For a brand that made its name on scarcity, Supreme sure does seem to be everywhere.
Last month, the streetwear brand announced a limited-edition partnership with Louis Vuitton. Now, Supreme is rumored to be partnering with Lacoste, a brand with a preppy Americana look that is largely dichotomous to Supreme’s streetwear aesthetic. The streetwear brand has already partnered with mainstream brands like The North Face, Budweiser and Brooks Brothers.
The partnerships piling up are a sign that what Supreme represented — sneaker culture — is now inextricable from mainstream culture. Just as rap music broke through from the underground to the suburban shopping mall, so too have “sneakerheads” become mainstream. After all, we live in a time when streetwear blog Hypebeast is one of the world’s most innovative companies, according to Fast Company.
“What’s happened is that you have these underground things that built up and became mainstream, which happens with time,” said Matt Halfhill, founder of streetwear site Nice Kicks. “I don’t necessarily see what Supreme is doing as a sellout move. Is it what they did in 1994 when they started? No, it’s not. But it’s not their fault that they got mainstream acceptance.”
Partnering with Louis Vuitton has essentially served as a gateway to the rest of the luxury market, said YouTuber Tyler Blake, who satirized Supreme for its release of a branded brick last fall. The key is that the exclusive products serve as one-off extensions of the brand, rather than a full shift of image and design. That’s why the pairing of Supreme and Lacoste works.
“The collaboration does not insulate them into a brand trap, where people associate Supreme as a country club brand,” Blake said. “People are able to look past that, because it’s just a brand extension. Every time they collaborate with someone they’re hitting a different market. I don’t think it’s them selling out, it’s just another way for them to grow the brand and tap into as much revenue potential as they can.”
On the flip side, these partnerships are often symbiotic in helping support luxury brands that struggle with targeting younger demographics that are synonymous with streetwear culture. “Louis Vuitton and many other brands that seek out these partnerships are driven by the desire, to retain relevancy in a culture and among a generation they historically haven’t been the first choice for,” Dominick Prinz, partner at strategy firm cg42, told Glossy in a previous article.
The added fact that Supreme continues to operate on a model of exclusivity, with high-priced, elusive product drops, has allowed it to maintain its hip factor.
“[The Supreme and Lacoste collabs are] a sign that streetwear is finally being taken seriously by the fashion industry,” said Patrick Galbraith, co-founder of streetwear site Sneakhype. “Not to mention that it’s still going to be almost impossible to get your hands on, just like every other Supreme drop. In my opinion, Supreme has been able to stay true to their roots despite their ever-growing popularity.