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 announced a collaboration with luxury German luggage brand RIMOWA, with the pair coming together on a couple of premium hardshell suitcases. Choosing the stronger and heavier ‘Topas" series over RIMOWA’s iconic Classic Flight silhouette, Supreme has dipped the aluminum suitcases in black and red colorways with bold branding wrapped around the main panels.
While the unmistakable Supreme text would turn heads at any airport (good luck with salty baggage handlers who’ve missed out on their favourite Supreme drops), because of the exorbitant starting price point of $1,600, it’ll be interesting to see how many of these suitcases actually make it onto airplanes rather than used as an Instagram flex accessory or left to gather dust in a collectors bedroom somewhere. As with every major new high profile Supreme collaboration, this project has inevitably divided opinion among the online streetwear community.
It could be read that RIMOWA is a perfect fit for Supreme in its current mission to stamp its mark on every imaginable accessory their consumer may require or desire. Supreme has applied its signature Box Logo and red color palette on everything from fire extinguishers to thermos flasks and flashlights to bolt cutters (there’s even a 7 ft Supreme branded kayak due this season), so it was perhaps inevitable that it would cater to the needs of the modern day traveller with some quality rolling luggage of a higher quality than its existing merch with The North Face.
That said, if one was to previously hedge their bets on Supreme collaborating with a premium luggage brand, common sense would have suggested a partnership with RIMOWA competitor TUMI. Supreme is known for favoring brands with a connection to New York, so the New Jersey-based TUMI would have felt like an obvious choice over the German RIMOWA. In addition to the brand’s base location, it has also previously acknowledged skateboard culture when they released a video in October 2016 of long-time Supreme collaborator Mark Gonzales. In the short film called “Perfect Journey,” the veteran skateboarding legend takes a skate/surf road trip, demonstrating the durability of his TUMI 19 Degree hardshell case by riding it down a handrail onto his skateboard.
There’s also Briggs & Riley, another premium luggage brand based in New York which specializes in quality hard-shell suitcases.
So, why RIMOWA?
There's no doubt that, much like a Smythson passport holder or a Mont Blanc pen, a RIMOWA suitcase is a status symbol for the traveling connoisseur, so, therefore, an ideal fit for Supreme’s more aspirational demographic. Paul Morszeck started to manufacture wooden suitcases in the German city Cologne in 1898, with his son Richard introducing the first aluminum trunk in 1937. Naming the brand RIMOWA (RIchard MOrszeck WArenzeichen), his cases swiftly became the choice of sophisticated travelers worldwide. In 1950, RIMOWA launched its first aluminum suitcase with distinctive parallel-grooves. A testament to its elevated social status, the brand came to be known as "The Luggage for the International Jet Set.”
When it comes to collaborations, Supreme is renowned for working with the best in their field, but it also has a reputation for being market leaders as the first to partner with brands outside of the skateboard/streetwear scene.
It, therefore, comes as a slight curveball that Supreme would work with RIMOWA, who has already released previous collaborations with A Bathing Ape (2008), United Arrows (2008/2010/2016), Fendi (2017), Anti Social Social Club (January 2018), and an as-yet-unreleased team up with OFF-WHITE, this particular element of the project feels like an unusual shift from Supreme’s modus operandi of being the first when it comes to innovative collaborations.
So what makes the partnership with RIMOWA so attractive for Supreme that it doesn't mind looking late to the party when it comes to working with the company?
One obvious connection is, of course, Louis Vuitton. Last year, the New Yorkers famously worked with the French luxury fashion house on a genre-busting extensive collection which blurred the lines between high end and street fashion more than ever before. In October 2016, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (aka LVMH) purchased an 80 percent stake in RIMOWA for an impressive €673.6 million. One of the main reasons behind the acquisition was said to be RIMOWA's excellent engineering of hard shell luggage - something Louis Vuitton had yet to perfect in its own line.
Shortly after, Alexandre Arnault, the 25-year-old son of LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault, was made RIMOWA co-chief executive. Arnault immediately began modernizing the 100-year-old company with forward-thinking digital strategies and innovative methods appealing to a younger demographic (the collaboration with ASSC microcosmic of this approach). Being a fan of Supreme himself, and seeing the exposure Kim Jones and Louis Vuitton gained from working with the brand last year, it was naturally only a matter of time before he reached out to James Jebbia and co.
With the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collection featuring a $57,000 trunk; a custom Box Logo adorned Fender Stratocaster guitar retailing for $1,998; the Supreme x RIMOWA Topas Multiwheel 82 litre suitcase priced at $1,800; and collaboration rumors with high end brands such as Rolex and Dolce & Gabbana; it’s clear to see that Supreme has come a long way from selling $19 printed t-shirts from their humble outlet on Lafayette Street.
Following James Jebbia's minority stake sale to private equity firm The Carlyle Group in October last year, core Supreme fans have been wondering what the future holds for their beloved brand. Some devotees have voiced concerns that partnering up with a global asset manager could eventually see Supreme move further away from its core independent roots and evolve into just another rich persons play brand.
With last years Louis Vuitton collaboration breaking the seal on the luxury brand market, Supreme is certainly feeding their faithful following with more aspirational products at higher price tags. That said, the brand still continues to support collabs with core skate brands like Anti Hero and Independent, as well as traditional American staples such as Levi’s and Champion. This makes Supreme arguably one of the most versatile and hard-to-define lifestyle brands on the planet.
Whether high price premium accessories and luxury brand collaborations become the norm or not, the level-headed James Jebbia will always value authenticity, quality and exclusivity at the heart of his company, so the consumer will continue to see core projects like Bill Strobeck-directed skate videos alongside global tie-ups like RIMOWA.
Now find out how Supreme has been low-key fucking with tennis for years.