When it comes to reselling streetwear, Russia is just getting started. Some years ago, brands like Supreme were very hard to find in the country; there was only a small group of people interested in purchasing coveted items for a price higher than retail. Back then, the whole streetwear industry in Russia was taking baby steps. You could buy any Supreme box logo piece, and it would have not been easy to sell for eBay prices — it was more profitable to sell it abroad.
With the help of the internet and famous American rappers, Supreme gradually reached more people in Russia. Social media accounts, online markets, people in the streets wearing fake items with the box logo on it — they all showed that the brand was getting bigger every day.
The brand’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton put Supreme on the map with another audience, and even people who don’t care about street culture followed the hype. In Russia, what should have been the partnership of the decade was ruined, as Russia’s Louis Vuitton office chose the most useless celebrities to seed the collection to.
Among these supposed streetwear heads you can find singer Filipp Kirkorov, TV host Yana Rudkovskaya and her husband, former Olympic figure skater Evgeni Plushenko. The audience of these pop celebrities doesn’t care about street culture or fashion, and most of them would never be able to afford Supreme x Louis Vuitton.
The economic crisis didn’t reduce the demand of the infamous skate brand, either. Kids are now ready to pay double or even triple prices for grails like Supreme x The North Face jackets. They can earn money from reselling Yeezys or other hype trainers. Demand gives a chance to streetwear aficionados to make a nice profit, however there are not too many resellers whose activity can be considered a consistent business. Ilya Prima is one of them.
Ilya is an example of a true street hustler, who still finds his main inspiration in skateboarding culture. His Instagram account is well-known in the local scene, but he also sells items in other countries. Ilya regularly has requests from Russian celebrities that want to buy his Supreme pieces, but not all of them are welcome — Prima has his own attitude and don’t want to sell his stuff to a “shitty celebrity” that’s ignorant about the brand’s legacy.
We caught up with Ilya and he told us about his past life, skateboarding and streetwear in Russia.
How it happened that you started to sell Supreme to local rap celebrities? Are there lots of such clients on your list?
Once I participated in the shooting of a video for a famous Russian hip-hop artist. At this time I already wore some Supreme stuff. This rapper noticed my outfit and he liked it. After shooting video he found my Instagram account and wrote me in direct that he was interested to buy some Supreme pieces. Now I have more such regular customers, but not too many. Regularly I have requests from shitty Russian celebrities that want to buy Supreme. But not all of them can buy from me. I sell clothes to people I want to.
What else you do aside from reselling?
I try to skate as much as possible. Unfortunately it happens less often in recent years. I prioritize earning money to make a good living. I want to travel more and buy certain things.
If there was no resale in your life, what you’ve been doing?
Most of my life I sold weed. But then my friends were getting to jail one by one because of this business. This kind of hustle was very dangerous, and I was tired of it. During those times I was thinking, what I can do legally that I like? I always liked skateboarding and skate brands — Supreme is one of my favorites. Back in the day it was not so easy to get Supreme. Once I managed to buy a hat and accidentally sold it for more than retail. I realized that I can make some money from reselling, so I ended up trading Supreme.
What do you think about Russian streetwear and street culture? Has it become better over the years?
Speaking about the industry, Louis Vuitton x Supreme comes to mind as a very bad example of pushing the product. People who really deserved to get stuff didn’t get it, but some shitty Russian “celebrities” who heard about Supreme for the first time did. It’s a shame. I was very embarrassed to see all this happen. Look what happened in the US — Supreme even gave Louis Vuitton x Supreme pieces to their skate team. That’s the point of such collaborations. Big fashion houses want to attract the new generation of customers, and all the young fashion aficionados are on the street.
I also can’t understand many Russian streetwear “designers.” They doesn’t create original stuff — they do what the hype tells them. Mass market brands do the same thing. Some local designers just copy collections of famous brands without filtering it with their own concept and ideas. However, sometimes I see good looking people in the streets and meet guys who are really passionate about the culture.
What do you think about the “post-Soviet” aesthetic? What do people from other countries usually ask you about Russia?
They ask if I know Gosha personally or can I get Gosha’s clothes. He is my good mate, we meet sometimes. I like what he does and how he triggered an interest in Russia all over the world. But after Gosha became famous, lots of local designers wanted to be a part of this fame. He became so well-known, because he is very talented. Other designers also thought that they can get something from this hype. But most times I’m embarrassed at what these “designers” produce.
The Russian headquarters of big brands like Nike produce their own campaigns with local ambassadors. Do you think they do it in the right way?
Many things that happen in Moscow don’t look significant, and everything is based on personal relationships. It is not a bad thing. But big brands should look wider and find talents not only in friends, mutual friends, mates etc. The headquarters of such companies should directly explore what’s going on in the local scene. Sometime local brand’s offices do nice campaigns, but most of the time it doesn’t look cool at all.
Do you think resale is a part of the street culture or it is just a secondary effect of the industry and only connected to the commercial side?
Unfortunately most of the resellers in Russia are not good businessmen. They are hypebeasts that know nothing about the culture and buy clothes with hype logos head-to-toe, spending their parents’ money. In Russia we have some big resellers who made all their business happen with the help of social media. But now every second fuccboi is a reseller. You can open Russian social media pages and see tons of Supreme. It is not a problem nowadays to buy Supreme. To sell it in Moscow is like selling weed in Barcelona — the supply is huge.
Years back, people in the scene were interested in many cultures, and eventually this diversity created streetwear. But now the culture is feeding itself without evolving.
Many people nowadays make “ctrl_c, ctrl_v”. But still there are some original people that make interesting and distinctive things. I like what Virgil Abloh does, Mastermind, I always liked Stone Island, Fucking Awesome/Hockey has a great skate team and I like their design.
What do you think about skateboarding and Olympics?
I don’t know if my pro friends will pass the drug test. I prefer street skating, but definitely I will watch it.
- Photographer: Leonid Sorokin / Highsnobiety.com