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Navigating Supreme’s Evolution: From Scarcity to Ubiquity in the Fashion Realm

From a humble niche in a sneaker store to a leaving a global footprint, Supreme has significantly strayed from its roots. This article delves into the transformation of Supreme, examining its strategy, growth and the challenge of maintaining exclusivity in an oversaturated market.

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Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver
Russell Weaver is a renowned writer, celebrated for his vibrant storytelling and intricate world-building. Beyond being an writer, he's an artist, dedicated to crafting stories that captivate, transform, and linger.
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For more than a decade and a half, Los Angeles native Jeffrey Malabanan has been an ardent collector of Supreme, accumulating an assortment of items so large, his office seemingly matches a storage facility in appearance.

Packed to the brim with one-of-a-kind fashion pieces from the brand – from never-before-worn jackets from the 2008 North Face collaboration to an array of hoodies from the Comme des Garçons 2013 crossover, many of them still adorned with their original price tags. A lifetime’s worth of Supreme surrounds Jeffrey – a testament to his avid dedication to the fashion powerhouse. His space attests to his impressive devotion as the co-proprietor of Rif LA, a reputable sneaker consignment store launched in 2006 with Edward Mateo, a fellow Supreme enthusiast.

“We initially began peddling Supreme in a narrow corner of our shoe outlet. Shockingly, within two years, I signed a lease for another location solely for Supreme,” Malabanan reveals, whose high-caliber clientele includes celebrities like Tyler, the Creator, ASAP Rocky, and Travis Scott. “Take ComplexCon Long Beach back in 2017, for instance. That weekend saw us rake in a whopping $140,000 in Supreme transactions, mainly comprised of vintage pieces.”

Nevertheless, he acknowledges a drastic shift in Supreme’s charm in recent years. Malabanan argues that the mouthwatering profit garnered from reselling Supreme items has drastically dwindled due to an oversaturated market flooded with amateur resellers, an increase in the brand’s inventory, and fewer items being sold out.

“Replicating Supreme pieces, once sold for $5,000 at the drop of a hat, is no longer feasible,” says Malabanan, implying that a buyer willingly shelling out $2,000 is considered fortuitous. His sentiment encapsulates the belief that fewer people today are genuinely passionate about collecting Supreme, and the golden days are seemingly over.

Supreme: Thriving Amidst The Challenges

Despite countless streetwear brands fading into obscurity, Supreme has effortlessly sustained its commanding presence in the industry even as it marks its 30th anniversary in business. As a subsidiary of VF Corp., a much larger publicly traded company that acquired Supreme in a $2.1 billion deal in 2020, the brand has endured growing pains. Surprisingly, the annual report of VF Corp. divulged a decrease in Supreme’s revenue in the fiscal year ending March 2023, reporting $523.1 million versus the previous year’s $561.5 million, falling short of VF’s $600 million expectation.

While it’s a common goal for larger brands to acquire smaller ones to scale up and expand the business, this proves problematic for a brand like Supreme, which has remained desirable by stirring up significant hype through limited product runs. Supreme, still living in the shadows of several streetwear brands, grapples with a bleak question: what becomes of a once scarce, sought-after brand that now seems abundant in a quest to grow? How can a brand evolve when the young consumers, celebrities, and skateboarders who once elevated its prominence fall out of love with the brand, leaving room for the misconception that high resale value is an accurate metric of a product’s worth?

Here, we won’t pass a verdict on whether Supreme is thriving or nearing its demise. Instead, we’ll delve into how the brand has evolved post-acquisition by VF, gleaning insights from collectors, resellers, and cultural influencers on Supreme’s current standing in the fashion world. Will Supreme continue to prosper as a classic streetwear brand, or will its acquisition by VF Corp. be a stark warning to other streetwear brands aspiring to expand?

Before VF Corp.’s acquisition of Supreme in 2020, the brand discreetly sold a 50% stake to the Carlyle Group in 2017. This move occurred the same year Supreme collaborated with Louis Vuitton and launched its second flagship store in New York City, earning the brand a whopping $1 billion valuation. Fast-forward to three years later, the announcement of VF’s acquisition of Supreme saw this price tag double with VF’s chairman, president, and CEO Steven E. Rendle having grand visions of growth for the brand. He stated that “VF is the perfect guardian to honor the authentic heritage of this cultural lifestyle brand while leveraging our scale and expertise to facilitate sustainable long-term growth.”

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