Supreme, the elder statesman of the subversive streetwear sector and godfather of “the drop,” is about to officially become part of the apparel establishment.
VF Corp, owner of the NorthFace, Timberland and Dickies (among other outdoor brands) announced on Monday that it was acquiring 100 percent of the company in a deal that valued Supreme at $2.1 billion. The Carlyle Group and Goode Partners, private equity groups that previously invested in Supreme, are exiting the company. James Jebbia, who founded the brand in 1994, and the senior leadership team will remain with the brand.
The change of ownership is yet another example of the realignment taking place in the fashion sector. The industry has been shaken by the effects of the pandemic, which has seen e-commerce and direct-to-consumer brands dominate the landscape, while those dependent on brick-and-mortar stores and mall traffic have shrunk substantially or been forced into bankruptcy.
“The Supreme brand will further accelerate VF’s hyper-digital business model transformation,” Steve Rendle, VF’s chief executive, said in a statement. It also noted VF expected Supreme to contribute “$500 million of revenue” to the group in 2022.
More than 60 percent of Supreme’s sales come from its e-commerce site, though it is known for getting people to line up, and even camp out, outside one of its 12 stores to snatch up its limited new product drops on the day they appear — as well as its ability to supply ironic meta-commentary on contemporary branded culture while also exploiting it for sales. Some of Supreme’s most famous products, for example, include a brick splashed with the Supreme logo, a hammer and a New York MetroCard that at its height was selling for almost $1,000 on the resale market.
Though it was originally positioned in opposition to the luxury and fashion world (when Mr. Jebbia was named men’s wear designer of the year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards in 2018, he said, “I’ve never considered Supreme to be a fashion company or myself a designer”), Supreme has long straddled the sector, collaborating with brands from Louis Vuitton and Meissen to the VF names.
“This partnership will maintain our unique culture and independence, while allowing us to grow on the same path we’ve been on since 1994,” Mr. Jebbia said in the statement. Whether he can sell this idea to his fan base after selling his brand remains to be seen.