There’s a famous quote from Dennis Green, the late coach of the Arizona Cardinals, following a game the team played in 2006 against the Chicago Bears. In the first half of this game the Cardinals amassed a comfortable 20-point lead against their opponents, only for the Bears to completely turn the game around in the second half, eventually winning the game 24-23.
In the post-game press conference, Green approached the microphones, and responded to the first question with a shrug, and the following statement: ‘The Bears are who we thought they were.’
After repeating that sentence a few times, each time increasing in volume and rage, he adds, ‘and we let them off the hook!’ before punching the microphone and stepping down from the podium. The Cardinals had had a twenty-point lead and they knew exactly who their opponent was, but they got complacent and the result was not a surprise. It’s not the pain of being taken unawares. It’s the pain of seeing something coming a mile off and still letting it get you.
Just over two weeks ago I responded to a leaked image of a Supreme x Louis Vuitton sweater with a meandering rant comparing the New York skate brand to Adam Sandler. Though the sentiment of the piece was sincere, the spirit was partially tongue-in-cheek. After all, is it really possible to draw comparisons between Adam Sandler and Supreme? One is an aging relic of American contemporary culture with a diminishing stock of relevance and worthwhile things to say, and the other is Adam Sandl— thank you, you’ve been a beautiful audience, good night!
This week, at Paris Fashion Week, the collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton was unveiled in full, comprising pretty much everything from keyrings and cardholders to skateboards, trunks and leather handbags. According to an unverified leaked price list, the collection will be priced between $200 for one of the co-branded bandanas to nearly $6200 for the trunk. Maybe you’re one of those people who thinks they’ll just get a key ring instead. Breathe in. $340. Breathe out.
How does the collection look? Ugly. This is the epitome of a collaboration in which the brands have reduced themselves to their signs and slammed the two together with reckless abandon. Think of it as the fashion collaboration cut-&-shut. Take Supreme’s iconic red and box logo, and the Louis Vuitton monogram, and slam them together violently like a child simulating the final showdown between his Action Man and Dr. X figurines. Nuance, subtlety, class, dignity, out the window. This is Supreme. And Louis Vuitton. And that’s pretty much all it is.
I really don’t care for any of the explanations Kim Jones has given for inspirations and themes, such as the denim pieces being inspired by the jacquard denim first introduced by Marc Jacobs during his time at the French fashion house. I don’t care for stories about his time working for the distribution company that first brought Supreme into the UK. I don’t care for his romantic rambling about Supreme being woven into the fabric of New York culture itself. Kim Jones has a history in and connection to streetwear that can’t be disputed, and if any high fashion designer was going to collaborate with Supreme, it should be him, without a doubt. But the collection is ugly. You guys, fucking hell, the collection is ugly.
The oversized box logos and visual assault of red is ugly. The slamming of Futura Heavy Oblique onto any leather surface that can ostensibly hold it is ugly. The orthopaedic nursing home shoes are ugly. The ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Sup’ ‘Err, nah, bye’ accessories are ugly. I do not like this ugly sham, I do not like it, Sam I Am.
Supreme has done high fashion collaborations before that have worked. Its collaborations with Comme des Garçons SHIRT were particularly impressive, as was the collection it released with Visvim almost a decade ago. The collaborative suits and jumpsuits that they released with Adam Kimmel around 2011-12 were severely underrated. But this is ugly.
The collaboration marks a lot of firsts. It marks the first time that Louis Vuitton has collaborated with a streetwear label. It also marks the first time that Supreme has exhibited its product in a runway presentation. But the collection is, first and foremost, ugly.
And yes, it’s pretty historic; a 163-year old Parisian fashion giant collaborating with a New York skateboarding company that’s scarcely over two decades old is not something that happens every day, and certainly it’s worth noting for that reason. That reason alone, however, because the collection is ugly.
I can see the gains in this collaboration for Louis Vuitton, I suppose. In an age where kids are styling Palace tracksuits with Gucci sneakers, and Vetements is making some sort of statement about streetwear as high-fashion, Louis Vuitton has drawn the ace card by collaborating with the brand that first bridged those gaps between high fashion and street fashion and is, in its own world, equally as iconic as Louis Vuitton itself. I don’t really get what this does for Supreme though, still. The prices are far beyond anything the brand has released before, the product is completely removed from the “gear for skaters to look good in” aesthetic that supposedly underpins the brand’s aesthetic, and the spectacle itself smacks of this air of high-fashion finally validating Supreme as a credible fashion label, or at the very least has this feel of a gatekeeper of fashion “opening the gates” for a label whose essential identity was always about not really caring what other people think and relishing in its own outsidership. That, and of course, the collection is ugly.
So the press and media gets all excited, and we hear about David Beckham coming to view the collection and blessing us with the following hot take courtesy of WWD: “I’m here to support Kim [Jones], and the collaboration with Supreme is just incredible […] I love everything about New York, there’s nothing I don’t like.” How utterly grotesque. Almost as grotesque as the collection itself, which is ugly.
Nothing good will come from this collection. There is no good design in it whatsoever. It embraces the gaudy, garish, “expensive and overly-branded for the sake of being expensive and overly-branded” aesthetic that attracts only people with more money than sense, people who need to be relevant at any cost, and desperate people hoping to fill the void in their lives by spending more than anybody else. If H&M’s high fashion collaborations attract hoardes of shoppers who will be able to own a piece of fashion design for a more reasonable price, expect this collaboration to attract a handful of people who masturbate to the idea of their own expenditure, climaxing at the thought that they are the proud owner of something that other people can’t have. Expect people who care not for Supreme, nor Louis Vuitton, but for the idea that this Supreme x Louis Vuitton bag, engorged in red and oozing with the bubbling pus of a printed ‘Sup’ graphic, is loud, in your face, and lets you know that on one day, in one store, they spent far more money than you on something that is very, very ugly.
I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; tired, complacent and over-indulgent in the notion that at this point in its career it can churn out any old dirge and know that revenue will exceed budget and a lucrative return will be generated for stakeholders, regardless of quality or content. I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; a household name wilfully placing all of its chips on the very notion of the value of its semiology alone, unwilling to make the slightest effort to create something of aesthetic value. I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; an over-indulged relic of American celebrity culture whose every public appearance is a twisted demonstration of how crass the concept of celebrity can be when left unchecked. I said that Supreme was like Adam Sandler; an ostensibly celebrated figure in their field who, despite still having the attentions of an audience that knows what they are capable of creating, is all too happy to just kick back and create something very, very ugly.
Supreme x Louis Vuitton is what we thought it would be.