Before the store opened on Lafayette Street, these labels and stores laid down the groundwork. This global community of like-minded brands and friends set the stage for the birth of Supreme, starting a movement towards graphic-driven labels that touched the worlds of skate, street, surf, and club culture, but encapsulated the rebellious spirit that ties them all together.
In the ‘80s, SoHo was a haven for avant-garde creatives and craftsmen. Architect Harry Parnass and designer Nicola Pelly opened up Parachute to sell their own line. It was a Canadian high-fashion label with clients like Michael Jackson. It separated clothes by gender, although its savvy customers tended to ignore whether or not the gear they rocked was for men or women. The shop was located at 121 Wooster St., right across from COMME des GARÇONS. Future Undefeated co-founder Eddie Cruz worked in this long-closed NY shop with James Jebbia.
James Jebbia’s first store with his then-partner Mary Ann Fusco originally peddled in cult English labels like Duffer of St. George. That changed when he brought on Stüssy and another up-and-coming street culture label: Pervert. Although Union shut its New York store down in 2009, , its Los Angeles location remains one of the most relevant stores around, helmed by former shop guy Chris Gibbs.
Founded in 1980 by Shawn Stüssy and business partner Frank Sinatra Jr., this label is credited with laying down the foundations of what’s now called “streetwear.” It blew up in the mid-’80s, where one of its first stockists was Union. Stüssy’s popularity led to James Jebbia, Shawn Stüssy, and Frank Sinatra Jr. to open up a proper flagship near Union’s SoHo location, considered unconventional at the time.
When the Stüssy flagship expanded its location, it hosted a PORTER store on the second floor, housing International Stüssy Tribe member Hiroshi Fujiwara’s accessories line. PORTER is known for its versatile luggage and soft goods that often play on military gear like the reversible MA-1 bomber, turning the black and orange nylon outerwear into a sleek helmet bag or a small pouch.
Founded by Don Busweiler in Miami, Pervert blew up after opening a flagship store in Miami called Animal Farm. Future Supreme Design Director Brendon Babenzien learned the ropes of the scene here, and met Scott Nelson, another seminal figure who would go onto found labels MANKIND, MIKE23, and currently designs apparel for BRANDBLACK. Nelson also has a small T-shirt line called The Duct Tape Years, an homage to the ‘80s heyday of skate culture, which is currently sold at Babenzien’s Noah store. Geoff Heath, future co-founder of Acapulco Gold, also worked as Animal Farm’s shop manager.
Plenty of talented people are attracted to the Supreme mystique, and the label has not just inspired a multitude of creatives to go out and do their own thing, but also empowered its staff to strike out on their own. These brands are cut from the cloth of current and former Supreme employees.
Former Supreme Brand Director Angelo Baque quietly launched this menswear line. Initially available at Japanese store Ships Jet Blue, Awake is also available at Union and its own website, https://awakenyclothing.com/. Awake builds on classic menswear and New York style (think Woody Allen), but its most prominent items are the curved-brim baseball caps with its vintage-inspired logo, done up in a variety of colors and materials.
Dave Ortiz started out as the first employee for seminal skate label Zoo York, going onto become its first skate team manager. Partnering with former Supreme store manager Chris Keefe, Dave’s Quality Meats shop was a highly influential boutique, putting out covetable collabs like the “Bacon” Air Max 90s, a series of monotone suede Dunk High SBs. Part of the early 2000s streetwear heyday that saw Lafayette Street as the cultural nexus, Ortiz has since left the company and gone onto several other ventures, while Keefe retains ownership of the DQM brand, which has evolved into a Vans concept flagship store.
Alex Dymond is one of Supreme’s most known former shop guys. As a manager and buyer, he was one of the most recognizable guys behind the Lafayette Street counter. After leaving the company, he pursued several other projects, like serving as the Creative Director of the Burton Heritage line. For a time, he also ran Starks Laces, a shoe accessory company that made (you guessed it) upscale shoelaces. Starks even collaborated with Marc Jacobs on a special set, emblazoned with the cheeky branding “Jacobs by Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs in Collaboration with Marc Jacobs for Marc by Marc Jacobs.”
Launched by Arnaud Faeh (formerly of Carhartt Work In Progress) and former Supreme Creative Director Luke Meier, OAMC originally sought to reinterpret workwear and military-inspired silhouttes with higher-end materials like Harris Tweed and bison leather, and premium manufacturing. Since its launch in 2013, it’s progressed into a respected fashion label in its own right that shows at Paris Fashion Week. Recently designer Luke Meier and his wife Lucie have been appointed as the creative directors of Jil Sander, another label known for its futuristic sense of minimalism.
