Supreme’s recent Jordan collaboration was a landmark moment for the brand. Having collaborated with countless iconic figures, we ask what can come next for the brand?

The release of Supreme’s Air Jordan 5 sneakers – which sold out in a heartbeat and caused mayhem on the streets – was a hallmark moment for the legendary NYC label. It’s hard to imagine a more iconic meeting of brands, and no doubt the shoes will be considered by many to be the jewel in Supreme’s crown – whose history includes projects with countless fashion legends (Nike, Levi’s and COMME des GARCONS), streetwear veterans (visvim, UNDERCOVER, NEIGHBORHOOD), esoteric artists (Chapman Brothers, Daniel Johnston, Jean-Michel Basquiat) and pop culture icons (Kermit The Frog, Kate Moss, Mike Tyson).

In its 20 year history, Supreme has grown from a small skate store into streetwear’s biggest name, and the go-to brand for style-conscious rappers, sneakerheads and fashionistas alike. It is to this day still owned by its founder James Jebbia, its distribution is notoriously tight and its product highly limited – to maintain such an elusive, independent spirit while remaining so ahead of the field is a pretty momentous achievement no matter how you look at it. Which begs the question, what now for the brand that’s done it all?

Sell Up (But Not Sell Out)

One possibility is a corporate buyout. No doubt Mr. Jebbia has received many, many lucrative offers over the years, and maybe two decades of pioneering street culture is enough time to finally listen to the people knocking at the door – a Jordan collab is definitely a big enough moment to qualify as “going out with a bang.”

While we could hypothetically imagine new owners launching Supreme diffusion lines, women’s labels and vast store networks, if the reigns were to be handed over to anyone (again, hypothetically) we imagine it would be to someone who would respectfully continue Supreme’s modest, careful growth rate – much like I.T. Group did with BAPE. While NIGO sold his brand to the Hong Kong company for a paltry $3 million back in 2011, it was in notoriously bad shape financially, so you could expect any sale of Supreme to be for a much, much higher figure.

Keep It Up

Image via SHOESMASTER

The most obvious – and perhaps realistic – course is for Supreme to just keep on doing what they do best, continuing their slow and steady growth rate. “We’ve kept on that same mission of just being a small company,” James Jebbia told Interview back in 2009 – reiterating the point in 2013’s interview with HYPEBEAST. The brand may be running out of big names to partner with, that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line.

We know that a Paris store is in the works – we imagine opening alongside the brands’ Spring/Summer 2016 collection – and it’s not hard to imagine more shops in culturally-significant cities like Berlin, Milan and Moscow. While the demand for Supreme in Asia has rocketed in recent years, the region’s capitals lack the subcultural history that the brand thrives on, although if it were to expand somewhere outside of Japan, Hong Kong seems to be the logical choice (perhaps in partnership with the city’s I.T. Group – current owners of BAPE).

Quit While You’re Ahead

Image via Terry Richardson

A third – an altogether less likely – possibility is a so-called “Irish exit,” where one day Supreme just stops producing clothes and shuttered its stores. Sadly defunct Japanese label mastermind JAPAN pulled a similar move in 2013 – “If we wait until we lose our popularity, the value of the products will go down, but if we stop at the peak it will be remembered as the great brand or the great product “the label’s designer Honma Masaaki stated at the time, wishing to “end the label at the highest peak of its popularity.” A similar move would certainly be keeping with Supreme’s punk, fuck-you mentality.

The Most Likely Outcome…

Out of the theories outline above, we imagine option number two is the most likely. Supreme has thrived on lying somewhere in between the underground and the mainstream – who else has collaborated with the Muppets and artists who like to draw cops coughing up sperm? – and if there’s one brand to cross over into worldwide domination while still keeping its counterculture appeal, it’s Supreme.

The Jordan 5 drop certainly marks a high point in the brand’s stratospheric trajectory, but there’s still one brand left on Jebbia’s pedestal: Polo. We imagine Ralph Lauren’s iconic label (which has been a streetwear legend for decades now) would be nigh-on impossible to secure for a collaboration. One can dream, though…

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.

Words by Alec Leach
Digital Fashion Editor

Alec Leach grew up in Brighton, England, but now lives in Berlin, where he leads Highsnobiety's digital fashion content.

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