The luxury logo-fest that was this year’s Supreme x Louis Vuitton collab might have caused mayhem across the fashion press back when it was unveiled, but the news that Supreme founder James Jebbia had accepted a (rumored) 50% investment from private equity giant Carlyle Group is by far the biggest news in the brand’s 23-year history.
The group has since valued Supreme at an enormous one billion dollars, and, even juicier, it turns out James Jebbia has actually had private investors for three years, despite repeatedly telling the press that the brand was still independent.
The development has huge ramifications, not just for Supreme, but for the streetwear community as a whole. For a scene that’s supposed to be an underground, niche community, the involvement of a multi-billion corporation isn’t exactly the easiest pill to swallow.
With that in mind, we hit up some of the internet’s biggest Supreme heads to get their thoughts on Carlyle’s involvement.
Eric Whiteback is a Supreme collector from Philadelphia, USA.
Taye, aka @suprememuseum, runs a 76k-strong Instagram account chronicling the brand’s massive archive.
@mrbld is one of the many Supreme leak accounts out there, and regularly posts teasers, news and drop lists via Instagram.
Joe Migraine is a Supreme head that’s amassed a huge collection of box logo-branded novelties and accessories.
Warren Jones is a longtime streetwear head from Leeds, UK.
@supreme_leaks_news is one of the biggest droplist and leak accounts out there, with over 600k followers on the ’Gram.
Ben Hitchborn is an admin of SupTalk UK/EU, the continent’s biggest Supreme fan group on Facebook. Check out our interview with Ben here.
Were you surprised when you heard about Carlyle’s investment in Supreme?
Eric Whiteback: It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. However, I was surprised with the amount of equity that changed hands. Initial reports suggested that Carlyle had bought just a 10% stake — that would have been more along the lines of what I was expecting.
Ross Wilson: I was surprised to see it was so public to be honest. For a brand surrounded in secrecy and such a tight inner circle it felt a little strange to see that announcement around the globe. That’s the nature of the beast when dealing with behemoths like Carlyle, though.
Taye: When I first got news about the investment I was really shocked, because I honestly thought it was fake at first. Ya know, a week or so after the Louis Vuitton collaboration was announced, certain sources began reporting that Louis Vuitton had purchased some of Supreme, so I figured it was just something along those lines again. After I realized that it was legitimate and I had time to think about it more, I began to think how odd it seemed. Supreme is a brand that knowingly keep their cards close, like a good magician — they show you the final result but never show you how it’s done. They’re secretive. So having a firm like Carlyle come in did strike me as odd after a while.
Joe Migraine: Based on the rumors about Supreme and LVMH earlier this year, I’m not too surprised by the news. What was most surprising was the $1billion valuation. It’s been awesome to see Supreme’s growth over the years — they undoubtedly deserve that valuation.
Warren Jones: Not especially, growth always necessitates investment. I think it’s just a natural progression given the popularity and size of the brand these days.
@supreme_leaks_news: No, I think this is part of being a business and more importantly a successful one.
What were your initial thoughts? Does it change your opinion on the brand?
Ross Wilson: I feel like James had to make that move, the brand is now at bursting point where so many people desire it but so few can relatively acquire it. It gives Supreme an opportunity to continue growing, there’s not many other brands out there who could have come this far in the way they have, so all credit to James and the team.
Taye: I really began to wonder what the investment was for. They’ve operated for nearly 25 years without a major player stepping in and getting a piece of the brand. But I also know that it definitely isn’t cheap opening a new location, especially when it’s large and in Brooklyn. I’m just speculating of course, but I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that this was announced just days apart of the Brooklyn store opening. I must say though, the whole message of “fuck everyone” definitely seems altered now that the news is public.
@Mrbld: It could be a good thing and bad thing. I have some hope that the quality might go back up a bit. It doesn’t change my opinion on Supreme — the brand hasn‘t changed, but the community and buyers have.
