VOGUE Skateboard Magazine Lands Exclusive ‘Rise of Supreme NYC’ Profile w/ Reclusive James Jebbia | From Cult Skate Shop to Fashion Superpower
The Don of Supreme NYC is notoriously quiet around the media. Doesn’t really give interviews. Definitely doesn’t need to. That’s how James Jebbia likes it. He founded Supreme back in 1994 and runs it to this day. The stories he must have.
But then the illustrious VOGUE Skateboard Magazine came knocking. Maybe they caught James in a good mood as he was fresh off a lucrative collab with Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton? Or maybe it had something to do with all-star Anton Corbijn on the camera? (If not familiar, Anton did the Ian Curtis/Joy Division biographical movie Control that we still watch religiously as well as Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” and a thousand other creatively influential works.) Whatever it was it worked because James opened up and comes off really down to earth. Giving a glimpse behind the history and overhype of Supreme.
On his not carrying an official business title and preferring to ‘Just tell em I run a skate shop.’ And he drops all kinds of other knowledge;
“I don’t have this lavish lifestyle,” he says, “so I don’t have this massive overhead.”
“I’ve seen brands get comfortable,” he says, “but I’ve never felt comfortable. I’ve always felt every season could be our last.”
“My thing has always been that the clothing we make is kind of like music,” Jebbia says. “There are always critics that don’t understand that young people can be into Bob Dylan but also into the Wu-Tang Clan and Coltrane and Social Distortion. Young people—and skaters—are very, very open-minded . . . to music, to art, to many things, and that allowed us to make things with an open mind.”
And in a breath of fresh air in this day and age of 24/7 connection and annoyance, Supreme is doing the opposite and working to not overconnect themselves. Instead using social media and their website similar to how they’d be perceived in a magazine 20-years ago. If only others would follow this model.
Vogue goes on to look back at James’ roots within streetwear and starting up Supreme:
Nothing about Supreme was planned in advance, its success a coincidence of place, time, and hard work. By the time he was nineteen, Jebbia had left England and was a sales assistant at a SoHo store called Parachute. From there, he worked a table at the nearby flea market, then founded a store, Union, on Spring Street that sold British goods and streetwear. Union did well enough until it began to sell clothing designed by Shawn Stüssy, the skateboarder and surfer, at which point it did great. Next, Jebbia helped run a shop with Stüssy until Stüssy decided to retire. “Now what the hell am I going to do?” he recalls asking himself.
“I always really liked what was coming out of the skate world,” Jebbia says. “It was less commercial—it had more edge and more fuck-you type stuff.”
It then goes on to how he hired the cool skateboarders, this turned into the movie KIDS, collabs with artists and brands like Christopher Wool, Jeff Koons, Mark Flood, Nate Lowman, John Baldessari, Damien Hirst, Neil Young, Comme de Garçons, and on and on. Pretty wild history on many different levels.
Can’t say we’d ever pay full retail for Supreme gear at this point, but damn if James Jebbia hasen’t kept it real and continues to do dope shit.
"We’re making stuff we’re proud of," says James Jebbia about @supremenewyork, "not doing stuff to stay alive. I don’t think enough people take risks, and when you do, people respond—in music, in art, in fashion." Learn how the fiercely independent New York City label beloved by skaters and downtown scenesters went from cult skate shop to fashion superpower in the link in our bio. Photographed by @antoncorbijn4real, Vogue, September 2017.