In a new long-read, NSS Magazine has attempted to get to the bottom of why an Italian brand has been selling “legal fake” Supreme items to its consumers without any recriminations.
Supreme Italia (sometimes referred to as Supreme Barletta) has been flooding the Italian market with ersatz Supreme for years by exploiting a technicality in which Supreme owner James Jebbia has yet to claim the rights to his brand’s name. This goes back to a dispute with conceptual artist Barbara Kruger, whose aesthetic was appropriated by the streetwear giant way back.
Speaking to four prominent store managers (Valerio Ghisi of Stone Soup, Alessandro Altomare of Maison Group, Alberto Campo of Blackwater Store, and Davide Marre of INNER Milano) based throughout Italy, NSS asks who is to blame for the bootleg merch and why the products are proving so popular.
On the “legal fake” etymology:
“The first step to understanding such a phenomenon is to acknowledge Supreme’s position in Italy. Most likely, the “superbrand” didn’t really care that much for the Italian market, and, in legal terms, this has left some gaps that allowed a group of simple manufacturers to register their activity under the name Supreme. It’s a boomerang effect the web created. The data are too accessible to all. On this millennium’s early days, it would have been impossible for a simple manufacturer to understand the subcultures’ business. The phenomenon, according to those who still have a work ethic, must be condemned at all costs, both from retailers and consumers or Supreme will just be the first in a long series of brands that will be plagiarized in Italy. Those living in the area where Supreme Italia is made have nicknamed this phenomenon “legal fake”.”
On the current state of Italian consumers and retailers:
“Our times are a jungle in which creativity is destined to die. There are no controls over distributions, anyone can have anything, and if the trick fails then you pass on to the copy of the copy. Social networks can be a weapon in favor of this bad system. The constant bombardment of images can be confusing, everything looks the same and no one is interested in reading between the lines.”
On why Supreme hasn’t yet attempted to sue Supreme Italia:
“Having underestimated the Italian market, the brand won’t act until the legal fake will spread outside Italy, or until, in order to sell more, it will higher its standards in terms of fonts, logo, releases, etc.”
On who is to blame for Supreme Italia:
“The stores are the ones guilty for this. The retailer should be able to educate the client and direct him towards quality products with a history. Giving visibility to this kind of products is only ruining the market and giving rise to others in proposing some sad projects like this.”
As touched on previously, Supreme is no stranger to ripping off artists and concepts themselves, which opens up a can of worms in terms of streetwear ethics and further complicates the Supreme Italia problem. For more related reading on that kind of thing, click here.
For the full feature, head on over to NSS.
Getting back to the real stuff, here’s a list of the 50 greatest Supreme products.