Supreme's James Jebbia Talks Global Expansion in a Rare Interview

"We're a world brand now"
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Image via: Business of Fashion

Image via: Business of Fashion

With Supreme set to open its new location in Paris this week, James Jebbia, the notoriously press-averse founder of the pioneering streetwear brand, recently sat down with Business of Fashion to discuss global expansion, and the effect that scaling has on Supreme's identity. The new 1,100-square-foot Paris store, located in the city’s Marais neighborhood, represents the tenth brick-and-mortar door in a burgeoning retail empire that now spans North America, Asia and Europe. Even as Supreme grows, Jebbia is unconcerned about the brand diluting its NY-centric cool. "I'm not really concerned if people have this purist view of the New York Supreme thing," he says. "If they think opening our shop in Paris is going to harm our brand, then we can't really be that strong of a brand."

Highlights from the article include Jebbia opening up about Supreme's expansion strategy: 

Rather than your typical by-the-numbers retail rollout, Jebbia approaches expansion more like a touring rock star who knowingly alters each night’s set list to cater to the ear of a city. “I’ve seen a lot of brands fail because they went, ‘Hey, look, we’re from New York, and that’s what we’re all about.’ But wherever you go, people are proud of where they are,” he said. “So even though we’re from New York, what we do is a mindset: it’s got to work in Japan, in Los Angeles, London, wherever.”

He also discusses Supreme's retail hiring practices:

Jebbia said he typically hires from Supreme’s extended community of friends and family, including professional skateboarders and artists — even customers. His approach to staffing new stores is no different. “The people I work with is what gives the store its personality,” he said. “They treat it like it’s their own.” For the shop in London, Jebbia picked 1980s skate legend Dan Jagger to be its store manager. A similar approach guided his decision to ask Samir Krim, a founder of the French skateboard company Minutia, to manage the new Paris boutique. “He’s a big part of the skate scene there,” said Jebbia. “If we didn’t have someone like Samir, we wouldn’t have opened a shop in Paris.”

The discussion ends with his thoughts on streetwear's influence on high fashion: 

For the most part, Jebbia welcomes fashion’s embrace of skate culture. “It’s a good thing, because before we were one of the only brands doing that kind of thing. Now it’s just more open and that’s great,” he said. “I think it’s cool because they’re making things people really want to wear. And that’s what we do: we make things people want to wear — not in fantasy land. Oftentimes you’ll see pictures from fashion shows and all the models outside the show in their real clothes are wearing brands like Supreme.”  

Check out the article here.