Originally launched in 2005 by former Supreme Creative Director Brendon Babenzien, it was officially revived in 2015 with a new energy inspired by nautical classics, social justice, and environmentalism. An avid runner and native of Long Island, New York, Babenzien mixes graphic tees and socially-aware imagery with upscale menswear like moleskin peacoats, penny loafers, and wide-wale corduroy pants. Certain pieces can be pricey, but Babenzien never shies away from explaining his manufacturing processes, and Babenzien always finds ways to use Noah as a platform to express his stances on political and environmental issues.
Max Vanderwoude Gross started this label in the summer of 2012, inspired by his time in a Washington, DC gang. It was a suitable alternative to his other idea—joining the U.S. Navy. Instead, he took some classes at Parsons then went onto work at Opening Ceremony and Acne Studios. Proper Gang mixes workwear silhouettes with plush fabrics like velvet, and also makes cheeky graphic tees and hoodies with a boxy fit. The line continues along with Vanderwoude Gross’ current duties at Supreme as a member of the design team, and is sold at shops like UNION, Trés Bien and Dover Street Market.
When she’s not overseeing production for Supreme, Erin Magee focuses her talents on MadeMe, a street-informed womenswear label that makes everything from intricately embroidered biker jackets to dresses. Drawing from the same inspiration as male-oriented streetwear labels—namely workwear, technical outerwear, and ‘90s subculture, don’t be surprised to find items like patent leather overalls or baby tees with glittery logos. MadeMe also recently collaborated with X-GIRL, another seminal brand addressing the needs of street culture’s underserved female clientele.
Artist Eric Elms spent some time at Supreme’s creative helm, creating a unique series of typefaces and graphics in the early 2000s. When he’s not creating art, collaborating with NikeLab, or putting in work at his creative agency Partners and Others, he puts out gear and accessories under his Powers label, often featuring his oft-visited “Kilroy” graphics.
Gio Estevez is known as the first guy James Jebbia handed over the keys to as Supreme’s store manager. He’s since gone onto design for the Gap, Casio, Converse, and seminal Japanese fashion label Number (N)ine. For a time he also had a label called ANX, focusing his graphic sensibilities on tees with an abstract, surrealist bent.
Diego Moscoso designed several of Supreme’s most iconic graphics, like the “Someone Talked” T-shirt from Spring/Summer 2005. He then went on to design for labels like Marc Jacobs. Currently, he occupies his time as the Co-Founder of Nowhere F.C. with NY nightlife fixture and stylist Simonez Wolf, a lifestyle brand based around all things soccer, making products like custom Nike kits, club scarves, tees, pins, and patches. They also run F.C., aka Football Cafe, a Lower East Side spot that serves up coffee, organic teas, and health food.
Aaron Bondaroff, aka “A-Ron the Downtown Don” in a past life, has been one of the most memorable figures in Supreme’s universe. aNYthing was his streetwear brand mostly rooted in graphics pertaining to New York City, famously flipping the “NY” of the New York Giants logo into the brand’s iconography. The brand’s flagship store has since shuttered.
Eddie Cruz started as one of Union NY’s main shop guys once James Jebbia started focusing his efforts on the new Stüssy flagship, giving Cruz more responsibility for holding things down at Union. After Jebbia formally left Stüssy to focus on Supreme, Cruz eventually partnered with James Bond to open Undefeated in Los Angeles. Initially stocking true deadstock sneakers (as in, old stock found in the back of mom and pop sporting goods stores), Undefeated has since become a brand unto itself. Fun fact: Aaron Bondaroff originally came up with the name “Undefeated,” and Cruz came up with “aNYthing.” They traded the names after realizing they’d work better for the other person’s project.
Aaron Bondaroff is now mostly in the art business, partnering with Alberto Moran and Mills Moran in 2008. Originally called OHWOW, the Moran Bondaroff gallery currently represents artists like Daniel Arsham, Terence Koh, and fellow Supreme alum Lucien Smith. It also represents the estate of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. KNOW WAVE spawned from the gallery, starting out as a pirate radio station that currently produces apparel sold at spots like Dover Street Market.
Augie Galan and Geoff Heath first met in 1998 when they were shop guys at Supreme. Taking the name of a particularly popular strain of Sativa, the brand enjoyed plenty of success in the early 2000s streetwear wave. Known for its flips on Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bear and Cannabis-positive graphics, it was a brand for weed heads who didn’t want to look like a hippie. But it also works for people who don’t smoke at all.
