Can Luxury Ever Replicate Supreme’s Collectible Value?

AUTHOR
Jason Dike
PUBLISHED
2021-12-02T12:44:42

Supreme skateboards

When Chinese Canadian collector Carson Guo first clocked Supreme it was in the form of stickers on the bottom of his friends’ skateboards. Six years later, Guo, who comes from a family of art collectors, acquired 248 skateboard decks from Sotheby’s for the cool price of $800,000 USD.

Carson Guo photographed above

Carson Guo photographed above

Guo’s trajectory, from a skater who ran into Supreme on the streets to a collector who owns a multi-million dollar collection, while unique, is representative of exactly what gives Supreme value: its origin and cultural capital. 

In the mid-90s, when the retail industry was overwhelmed with overproduction, Supreme offered something fresh, creating limited stock that spoke to a niche community of skaters. Those who knew, knew. It wasn’t long before this strategy led to lines out the door and the birth of hype — that thing every brand today strives for. 

Andy’s LVxSupreme skateboards and shirts

With this hype, limited supply, and high demand, came a consumer who instinctively treated this clothing as more than an item to use and later throw away. The seeds for Supreme’s ever increasing value and modern collectible status were planted then. 

Supreme’s attitude and counter cultural roots were attractive to followers both then and now. And while the value of a Supreme product was clear to its early adopters, few could have predicted exactly how much value T-shirts and skate decks would amass, eventually landing spots at the world’s top auction houses.

Even fewer would have predicted the brand, that often flipped and subverted luxury brand logos would launch an official collaboration with Louis Vuitton. In fact, Vuitton issued a cease and desist against Supreme for use of its logo earlier on.

From cease and desist to lawsuit is rarely a journey brands take together, making the collection unexpected, unforeseeable, and even more valuable. This collaboration was a turning point and a magnet for collectors, who realized that the collection combined Supreme’s cultural cache with Louis Vuitton’s luxury legacy.

Carson Guo at home with Supreme collection

Andy Liu at home with his Supreme collection

We spoke to Carson Guo and Andy Liu (@richboy), who own the largest collection of Supreme skate decks and box logo tees, respectively. The two are old family friends who fell into being fans of Supreme separately, but similarly. As both discovered more about the brand, they shifted from fans to collectors, amassing an enviable amount of the brand’s key pieces. Below, we uncover why collectors are drawn to Supreme, and how these collections build value.  

How did you get into collecting Supreme? 

Andy: I originally lived in Texas and after moving to New York, I saw people skating and doing graffiti. The whole place was basically infused with creativity, so all of these things interested me. There was one time where I walked past the Supreme store, and there were all these people lining up outside. This was my first time seeing this and I got interested. So I went home and did some research about Supreme. To me, Supreme is the leader of streetwear and the face of the whole street culture. The brand just screams New York. Carson: I saw my friends skating and then one day I realized, they all had little Supreme stickers underneath [their boards]. I asked them ‘hey what’s going on with the Supreme sticker? Like, what does it mean? They told me it was a brand and they sold skateboards, clothes, and some pretty cool stuff. After that I went to some Supreme stores. The first one I ever visited was in Japan – the Shibuya store. After that it was the London one, then Paris, New York and San Francisco. Then I got into the history of Supreme and found out there were a lot of cool collaborations that they had done way before. 

Who do you see as a typical Supreme collector? 

Carson: I think everyone is a typical collector. Andy: I’ll say Carson, of course. Our families met each other back in Hong Kong. Even though collecting is not my family’s main trade, my dad was still very happy to support me. In China, pop stars and sports stars are collecting Supreme. And they have been doing so for a long time now. There’s also people from the Middle east.

Collection of Supreme shirts vacuum sealed

Collection of Supreme shirts vacuum sealed

Does collecting Supreme differ from traditional art collecting?

Andy: The biggest difference in my opinion, is that collecting Supreme is something that originated from our generation. So, as Gen Z grows older, the respect for entire street culture has also grown. And even the luxury brands decided to accept these changes brought on by Gen Z. In terms of similarity, I will say that, just like collecting traditional artwork, collecting supreme will also live on and survive the test of time. Carson: I don’t think it differs. Supreme is just more people friendly than fine art. More people are able to get into Supreme.

Where and how does Supreme build value?

Andy: I believe that what gives supreme its biggest value is the timing of things. But the brand was founded back in 1994. And when it got to the early 2000s, the brand basically entered its growing stage. By 2010, it was growing very rapidly. And as our generation grows older, can afford more things and get into collecting, the brand becomes more mature and appealing. 

I believe that the brand’s willingness to break rules and not conform is what made them the most valuable brand from streetwear culture. They still break rules to this day, like they didn’t change at all. That made it even more attractive.

Carson: The most important thing is the vision of Supreme. Supreme did what nobody would, or ever think about.

What did you think of the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collection when it launched?

Andy: Before it was announced, I wouldn’t have even dared to imagine that something like a collab between a streetwear brand and a luxury brand would be possible. Because Supreme was the face of streetwear and LV was essentially the face of the luxury world. So it was a very iconic collab between the best of both industries. When it was announced in 2017, I was very happy, and literally wanted to buy everything from the collab. But unfortunately, a lot of my resources were tied up in vintage Supreme collecting.  Carson: It was the most hyped up collaborations. Supreme was number one in its industry and then Louis is one of the top three brands in the world.

Carson Guo showcasing collection of Supreme shirts

Andy showcasing his collection of Supreme shirts

From your perspective, how did this collaboration change the fashion landscape?

Carson: It was like a bridge between two types of people – even two age groups. After that collab, we started seeing a lot more luxury brands collabing with streetwear. It started becoming a trend that people accepted and approved. Supreme was the pioneer that started all this. Andy:  The collab was a sign of Supreme growing and finally becoming an adult. The whole world knows about what Supreme is after that collaboration. It felt like Supreme was finally 21 years old and could go to the bar.

Have your collections increased in value?

Andy: Yes, of course, because we started collecting at a very early stage. But Carson and I are both collectors that are fundamentally passionate and love the culture. That’s where we began. We actually care about the brand, which means the monetary value change wasn’t really our focus. We’re still collecting every day, keeping track of all the sites from all over the world, we would still scout out the good opportunities, things and going back to the supreme LV clap I will say that it will only become more and more iconic, as time goes by and the classic in the future when we look back upon it.

How does collection Supreme x Louis Vuitton differ from collecting older Supreme?

Andy: The focus of our collection was box logo T shirts from when Supreme was founded in 1994. And we have, over time, collected over 100 T-shirts in brand new condition still with tags. So, because of our standards, these were harder to collect than the newer items from the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collab. Carson: I think it is more difficult although it’s a little bit different because some of the skateboards are very limited. And some of them are really old, so they’re just hard to find. In comparison the Supreme Louis collection is fairly new and they made a lot of stuff. The Supreme Louis collab is definitely rare but some of the skateboards are a once in a lifetime kind of thing.

 

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