Last night, Supreme launched its new Brooklyn store with an invitation-only opening party for the NYC brand's friends and family. Any brand as popular as Supreme would normally be rushing to open stores across the world, but that’s just simply not the Supreme way of doing things. Rather than open up in San Fransisco, Chicago or Boston, they chose to open a second store just three miles from their original Lafayette Street location. Why open a second New York store, instead of going to a new territory?
Supreme has always been a New York concept. No one loves NYC as much as New Yorkers themselves, and that comes across in so much of Supreme’s output. New York has always been at the heart of the business — that little store on Lafayette Street became a hangout for the city's young skate community, and its products are a homage to the city’s rich history, referencing the music, movies and icons of the rotten apple.
When I started visiting Supreme back in the mid ’90s, you could wander in any day of the week to hang out, watch videos, chat shit and skate the wide street outside. With the exception of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop at the top of the block, Lafayette Street was fairly empty retail-wise, so Supreme's large glass storefront always made for a welcoming entrance. Fast forward 23 years and the scenes on any day of the week are vastly different. The store itself is more or less unchanged aesthetically, but it’s now packed with a swarming mass of consumers. The carefully-guarded lines form early each morning and snake around the entire block for most of the day, and if it’s a Thursday drop day then numbers can swell into the thousands.
Supreme has had to adapt to its popularity, and where lines used to be managed by store managers like Ryan and Pryce, they are now controlled by a professional security team to ensure the smooth running and safety of shoppers and pedestrians. Although there’s been nothing to match the chaotic scenes of the 2014 Supreme/Nike Foamposite release (when the entire block was engulfed several days before release, and the NYPD forced Supreme to cancel the launch entirely), the frequent crowds are clearly putting a strain on Supreme and its neighbors. In that case, opening a second New York store makes perfect sense; it will take pressure off the Soho unit by spreading the crowd over two locations, much like they've done in Tokyo, which boasts three Supreme stores.
Supreme Brooklyn is only the brand's third store in America, its fifth outside Japan, and eleventh overall. For a company that's traded for 23 years, it’s clear to see they're in no rush to flood the market; that’s not the Supreme way. The brand may now be worn by mainstream celebrities, especially after the Louis Vuitton collection, but holding on to this independent spirit keeps the brand's underground mystique.
It’s been six years since Supreme London launched, and eighteen months since Paris, so when I received an invitation to the Brooklyn store's opening party, I jumped on a plane from the UK to NYC to check it out.
The Supreme Brooklyn store is located on a reasonably quiet Williamsburg street a couple of blocks from the popular Bedford Avenue bars and restaurants. The store itself is impressive, with exposed red brickwork and a glass-fronted entrance that houses a huge flat-screen monitor playing Supreme's traditional loop of skate videos. They’ve been working on this large unit for quite some time and once inside it’s clear to see why — it’s enormous!
Offering a similar layout to their shop on Fairfax LA, Supreme Brooklyn's centerpiece is a raised wooden skate bowl, located at the rear of the room. Much like the early days of Lafayette and the summer of 2009, when they housed a mini ramp in their Crosby St building, this gives Supreme’s employees, friends and visiting pro skaters a spot to skate, chill and meet up. There’s also a couple of skate-friendly blocks that double up as a seating area for customers.
In the same vein to their other stores, there are product shelves on both sides, accessories and hardware in the register counter and a deck wall surrounded by a collage of brightly-colored images, in place of the black-and-white Ari Marcopoulos portraits that feature in the London and Harajuku stores. Mark Gonzalez artwork adorns a wall by the bowl and a partial glass ceiling brings a welcome element of natural light to the space. As you’d expect from a Supreme store, the floors are smooth, the lights are bright and the music is nightclub-level loud.
The aforementioned skate bowl is deep, fast and slippery, and it was sessioned all night by pros Eric Koston, Elijah Berle and Nakel Smith. Beverages in the form of red/white wine and ice-cold cans of Budweiser were handed out for the duration of the event, while clothing from the first six weeks of Supreme’s FW17 collection fills the shelves, alongside a yellow camouflage box logo shirt exclusive to the Brooklyn store.
Supreme founder James Jebbia arrived about an hour into proceedings and lit up the room with his positive energy and enthusiastic glow. He worked the room like a true host, and even thanked me for making the trip over.
After the store closed at 9pm, we moved down the block to the Schimanski nightclub on N11th St for the official after-party. The Hacienda-style club had been taken over for the night, with Supreme visuals on loop and the LA shop’s own Lucas Vercetti warming up the crowd with a selection of hip-hop, reggae, dancehall, grime and rock. Even more guests arrived as the party continued into the night — former New York Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire was in attendance, as were most of Supreme’s past employees, all of whom enjoyed the open bar and celebratory vibes.
With the party drawn to a close, it’s now down to business — Supreme Brooklyn is officially opening its doors today, Thursday 5th October. Long may it prosper.
Take a look at Supreme's Brooklyn-exclusive box logo tee while you're at it.