Joe Migraine: My opinion of Supreme won’t change unless I see notable changes that are contrary to what we would normally expect. I trust that Supreme is still in control of their brand, just as James Jebbia has stated.
Ben Hitchborn: I guess I was surprised at first, but then Jebbia has ran the helm for 20+ years, it’s a nice get-out in some respects. I did find it interesting at some claims valuing the brand at $1billion, as well as the amount of stock that is “written off” when I dug through some of the recent reports, so who knows maybe we will see warehouse sales again. My opinion on the brand won’t change, it is what it is.
What do you think the future holds for Supreme?
Eric Whiteback: I expect there to be more international expansion into major cities across the globe. If you made me speculate on retail prices, I would expect them to gradually rise over the coming years. For those who are very worried about this equity sale, I don’t expect any major changes. Carlyle didn’t spend $500million to put Supreme in malls and outlet stores.
Ross Wilson: They can do pretty much anything to be honest, they’ve built up such an incredible loyalty within their consumer base. They could’ve taken this investment over a decade ago and sold-out to every mall across the world, but they’ve done it their way for the longevity of the brand. James is a sharp dude and keeps a core authenticity at the heart of the business. As far as the future, well the other day my 12-year-old son asked for some Supreme stickers for his school books — the future is already happening right there!
Taye: I’ll remain optimistic for the time being and see if the positives outweigh any possible negatives or if there are even any changes at all. It’s definitely possible that Supreme has gotten so big that they realized that they needed someone to step in, help out with certain things, and it ends there. But if we look back a few years ago to when BAPE was sold, the drop-off in original designs was very noticeable for a period of time. They’ve been able to bounce back within the past year or two but I’d say they still aren’t at the level they once were. So if Supreme isn’t careful with this they could end up alienating a crucial part of their fanbase.
One thing I am worried about is the way Supreme continues with their graphic tee releases. We’ve known that over the years Supreme has released tees that “resemble” other graphics and have received multiple C&D’s for those products; I’m not sure if that’s something a group like Carlyle would love.
Joe Migraine: If I had to make a prediction, I’d say they are looking to increase their international presence. I could see them opening a store in mainland Asia, and expanding the web shop beyond the US/Canada, Europe, and Japan. Supreme isn’t even close to meeting their global demand.
Warren Jones: James Jebbia still has control of the company. That’s kind of all that matters. I expect more of the same. They’ve been doing this for 23 years. They know what they’re doing.
Ben Hitchborn: I’d love to see Supreme try and finally conquer the counterfeit markets using some creative method, possibly a block-chain?
Do you think now is a good time for Supreme collectors to sell their pieces?
Taye: I’m not even for a second going to pretend like I know when the right time to buy and sell is. I thought two years ago was a good time to sell when I started to see certain box logo tees peaking over the $600 mark and those were the rare ones at time. Now I’m seeing recent released box logo tees like the Brooklyn store opening tee eclipsing the $1,000 mark.
I’d say if you’re in it for the money then you should begin selling once you see all of the new “rare” releases being worn by absolutely every single person, because that’s a sign that stock is up and changes have been made.
Warren Jones: Collecting anything goes through peaks and troughs — be it streetwear, kicks or art. No doubt prices are off the chain right now. They’ll drop for sure, but then they’ll come back again. It’s just economics. I’d definitely say that people shouldn’t be looking to sell just because of the Carlyle investment. That doesn’t make any sense to me.
@supreme_leaks_news: This is always a difficult question as the market can be so hard to predict. I remember a few years ago people thinking the resell market was at a peak, when you could pick up an item like the corduroy North Face jacket for about $500, and it’s pretty much doubled in value since. So it’s really hard to say. Certain pieces are always going to retain value, and it’s up to an individual whether it’s worth keeping for that reason or selling.
Ben Hitchborn: I’ve constantly thought it’s the right time, but prices are always on the rise.