The New Newer Economy

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Have you ever heard of resellers? What about the Supreme brand?

People will wait twenty hours in line, and hope that they can get their hands on some kind of product. No, we’re not talking about the latest iPhone from Apple and we’re not talking about waiting in line for Star Wars – The Force Awakens (which, by the way, is an incredible movie that I saw at 6:30 am today!). We’re talking about clothing… and brand called, Supreme. I had seen the logo around, but never knew – or spent the time to understand – just how amazingly powerful of a brand that Supreme is. 

Here’s how Complex describes Supreme: 

“In 1994, James Jebbia opened the first Supreme location in a small storefront on Lafayette Street in New York. At the time, Supreme was a brand for skaters by skaters — even the design for the shop was more open so skaters could come right in with their skateboards. But today, 21 years later, Supreme is a legendary streetwear brand that’s cultivated a cult following well beyond that original fan base. Continuing to release product in tightly controlled, limited amounts, the brand is as big as it wants to be in New York, Los Angeles, and London; a titan in Japan — arguably its largest market.

Complex has covered Supreme for well over a decade (Complex was founded in 2002). Most of it was from afar; we wrote about releases or lookbooks. But for the last year or so, our Complex News team has been reporting from the Lafayette Street shop to cover in-store launches. Every story was the same: Lines snaked around the block, kids camped out for hours or days, sometimes even in subfreezing temperatures, just to get any Supreme item. Each Thursday drop was chaos. In April 2014, the NYPD canceled the Supreme x Nike Air Foamposite One in-store launch at the NYC flagship after a riot nearly broke out earlier that day.”

There’s something happening here.

We all strive to manage the brands that we represent. Few of us will be as fortunate as the brand architects behind Supreme. Still, times change. And, if the company controls the inventory and the brand too much, the crowd can (and does) often step in. In Supreme’s case, many of those people lining up for their big drops would later take the merchandise and resell it online… for massive profits. Some of the markups were 1200% above the retail value (not a typo). The team at Complex started to meet these resellers. Admittedly, the idea of buying goods at retail, and selling them at a higher markup is nothing new, but there seems to be something else happening here. Watch how these resellers build their own platforms, brands and businesses through social media. Notice their strategies when in comes to eBay versus Instagram. Take note of Supreme’s roles (or lack of one) in this sub-culture. It’s a fascinating group of entrepreneurs, who take the notion of “hustle” to a whole new level, and offers up some very interesting marketing insights on branding, digital connectedness, social media, retail and the global nature of something that started off so small.

This truly is a fascinating 40-minute documentary (warning some of the language is NSFW): Sold Out – The Underground Economy of Supreme Resellers