to do. But if I had to do only one by itself, 30 to 45 days. I don’t want to sound pretentious and say it’s like jewelry, but it’s kind of the same concept. Every piece has to be done perfectly. And obviously because of Supreme’s quality control, which I appreciate very much, every little thing has to be identical. One of the things that I really wanted to do as a follow-up to what I did with the 75th anniversary NBA jackets was that I created an art piece to go with it. So every single jacket will be delivered with a special art piece that I hand-painted, signed, and put my seal on. As much as I love to be in fashion, I always want to do the crossover to art. A lot of people tell me if they can get one of the jackets, they’re just gonna frame it. They’re not even gonna wear it.

Supreme x Jeff Hamilton Ridge Street Leather Jacket Art

Were there a lot of challenges going into producing it the exact way that you wanted it done and that Supreme wanted it done?

Not that much once we got the design done. It just takes a lot of time to do it. Everything is manual work. There’s no machine. People are doing it by hand with a little X-Acto knife. Every piece of leather and everything. When you see the process, you cannot imagine the finished product. It’s like when you’re painting but then step back and you see the whole thing. That’s kind of the same illusion.

Were there other ideas that could have happened for the design?

There was. The first project that we wanted to do was do something with this because it’s so iconic. We created a version of it, which was more of a commercial version, but I did not want to take away from the hype of this jacket. So as a step one, I just really wanted to launch this first one with them. I got the honor of meeting James Jebbia through the process. Even though I’ve been in the culture of fashion for so long, he’s just so iconic. To be around him was a great honor. It’s really a milestone in my career just to be associated with such an iconic brand.

Did you communicate with James often?

No, I did not. It was mostly through his team. But I went to their office and showed him the art piece and the special bag that we created for it. I got to meet him. So it was very special.

Did you speak to Tremaine Emory at all?

We spoke through DMs, and when he joined the team, I congratulated him. I think Tremaine is one of those guys, like NIGO, who has so much talent. It’s a pleasure to know that he’s involved in the process, but in regards to the project, I did not personally talk to him. I certainly look forward to working with him in the future. I think he’s one of the greats of the industry.

When we spoke back in 2020, you said the Supreme collaboration that you weren’t involved in from 2018 that seemed to be inspired by your work was sort of a bittersweet moment. Is this validation in a way?

No doubt. This is definitely something. In 2020, a thank-you or an acknowledgement would’ve sufficed. That would’ve been very sufficient for me. It was bittersweet, because I was still very proud of knowing that my work, directly or indirectly, ended up with Nike and Supreme. 

Supreme x Jeff Hamilton Ridge Street Leather Jacket Liner

You said there were 43 jackets made?


I’ve seen a rumor on the internet that they’re gonna be $15,000 each. Is that true?

I still don’t know how much it’s gonna be sold for. But that’s what people are telling me. We’re not selling any of them, which is totally understandable, but if we could have sold them ourselves, we probably could have sold 200 or 300 pieces. A lot of people have reached out to us asking. 

Is this the most limited retail release that you’ve done?

No. We’ve done less. We’ve had projects wherein we had only 10 pieces. We’re working on a Missoni project wherein we’re gonna do only 50 pieces. I just did the NBA All-Star game in Cleveland. There was a series that was only seven pieces. I kind of like the idea that it’s limited. People don’t believe me when I say it’s not about the money, but it is not about the money. It’s about creating an image and getting the recognition. I still like to think of myself as an artist before being a designer.

Has it been cool to see new people searching for your jackets again?

Yeah. It’s been an amazing experience. It’s been such a beautiful ride for me. I just turned 67, and I feel like I’m living like I’m 30 years old. To see people in the street or at the airport coming up to me and asking for a picture, it’s funny how people come to me and are thanking me for what I’ve done for the culture. I hear that all the time. It warms my heart to know that I’m recognized for something that I have such a passion for. I always want to raise the bar. I’m not done. I just want to come up with more things and I have a lot of other secret weapons in my back pocket that I’m trying to pull out. 

Is there one of your designs that you get asked about the most?

It was always Michael Jordan’s three peat jacket. Unfortunately, after Kobe’s passing, the 2001 back-to-back jacket has probably become my most iconic jacket. People still want that jacket. It’s not something that you wear for fashion. I often repeat the same thing, but you don’t buy a Rolex because you want to know what time it is. You buy it because you want to make a statement. It’s a milestone that you want to have. I think people want that jacket because it represents so much and captures a moment in time. That jacket is a $6,000 jacket, but still we are like three or four months behind on deliveries. The marketing manager for one of the biggest design houses in the world personally ordered the jacket. Sometimes I wonder, “Did they order it for themselves or did you want to see how we create it to duplicate it?” I always have that thought of if somebody wants to knock you off or somebody wants to appreciate the work that you’ve done.

Supreme x Jeff Hamilton Ridge Street Leather Jacket

Any other big projects you may be working on that you can speak on?

One of the things that we’ve been blessed to do is sign a deal with the NFL. I think the NBA is the start of where the culture is. As I see it, it’s derived from the NBA originally. I really want to try to bring fashion to the forefront in the NFL as well. The fanbase is so huge. I want the NFL to become a cultural phenomenon in the outerwear and the fashion world. I want to have the players wearing the jackets when they come into the games. We always say that the tunnel is a new runway. So I want to take advantage of all that amazing exposure. 

I also did a deal with the NHL. We’re working with Missoni. We have a new collaboration coming out with OVO. We’ve worked on a couple of projects with The Weeknd. We did a collaboration with Juice WRLD, one with Prince. We’re doing one with Golf Wang and Tyler, the Creator. There is a lot. But for me, it’s not the quantity that I’m interested in. It’s the quality. We’re talking about coming up with some kind of a sneaker with one of the big brands. I just want people to feel that energy. 

Last time when we spoke, the last thing you said was how Supreme was a dream project for you. Now that you have worked with Supreme, what other brands are dream brands that you’d love to work with one day?

I’d like to continue work with Supreme and do maybe one or two collaborations a year with them. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Balenciaga. Just to be associated with brands like that would be a dream come true. Growing up in Europe and knowing those brands, and being a big fan of those brands as well, I’d love to work with them.

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