Russ Karablin is a certified OG. One of Supreme’s original graphic designers, his SSUPREME collaborative tees circa 1999 remain a grail find. He parted ways with the company and focused on SSUR and his own art career. The SSUR brand experienced plenty of success in the mid-2000s, mainly due to his designer parody graphics that riffed on labels like COMME DES GARÇONS.
Skating is intrinsic to Supreme’s roots as an elevated skate shop, and from the start it has ingrained itself in skate culture, releasing multiple videos with director Bill Strobeck. Its current riders include names like Sean Pablo, Sage Elsesser, and Aiden Mackey, but plenty of other legends have pushed the pavement before them. Supreme-affiliated skaters have come and gone, but many of the brands they started post-Supreme are still around.
Blondey McCoy spent some time as a shop kid at the WeSC store in Covent Garden, hanging out at Slam City skates where future Palace founder Lev Tanju would lace him with gear. Around this time in the mid-2000s, he experimented with some of his first Thames stickers. After spending some time on the Supreme skate team with greats like Jason Dill and Lucien Clarke, he eventually expanded Thames into a full-on line.
Young gun Sean Pablo Murphy is behind the darkly comedic imagery of Paradis3, a clothing label characterized by nihilistic graphics that toe the line between grotesque, gothic, and psychedelic. Heavy metal and hardcore music influence the line, which is stocked everywhere from Union Los Angeles to Dover Street Market.
Keith Hufnagel pushed around the New York City streets as part of Stüssy’s original skate team, under the helm of future Nike SB founder Robbie Jeffers. Also known for tagging the city under his “HUF ONE” moniker, he bore witness to the birth of Supreme on the ground floor. Moving to San Francisco, he launched his HUF label in the early 2000s, teaming up with some old Stüssy heads to get his idea off the ground. Beyond the brand’s ubiquitous “Plantlife” socks that have become a West Coast streetwear staple, there’s also a memorable campaign where legendary skater Lance Mountain once wore a bumblebee suit outside the shop to implore passerbys to shop at HUF.
Founded by certified legend Jason Dill and esteemed photographer Mike Piscitelli in 2001, Fucking Awesome developed a reputation for its elegant sense of vulgarity and insane advertising campaigns, like when FA simply used its concept rejection letter from Etnies (in which Dill wanted to put semen on the high-top sneaker) as the ad for the shoe itself. In a total G move, when Dill felt the label was getting too big for its britches, he shut it down for a year.
Jason Dill teamed up with fellow skate legend Anthony Van Engelen to launch this skate-oriented label in 2015. Under the F.A. Worldwide Entertainment company, HOCKEY is less along the lines of ice sports and more along the lines of masked psychopath Jason Voorhees. The label features graphics like decks with an illustration of Ricky Kasso, an infamous NYC murderer who committed his crimes under the influence of psychedelic drugs.
Mark “GONZ” Gonzales has been a seminal figure in skateboarding and in Supreme’s evolution. His lo-fi artwork has been infused into the collection several times, like his “SUPREEM” graphic taken off the postcards he used to send to the shop, intentionally misspelled. His cartoonish ghost art is also a fixture in several stores. In 2002 he launched Krooked under Deluxe Distribution, drawing heavily on a sleepy-eyed logo, memorable characters such as the sloth-like Shmolo, and GONZ’s oft-used ghost motifs.
Alex Olson has long been skating for Supreme and a ton of other labels, and is one of the skaters credited with bringing the culture to the fashion world in an authentic way (he even produced a skate part for Vogue). Partnering with Steven Kay, Bianca Chandon toes the line between casual, graphic-driven skater gear and more upscale pieces. Paying plenty of homage to the type of disco music Olson prefers to spin at downtown haunts like Happy Ending, the line also includes higher-end outerwear like convertible fishtail parkas.
Call Me 917
Olson and Kay’s more skate-oriented line stays true to its cultural roots, focusing on hard-wearing basics and artistic decks for sponsored riders like Cyrus Bennett. Plenty of the graphics include a hotline number that can actually be dialed up, and are heavily rooted in true New York culture—the kinds of references that only native New Yorkers will truly understand.
N.A. is a skater who spent some time as one of Supreme’s many lookbook faces. For a time he also worked at Aaron Bondaroff’s aNYthing store. In 2007, he teamed up with Junpei Ushio to launch Deadline, a label known for hip-hop inspired graphics and its logo mixing an old script typeface with the police outline of a dead body.
