For David Shapiro, it’s a love Supreme.
Shapiro is a self-professed Supremacist, the creator of Pitchfork Reviews Reviews and a writer who has written for The New Yorker and the Observer. For decades, he has also been obsessed with the fashion brand and everything it stands for.
In July, he’ll come out with a book called “Supremacist,” a loosely autobiographical story about visiting all 10 of the Supreme stores around the world and finding religion at the altar of the streetwear brand.
Shapiro said he wrote the book to understand the brand and its tenacious mystique — he used his advance to cover (some of) the cost of travel to each store. Glossy caught up with Shapiro to find out more. Answers have been edited for clarity.
How do you explain the cult of Supreme? It’s not just about the clothes.
Certain of the brand’s products might be intentionally ungainly, difficult to wear, and this is part of the brand. But, for the most part, I know the products that Supreme makes are exceptional — aggressive, clever, mysterious. To me, when a Supreme season comes out, it’s a puzzle to solve — almost every item they make references something else, and the more you understand, the more you can put together a matrix of what the brand is trying to say matters, what’s worth paying attention to, what they’re paying attention to and thinking about. Supreme is a long-term art project about consumerism, capitalism, New York — it happens to be operating as a clothing brand. In another era, it might have been a publishing house, a record label, an art gallery, The Baffler. To me, thinking about it this way is a piece of the magic of Supreme. And the ungainly items are part of that.
But it’s gone beyond that. Justin Bieber wears it. Everyone knows about it.
The brand has discipline and restraint. Even the most unexceptional product is, in its way, correct. The brand is both wild and monastical. That’s what accounts for the growth of Supreme.That’s why we’re here, right? Justin Bieber may wear it, and may influence some to buy it, but that’s all incidental to the worth of the product in the first place.
Does its growth make it less attractive?
It is an inconvenient thing for those who are interested in Supreme because it is, or was, not widely known. Supreme naturally counteracts this by making limited quantities of each item, and by not acknowledging how popular it is, including the celebrities who wear wear it. But the added interest doesn’t seem to have changed much about how the brand operates — it does what it’s always done, and as long as it does, the added interest won’t be a bad thing.
Supreme’s appeal is its secrecy. Can it maintain that image?
Part of Supreme’s appeal is that the brand appears to be a secretive cabal, which, for a price, will let you into its world. Little by little, on its terms. Its terms, of course, include [weekly product releases] Thursday mornings at 11:00:00, or, if I’m lucky, 10:59:45. And I can see how a brand’s use of social media might undercut that — give too much away and no one wants it anymore. But I think Supreme recognizes that potential too, so their social media accounts are sparse and carefully tailored, like their website or any other advertising they do.
You say you wrote the book to understand the brand. What did you learn?
I would not recommend that a person put the kind of investment into Supreme that I do, although I know there are many who put as much or more investment in it. I also wrote it because I don’t want to think about Supreme all the time. I thought by writing the book, I could make peace with my obsession by conquering it.