Supreme Bots

WHEN LOUIS VUITTON – the world’s largest luxury goods brand – announced its collaboration with Supreme – arguably the most iconic streetwear company on Earth – the world of fashion went into overdrive. Two massive and incredibly different planets were colliding. It seemed to represent the final collapse of the line between fashion and streetwear, which in the past few years has become increasingly blurred. Most importantly, this collaboration signified Supreme, despite being a world-known brand for well over a decade, finally being inducted into the ‘mainstream’. Suddenly, the ‘by skaters for skaters’ spirit the brand has managed to keep for so many years no longer feels authentic.  

This being said, Supreme, hasn’t exactly been affordable for the average skater for a long time now. Brand hype has skyrocketed since it first opened its doors in 1994, and as such the demand for Supreme goods on the resale market has blown up as well. Therefore, unless you camp out for days outside one of Supreme’s ten physical stores or know how to use a bot (a computer program that carries out the online checkout process for you in warp speed), the chances of scoring a Supreme product for its retail price are slim to none. Just for comparison’s sake, a Supreme box-logo hoodie costs $138 in-store, but on the resale market it’s going to set you back north of $1000. Of course, rarer pieces go for much more.

This insane mark-up has led to a large number of people harnessing the craze into a lucrative business opportunity. These people are known as resellers, and they buy Supreme merchandise with the intention of selling it for a hefty profit.

PULSE met with @seattle_supreme, a Supreme reseller and Stanford student who chose to remain anonymous, to understand how he got into the crazy world of reselling, his opinion on the future of the brand, and the growing intersectionality between tech and fashion.

PULSE: How did you first get into Supreme reselling?

SEATTLE SUPREME: Back at the start of my junior year in high school, a friend introduced me to the brand and the whole reselling culture. I had been interested in computer science for a while, basically most of high school. I wanted to (as practice) build a bot that would checkout and buy things from the Supreme web store. I worked on that for a few months and it was pretty successful.

P: I’m glad you brought bots up, because I wanted to ask your opinion on them. Do you think bots are fair?

SS: That’s a good question. I’m really not a huge fan of bots. I think it gives resellers a really unfair advantage. Now, if you wanna buy anything from the online drop at the Supreme store, stuff sells out in one, two, three seconds. It makes it almost impossible to buy these items without some form of bot. It’s Supreme’s responsibility to keep bots from working on their site. Nike and Adidas have managed to do this, while Supreme has basically done nothing.

P: If you don’t use bots, how do you get most of your product?

SS: Between my junior and senior year of high school, I would buy new releases. Every Thursday, Supreme drops new items online at 8am, so I would buy those and flip those, usually for pretty huge premiums. But now, I do something else: buy and sell vintage collectible Supreme instead of new releases.

P: And you get these mostly through…?

SS: Well I don’t wanna reveal my trade secrets! But I mostly buy my product overseas from online marketplaces.

P: So what attracted you first about the brand when you were introduced?

SS: There was already a big hype around Supreme, but not as big as it is today. Their older, pre-2008 stuff is great, but the newer designs don’t appeal to me as much. Yeah, Supreme is exclusive and hyped up, but I don’t subscribe to that. I like how there’s something really special and mysterious about the brand. It’s not that I find the clothing particularly impressive or inspiring, but there’s something about Supreme… the brand really doesn’t give a fuck. They’ve released punching bags, crowbars, mini-bikes and a literal brick with a Supreme logo on it. All tongue-in-cheek. No other brand does it. Also, a lot of their older stuff is self-referential, and contains a lot of interesting political messages. Catch me with a Supreme “Fuck Bush” sticker.

P: A lot of articles lately have been saying that Supreme has ‘lost its cool’, especially with the Louis Vuitton collaboration. Haters have been saying that the brand no longer has this underground, skater vibe. What do you think about this?

SS: The Louis Vuitton collaboration may be the turning point. In the past two or so years, more and more celebrities have been wearing Supreme. Kylie Jenner, for example, popularized the brand to her Snapchat fans. Kanye’s been seen rocking Supreme on the streets. As a result, the value of some of the older pieces has pretty much tripled. Honestly, the brand lost its skater vibe a long time ago, but I think the LV collaboration really threw the brand into mainstream fashion culture. For some of the brand’s most devoted fans, Supreme has lost some of its cool.

P: So where do you think the brand is moving toward?

SS: I don’t really know where the brand is headed, but what I do know is that the older stuff is more popular than ever.

P: Maybe the OG fans are now more motivated to get the vintage stuff so that they reclaim this feeling of belonging to a counterculture.

SS: Yeah, I definitely see that.

P: But I also want to ask, do you think you need to be a skater to rock Supreme?

SS: Well I used to skate, but I wouldn’t call myself a skater. I do think though that many die-hard fans claim that the brand is for skaters and that it’s been for skaters since 1994. But of course, the brand has changed a lot since then. It’s no longer the little shop on Lafayette Street in Soho. Now, they have stores around the world. The biggest celebrities wear Supreme. The release hundreds of products and accessories every year. It’s difficult to limit the brand to just skaters when there is so much demand outside that group.

P: Since you’re interested in computer science, how do you see the intersection between tech and streetwear, or fashion in general?

SS: There are a lot of opportunities at the intersection of fashion and tech -- a lot of these new companies are proof. I think the biggest issue before was that there was no marketplace for these items. People would go to eBay and buy something that was probably fake. Now, a lot of these companies, like Grailed, are providing marketplaces where all the goods are verified and authentic, and the process is super easy. It’s transformed the buying process. As of now, I don’t think these sites are mainstream, unless you’re a streetwear enthusiast. The average person won’t know what Grailed is, or Air GOAT, or any of these other apps, but I think that this is because the prices are still so high and not accessible.

P: Is there a market for Supreme at Stanford, or in general, a market for streetwear?

SS: I’ve seen a bit of Supreme on campus, but I haven’t met many people passionate about streetwear. I think these days the prices are just too high -- college students wouldn’t want to pay 300 plus dollars for a t-shirt. They have other priorities with their money.

Click through to check out the rest of @seattle_supreme's merch

By: Paolo Vera
Images courtesy of: @seattle_supreme