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Where the runway meets the street

The Supreme Weekly is a regular column examining and breaking down the influences behind the brand’s weekly drops, courtesy of our resident Supreme expert, Ross Wilson.

This week Supreme is back working with Jun Takahashi’s UNDERCOVER label for a new collection, mainly based on the artwork of Public Enemy’s seminal third album, “Fear of a Black Planet.”

Supreme’s first collaboration with UNDERCOVER came in 2006 on a three-way tie-up which also involved Hong Kong’s Silly Thing collective. This initial partnership was formed to release a special T-Shirt launching the Hong Kong art show “Silly Thing: Event Horizon – The Retro Journey of the Spraycan Wizard,” which was based on graffiti artist Futura’s 1980s golden era. As an exhibition exclusive, the limited edition souvenir was printed on a Silly Thing shirt and featured Futura’s unmistakable artwork alongside the logos from all three brands involved.

Almost a decade later, for Spring 2015 season, Supreme and UNDERCOVER worked together again to present a collection based around the phrase “Anarchy Is the Key.” Accompanied by a lookbook starring Supreme’s Jason Dill, the range consisted of a trench coat, Schott Perfecto leather biker jacket, hoodie/shorts sweatsuit, hooded flannel shirt, crewneck sweat, punk-inspired bondage pants, mesh cap, four graphic tees, and a bear-shaped cushion.

The following year, a second anarchy-themed UNDERCOVER collaboration was released in September 2016 to a feverous reaction. The expanded collection featured a reversible MA-1 jacket, coat jacket, wool overcoat, cashmere blend sweater, work pants, hoodie, zip-up sweat, sweatpants, long sleeve tee, graphic tees, coin pouch, Dr. Martens boot/shoe, and a dual-branded version of Medicom’s famous Gilapple light.

Moving right up to date, this season sees Supreme and UNDERCOVER teaming up with Long Island hip-hop legends Public Enemy for an extensive collection of clothing, footwear, and accessories to benefit the ACLU. Founded in 1920 by Roger Baldwin, the American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” In the current climate, it feels more relevant than ever.

The new collaborative capsule (which also sees Supreme working once again with Gallery 1950 and Dr. Martens) features original artwork by NASA illustrator B.E. Johnson from P.E.’s critically acclaimed 1990 classic LP “Fear of a Black Planet.” Following on from their debut record, “Yo! Bum Rush the Show,” and the legendary sophomore album, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” the 20-track Def Jam release saw The Bomb Squad produce a sonically heavy and politically-charged body of work that is widely viewed as one of Hip Hop’s greatest and most important records.

This is not, however, the first time Supreme has paid tribute to the groundbreaking group, with Public Enemy featuring both officially and unofficially in the New York brands back catalog sporadically over the past 17 years.

Supreme Graphic Tee (2001)

Back in the early ‘00s, Supreme was on a roll with its T-Shirt graphics; the small cult skate store still had enough anonymity to get away with blatant copyright infringement by flipping existing brands and logos to read the word “Supreme.”

An excellent example of this was its homage to East Coast giants Public Enemy on this 2001 graphic tee. The design took the cover image from 1987 single “You’re Gonna Get Yours,” shot by infamous skate/band photographer Glen E Friedman, and reworked it in Supreme’s own branding. 17 years on, this shirt remains an understated and often overlooked classic from the brand’s archives.

David Corio Portrait Tee (2006)

London born David Corio began his professional photography career in 1978 taking photographs for hallowed publications such as The Face, New Musical Express, and Time Out, specializing in taking portraits of a wide range of musicians.

For spring 2006, Supreme worked with Corio to reproduce three of his black and white portraits as T-shirt graphics. The trio of subjects for these shirts were Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA (in his off-shoot Gravediggaz phase), Earl Hudson and Dr. Know from Washington hardcore band Bad Brains, and finally, Public Enemy.

The image was shot at Hyde Park on 2nd November 1987, which was Public Enemy’s first day in London on their debut European tour. They were plugging their debut album “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” and, due to their very crowded schedule, Corio was allocated a brief session with the New York group on a foggy November morning among the city’s commuters, joggers, and dog walkers.

The portrait made for an ideal T-Shirt graphic with the back print featuring a small Supreme Box Logo alongside a David Corio photo credit.

Supreme / Public Enemy Official Collection (2006)

Having already showed their appreciation for the band who both excited and frightened America in equal measures, it was a natural progression for Supreme to officially collaborate with Public Enemy on a project. Finally, it came to fruition in May 2006.

The collaboration featured the classic Public Enemy cross-hair target motif alongside Supreme’s own Box Logo across a variety of products, including a New Era fitted hat and a selection of graphic tees. Inspiration was heavily drawn from Public Enemy’s early work with the artwork from albums “Yo! Bum Rush the Show” and “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” featuring as graphics alongside song titles “You’re Gonna Get Yours” (T-Shirt) and “Fight The Power” (Cap). The clothing collection was accompanied by two skate decks and two colorways of the Supreme/Public Enemy Vans SK8-Hi, complete with the name of the band’s second album running across the midsole.

In October of the same year, a second installment of the collection released with a beanie hat, a photo tee, a full-zip hooded sweatshirt and a ’90s-style Starter jacket that later became a cult must-have item after becoming a favorite of Harlem’s style icon A$AP Rocky.

Now read up on how Supreme has been making political statements for decades. 

Words by Ross Wilson

Author of Highsnobiety’s regular column “The Supreme Weekly,” Ross has been down with the NY crew since 1994 and has extensive knowledge of the brand’s influences and references.

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