We continue our in-house debate series with a conversation around Louis Vuitton’s recent collaboration with Supreme.
Paying homage to New York’s history as melting pot of creativity, Louis Vuitton FW17 enlisted the help of iconic streetwear brand Supreme. Creative Director of Louis Vuitton menswear Kim Jones explained the partnership by stating, “No New York men’s conversation is complete without Supreme.” Louis Vuitton models donned a range of bright red packs and small leather goods, adorned with white Supreme branding, while items like T-shirts, sunglasses, bandanas and more were also shared on social media by those lucky enough to attend the event.
Below, we debate the merits of the polarizing collaboration, and what it means for the future of both streetwear and high fashion.
A nail in the coffin.
In his final press conference as the President of the United States, Barack Obama said that “the only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.” It’s how he consoled his daughters about their disappointment in the results of November’s election, wanting to teach a message of resilience and hope in what’s sure to be an uncertain time.
The Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration is worlds far, far away, but it’s often hard to think about consumerism these days without the mind wandering off into politics. As someone who’s always been fascinated by the symbiotic relationship between street culture and high-fashion, and witnessed streetwear’s rise from small movement to billion dollar industry, it does mark the end of a certain world. The usurpers have finally become what they always aspired to.
Ever since Shawn Stüssy was flipping Chanel’s crossed Cs into his double-S initials, and further referencing the house with graphics like “Stüssy No. 4,” there was always the notion that streetwear — a term hated by the very culture it references — was a bridge between people with caviar tastes but a Carhartt budget. It spoke a language high-fashion didn’t, moved in circles that Bernard Arnault or François Pinault would never inhabit, and represented a type of style that kept its ears to the streets and eyes towards the youth.
Seventeen years ago, Supreme released a series of Louis Vuitton skateboard decks that were recalled after two weeks due to a cease-and-desist from LVMH. Stüssy did a similar flip around the same time. Now the godfathers of the culture are dominating the runway — guys like Hiroshi Fujiwara have become fashion week mainstays, and he also has a Louis Vuitton collaboration under his belt. Virgil Abloh, who has built his career off of legitimizing streetwear as aspirational fashion, is doing a brisk business selling graphic T-shirts, hoodies, and distressed jeans with his OFF-WHITE label.
In a sense, Supreme x Louis Vuitton represents a closed circle of sorts. Creative director Kim Jones cut his teeth working for Gimme5, a London distributor who sourced Supreme to seminal Soho shops like The Hideout. James Jebbia’s original Union store in New York’s SoHo was initially known for stocking late-and-great British labels like Duffer of St. George. Now that Supreme has opened two European stores in London and Paris, it makes sense that they would commemorate being a true global brand through participating in one of fashion’s most-anticipated shows.
But it also reinforces a point made by ALL GONE publisher Michael Dupouy in the tome’s 2014 edition: street culture is now pop culture. It’s hard to not feel a bit of nostalgic sadness when you realize one of your favorite bands has evolved from playing dank, dingy basement shows to selling out entire stadiums. Or the underground artist you supported from the jump is about to get a retrospective at the Tate Modern or MoMA. Such is the struggle of being an early adopter of culture: you pride yourself in being onto certain things before they go mainstream, and it instills a certain sense of ownership in whatever that is, so when it blows up you can feel a bit slighted when you realize that it’s become for everybody, and not just a select few cognoscenti.
That doesn’t mean Supreme is “over.” By all means, they’re just getting started. But they have become ingrained in the very establishment they once stood in contrast to. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s not. But what it does mean is there’s now a chance for something new to start among young connoisseurs of culture seeking to tip the balance between the big brands and the youthful upstarts. Every new religion starts with killing the old gods.
–Jian Deleon, Editor at Large
A triumph, and a disruption of the industry.
In 2000, Supreme ripped off the Louis Vuitton monogram print, releasing a range of faux skate decks, T-shirts, and beanies; products that many fell in love with, especially given the fact that Supreme was forced to recall some of the product, making it even more covetable. Yesterday for the very first time, Supreme was actually invited by arguably the most recognizable and successful fashion house on the planet, to appear on the runway at Paris Fashion Week, and that’s truly something to marvel at. Even if you say you didn’t like the gear, this event pretty much took over the internet for an afternoon, as people flocked to the nearest screen to see coverage from the show.
Both names are archetypal, and these two of the greatest are each worshipped in their own way; Supreme epitomizes streetwear, and Louis Vuitton is the most valuable name in high fashion. Given the history shared by both brands, the fact that a once-bootleg collaboration became reality speaks volumes about the current climate, where streetwear and high fashion as individual aesthetics are now less less distinguishable than ever, if at all, especially after this. Some will be thinking, “we’ve come a long way,” while others will be lamenting streetwear’s ascent into the mainstream, but for Supreme and James Jebbia, this is surely nothing but a massive W.
From a branding perspective, Supreme’s red box logo and Louis Vuitton’s monogram motif are both incredibly strong visual signifiers in streetwear and couture, respectively. We’ve seen Supreme’s instantly-recognizable box logo with underlaying BAPE, Jackson Pollock, even Damien Hirst graphics, and even unsanctioned Burberry and Gucci editions, so even if the Supreme x Louis Vuitton box logo T-shirt worn by Travis Scott was slightly astonishing to see at first, the design makes perfect sense, not to mention the fact that only the OG Supreme box logo could rival a Louis edition in terms of grail status.
But what’s most entertaining to see is people on the internet getting red-faced over a collaboration that they will never be able to cop in the first place. Kids on the internet are so quick to act personally insulted and comment “trash,” when it really makes no difference what they think. The bottom line is, this collaboration is disruptive, it goes against the status quo, and it changes the fashion landscape forever, creating opportunities and opening doors for other brands.
Even if it isn’t for you, there’s something undeniably dope about a Supreme-branded Keepall, even as just an artistic statement, and say what you will about the loud branding, but the denim baseball shirt is pretty fucking nice, and the keychain is also a pretty tempting accessory. After 2015’s Jordan collaboration, many on the Highsnobiety editorial staff started to wonder who was left for Supreme to collaborate with? But Supreme just keeps raising the roof.
–Chris Danforth, Editor
- Main & Featured Image: Harley Weir