Online Auctions

Supreme: A History – Ross Wilson on the Rise of the Cult Brand

By Ross Wilson
Established in 1994 by James Jebbia, New York brand Supreme is now regarded as one of the leading and most desired multicultural lifestyle brands on the planet. Over the past 25 years, the independent brand has carved out a distinctive and uncompromising aesthetic that transcends that of a traditional skateboard company.

From humble beginnings as a solitary skateboard store on Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan, Supreme steadily grew its business organically and independently to become an aspirational brand that rivals luxury fashion houses in terms of its desirability and collectability. Discerning Japanese visitors to New York were the first adopters outside of the local skateboard community to pick up on Supreme’s authenticity and underground status. With Japanese collectors’ enthusiasm for the brand so high, the decision was made in 1998 to open a series of small Supreme stores in Japan, and there are now six there, as well as three in North America (Manhattan, Brooklyn and Los Angeles), and two in Europe (London and Paris).

Supreme works on two seasons per year (Spring/Summer & Fall/Winter) and launches its short-run products in “drops” every Thursday morning exclusively via its online platform and 11 official stores. The huge demand for Supreme products significantly outweighs the relatively small production runs, which in turn creates an often feverous secondary market with items rising drastically in value over time.

When Supreme opened its first three Japanese stores, it began manufacturing a selection of small accessories to be sold in the glass cabinet beneath the register. Starting small with some pin badges and lanyards, Supreme’s accessories collection has grown to become that of street culture legend. Just before each season launches, fans across the globe eagerly anticipate Supreme’s official online preview lookbook, with many heading straight to the accessories section to see what the New York brand has come up with.

The accessories collection grows each season with more outlandish and ambitious projects; each creating more hype and attention for the brand. Whereas the range was once made up of keychains and ashtrays, Supreme’s accessories collection now includes high-profile/high-ticket priced items such as a $10,000 pinball machine by Stern, and a $4,000 hand-painted cupid figurine by German porcelain manufacturer Meissen.

Estimate: HK$10,000 - 15,000

In May 2019, Sotheby’s will host a unique auction of the world’s largest private collection of Supreme accessories. “The Supreme Vault: 1998-2018” was compiled by collector Yukio Takahashi, who has meticulously searched the globe over several years to accumulate a comprehensive inventory covering Supreme’s timeline of accessories over two decades. From early Box Logo stickers to the highly-revered Supreme x Stern pinball machine, this special auction sees over 1,200 desirable products from the New York brand’s history. Featuring infamous collaborations with the likes of Fender, Everlast, Coleman, and Medicom, the collection also includes rare production samples and Friends+Family-only products.

Ross Wilson is a writer and Supreme historian from Bath, England

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