Founded by Akira Mowatt, a ‘90s era Supreme skater who also hit the pavement for Zoo York, UXA, and Gio Estevez’s Vehicle imprint. He and N.A. also served some time as shop guys at aNYthing. After Midnight began in 2009 as a small T-shirt line (only a run of 100), but currently offers an entire collection of graphic-oriented tees, hoodies, and caps that all pay homage to ‘90s street culture.
Vans’ more forward-thinking line of skate-oriented sneakers began with Humberto “Berto” Liechy and Jeff Potocar, two figures instrumental to Supreme’s Los Angeles presence and West Coast street culture. They brought strong narratives to Vans’ new line, collaborating with West Coast cultural mainstays like tattooist Mister Cartoon, seminal artist-turned-actor Ice-T, and Japanese military-influenced streetwear label WTAPS. Potocar and Liechy’s DEFCON collection was one of the sweetest swan songs for the now-defunct Syndicate line, mixing the two’s penchant for tactical military gear with Vans’ most iconic silhouettes. The result was anything but standard issue.
Pryce Holmes is another one of Supreme’s more famous faces that has graced the Lafayette Street cash register. Besides appearing in several of the label’s Japanese-only lookbooks, he’s also one of the most prolific contributors to Quartersnacks, Konstantin Satchek’s seminal skate blog-turned-essential-cultural-tome. He and Rob Harris are also the guys behind Alltimers, a skate label known for its humorous decks that have referenced everything from Rihanna to cable box remote controls, and graphics that reference short-lived ‘90s animated sitcom The Critic, a send-up of New York film culture, where the titular film critic Jay Sherman’s tagline was the succinct “It stinks!”
Founded in 2000 by Robbie Gangemi, Gio Estevez, and Jamie Story, Vehicle’s decks were known for their high-quality maple, and were produced with 100% recycled wood by 2010. This happened courtesy of one of Gangemi’s connections, Boston-based woodwork shop Pop Master Wood.
Supreme occupies such a unique space in street culture that many companies simply can’t help but be pulled into its orbit. These connections may be frail at best, but they’re still worth mentioning.
Founded in 1989 by International Stüssy Tribe member Michael Kopelman, Gimme 5 is a London-based streetwear distributor that helped put on SoHo’s bustling boutique scene. Louis Vuitton’s menswear designer, Kim Jones, once did some time working here, where he sent boxes of Supreme gear to The Hideout, which for a time served as the only place to get your hands on box logoed gear in the city.
Conceived by longtime BBC and BAPE affiliates Toby Feltwell and Sk8Thing, Cav Empt’s graphics riff on Internet consumerism with references to digital dystopias and notable sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. When they decided to open an online shop, they enlisted the talents of splay, the same designer who created a custom backend for Supreme’s webshop when he brought the brand online in 2005.
In 2004, Dan Jebbia (James Jebbia’s brother) partnered with former Stüssy and Union shop guy Joe Thompson to open up sneaker shop Clientele. Located a block away and across the street from Supreme, in a space that used to house the X-LARGE store, the two hoped to take advantage of the boom in the rare kicks market. Ghostface Killah references aside, the short-lived space closed its doors in 2009.
Peter Sidlauskas came on the scene as part of the Flipmode skate crew, a bunch of young Queens kids whose first video, Suck My Flipmode A.K.A. Flipmode 3: The First Flipmode Video, originally premiered in 2006 on the big screen that graces Supreme’s storefront. At the time, scaffolding concealed the shop, which made for an interesting crowd of skaters huddled around watching the edit. Six years later, Flipmode changed its name to Bronze because it felt more original (Busta Rhymes’ crew is already the Flip Mode Squad, after all), and released a video called Bronze 56K. Teaming up with childhood friend Pat Murray, Bronze 56K evolved from inside joke to start-up skate brand. Known for its graphics referencing Windows ‘95 logos and other lo-fi tech, Sidlauskas takes care of the brand’s videos, sales, and production, while Murray helms the graphic direction.
Palace is indirectly affiliated with Supreme through the myriad of skaters that have also pounded pavement for Supreme’s skate team. That includes guys like Blondey McCoy and Lucien Clarke. Known for its humorous product descriptions courtesy of founder Lev Tanju, Palace’s self-aware DNA is balanced out by seriously good product, from snakeskin Chelsea boots, penny loafers, tracksuits, and numerous reinterpretations of its “Tri-Ferg” logo, an art deco-inspired impossible triangle.