When it comes to streetwear brands, there’s one that people get absolutely fanatical over: Supreme. Over the last 25 years, the New York-based skate and street brand has gained a cult following, resulting in lines of fans outside stores, speedy sellouts and resale markups of more than 12 times the original already-jacked retail prices for hoodies, hats, hand warmers, even Supreme felt-tip pens.
Naturally, when a collector has amassed an entire collection of Supreme products such as skateboards or accessories, it’s worth celebrating, which is exactly what guests gathered to do at the Jason Vass Contemporary Art Gallery in downtown Los Angeles on Friday night with the launch of its Inferno Exhibition.
Hosted by Ryan Fuller, who is the first and only owner of a complete collection of every skate deck (including collaborations) Supreme has made since 1998, and Yukio Takahashi, the sole owner of an entire Supreme accessories collection (with the exception of the pinball machine), “Inferno,” was curated by Vass himself and Brotherhood Founder Christian Lennon. Among the treasures: 250 skateboard decks and countless Supreme-branded pieces including a guitar, punching bag, blow-up chairs and stickers, all authenticated by StockX (Stock Market of Things), the Detroit-based online resale marketplace that specializes in sneakers and streetwear. The exhibition also includes pieces from the recent collaboration between Supreme and luxury house Louis Vuitton.
“Next year is [Supreme’s] 25th anniversary, which in the streetwear world makes it an extremely established brand,” said Scott Newman, director of streetwear at StockX. Newman notes that the phenomena surrounding the brand in recent years is partly due to the collaboration with Louis Vuitton, which opened an entirely new audience to Supreme. “This was the first time Louis Vuitton had ever collaborated with another brand, let alone a pretty hardcore skate brand. [The demand for Supreme] was already getting crazy at that point, but it tipped the scales and we started to see resale prices that were astronomical,” he explained.
The demand for Supreme products can also be attributed to their signature “drop” method of releasing a limited number of products, only available at Supreme stores and online, each Thursday. The model has become so successful, it’s been co-opted by brands from Comme des Garcons to Burberry. “It definitely helps to build up this weekly anticipation of what’s going to happen, and they’re very secretive about what’s going to drop,” Newman shared. “There are websites and social media sites that are specifically geared toward Supreme information leaks.” The brand also rarely re-releases anything, making each item more valuable to collectors.
So how, exactly, does a collector complete a full collection? With time, patience and a reliable network of fellow collectors. “I didn’t start buying skateboards until 2008, so I had about 10 years of skateboards that had already come out that I had to go back and find,” said Fuller. Of course, the most difficult ones to find were the oldest ones. “Anything pre-2008 was tough, because back then in the early-2000s, there weren’t a lot of people collecting Supreme — people were buying the skate decks and then skating on them,” he shared. Fuller scoured the planet looking for decks to complete his collection, obtaining pieces from China, Japan and Australia, where he tapped his network of Supreme collectors, who each help each other to complete their respective collections. “It was a constant search looking for the decks that I needed to complete my collection, which I just completed at the end of last year.”
As more fashion brands adopt elements of streetwear, whether it’s using the drop model or simply creating pieces inspired by or in collaboration with streetwear brands, Supreme continues to grow and pave the way for the unique culture, as well as its collectible items.
The collection is valued at $2M and will be on display at the Jason Vass Gallery through Dec. 15, after which it will go up for auction.