Ross Wilson is Highsnobiety‘s residential expert on everything Supreme. We caught up with him a few weeks ago to talk about his personal history with the brand, his thoughts on the The Carlyle Group and why he’s now selling his 1,000+ piece archive on The Idle Man.
We’ve asked him to pick out a few of his personal highlights from the collection and provide some reasons why they’re highlights. You can now cop some of these super rare pieces right here or catch a preview in the gallery above.
One of the first items I started to buy regularly from Supreme in the early years were their graphic T-shirts. Taking reference points from all the things I was into like punk, reggae, hip-hop, movies, art, etc, the T-shirt graphics felt like interesting and exciting designs. One of my favorites was the shirt Supreme released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their original store on Lafayette Street.
The shirt’s graphic features an image of British icon Kate Moss with a contrasting bright red Supreme box logo. This may have seemed random to some but for those who were around 10 years prior it was a nod to the brand’s humble beginnings.
When Supreme opened the doors of their skate store in downtown New York in April 1994 there was little marketing budget for the shop. The internet was in its infancy back then and social media was non-existent, so they went about promoting their new venture via the traditional skateboard medium of shop logo stickers.
At the time, the most prevalent adverts around Manhattan’s billboards and bus shelters were for Calvin Klein underwear. The campaign shot by Mario Sorrenti featured a simple black and white image of young supermodel Kate Moss that made a perfect contrast to the bright red box logo that Supreme’s crew strategically stuck on top. The placement of the sticker looked so good it was replicated all over town and there were soon very few CK promo posters that weren’t touched by the Supreme box logo sticker.
When it came to celebrating their landmark anniversary in 2004, Supreme produced a special commemorative T-shirt featuring the original image of Kate Moss, complete with the red box logo placed as it was back then. This shirt was given to me by then-store manager Ryan Hickey as a gift back in 2004 and remains one of Supreme’s all-time classic designs.
Nowadays it’s Supreme’s Box Logo T-shirts/hoodies and their collaborations with The North Face that cause the most hype and anticipation, but back in the late ’90s and early ’00s it was their luggage that sold out before anything else. Supreme backpacks were the first item to really receive cult status, particularly with tourists visiting from Japan who were the early adopters of Supreme becoming a collectible brand.
After a few years of producing backpacks, Supreme increased their luggage offering to include duffle bags and this camouflage version from 2000 is my all-time favorite. This bag has traveled the world with me over the past 18 years and feels almost indestructible! It has an incredible Mary Poppins-style interior that seems to hold way more than you’d expect, interior and exterior pockets and velcro straps for transporting your skateboard when traveling.
This was always my go-to bag for my regular visits to NYC and would always become a temporary bed for Squishy, the famous pug belonging to former Zoo York skate team manager Dave Ortiz.
Having opened the store in 1994, Supreme founder James Jebbia realized most of the skateboard brands based in Southern California had little to no relevance to skaters dealing with the harsh seasons on the East Coast. He aimed to provide his clientele with quality garments on par with core American brands they already favored such as Ralph Lauren, Champion and Levi’s, so he teamed up with domestic clothing manufacturer Brents Sportswear to produce a range of cut-and-sew apparel.
The first-ever jacket came in 1995 and featured Supreme’s “Classic Logo” embroidered on the chest. The logo is a flip on the French fashion house Courrèges and was featured in some of Supreme’s early campaigns. If you look closely you can read the names of all five of New York’s boroughs that are subtly printed across the rear hem of the jacket.
There’s a great picture by photographer Sue Kwon of the late great MCA from the Beastie Boys wearing this jacket when he met the Dalai Lama to interview him for Grand Royal Magazine in 1996.
Despite being almost 23 years old, the first Supreme jacket remains a classic piece to this day.
These days the iconic Air Jordan “Elephant” print has been rinsed to death, but back in 2002 Tinker Hatfield’s signature pattern had only appeared on the classic Air Jordan III basketball sneaker. For their first official collaboration with Nike, Supreme paid homage to New York’s love of skateboarding in Jordans by flipping the legendary AJ IIIs onto the Dunk Low SB.
Despite no online presence, word spread throughout the sneaker community that the low-key release would land at Supreme’s Manhattan and Tokyo locations sometime in October 2002 and would be restricted to one pair per customer. With a small production run of 750 pairs in black and only 500 of the white, several pairs were released every day for a whole week, exclusively in the four Supreme retail stores. Each day a line of sneakerheads would arrive at the store around 9 a.m. (for a 12 p.m. store opening) and patiently wait along the street to the right of the shop’s doorway.
I remember the day I picked my pairs up from Supreme. My friend Alex was running the store and had put a pair of each aside. The first thing I noticed was the incredible finish – from the raised cracked elephant print to the soft leather uppers and padded tongues – they instantly felt like a superior version of the standard Dunk. Although there was no mention of Supreme on the shoe itself, or even on the box, the sneaker was a perfect representation of the brand Supreme had become over the previous eight years.
Personally, I believe that this is the most important sneaker Supreme has ever produced. The combination of an original concept based on an authentic story, and a perfectly executed final product, makes this unbeatable. These shoes changed the landscape for Supreme, for Nike SB, and for all sneaker collaborations to come.
The original and still the greatest, Supreme’s Box Logo has become as iconic as Chanel’s interlocking Cs and the Nike Swoosh as a design classic.
The now-famous logo originally came about when James Jebbia’s friend mocked up some original T-shirt graphics for the store’s opening in 1994. James felt the designs looked a little flat, so he lent the designer a book on New York conceptual artist Barbara Kruger for inspiration. The new Supreme logo was a really bold and simple statement which perfectly complemented the clean style of the store itself. The box logo design was a direct homage to Kruger’s “text box” propaganda art style and the first case of the NY skate brand “sampling” other people’s designs – a concept it has successfully run with for the past two decades.
Over the years the simple box logo has appeared on a multitude of T-shirts, hats, hoodies and accessories. One of my preferred box logo products is the crewneck sweatshirt and this forest green colorway I purchased at the New York store back in 1999 is a personal favorite.
Watch the video below for more information on the box logo’s origins and make sure to check out the exhibition if you’re in London this weekend at the address below the video.
“Wilson’s Vaults : A Supreme Archive 1994-2017” is now open at theidleman for a limited time only.
An exhibition of highlights from Ross’s collection will be on display for public viewing at:
The Idle Man
97 Leather Lane
London, EC1N 7TS
February 2 – February 3, 11:00 am – 7:00 p.m. GMT
- Photography: Shezi Manezi / Highsnobiety