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Inside Supreme’s First Store in China

SHANGHAISupreme, the New York-based cult skate brand, officially unveiled its first store in China here on Friday.

The 11,000-square-foot, two-story store is Supreme’s 17th in the world and the largest to date.

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Inside Supreme's first store in China.
Inside Supreme’s first store in China.

Located at the corner of Changle Road and Fumin Road, the Supreme store lies at the center of a micro-neighborhood in downtown Shanghai known for its vibrant youth culture scene.

“We do not think of the Chinese market or the Shanghai market any differently in regards to how we open a business. We are just very excited that we can finally provide the real experience of the brand here, which was not the case for many years,” said Julien Cahn, who has been overseeing the business side of things at Supreme since 2018.

“I saw a lot of energy in Shanghai coming out of COVID[-19],” added Todd Jordan, who overseas brand. “It was cool to experience that, which hasn’t slowed down since.”

For Jordan and his team, the time spent in China primarily involved scouting skate spots, meeting the right people, and ultimately recruiting “a cast of characters” to run the shop floor from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We want to make sure that opening here is an opportunity to also bring our culture here, then take some of the culture from here, mix it up, and mash it into something unique,” added Cahn.

At the heart of Supreme’s business of hype is its commitment to creating an authentic retail experience, built on museum-like store design and a charismatic staff. The Shanghai store was designed by Supreme’s longtime collaborator, London-based design studio Brinkworth.

Upon entering the store, shoppers are greeted by two Mark Gonzales sculptures, one of which is a full-size F1 race car at the very center. A mural by Brooklyn-based artist Josh Smith hovers above the main wall, featuring a vibrant painting with Goth-like features. The artist is also known for his collaboration with Givenchy in 2022.

The left wall of the shop is lined with eight Supreme Photo Tee posters from its archive, which were painted over with graphics and cartoons devised by the artist Kaws. The works are a spinoff of Kaws’ “Ad Disruption” series in the ’90s, in which he drew on existing advertising posters from brands before returning them.

Inside Supreme's first China store.
Inside Supreme’s first China store.

A suspended indoor skating bowl, or what Jordan called “an incredible wooden sculpture,” was created by Steven Badgett and the artist collective he cofounded, Simparch. Nate Lowman, another longtime Supreme collaborator, created gunshot motifs above the bowl.

“It’s about the craftsmanship. You don’t need to know skateboarding to really appreciate the bowl,” added Jordan.

A suspended indoor skating bowl inside the store.
A suspended skating bowl inside the store.

Another highlight is a bench made from two Supreme x Louis Vuitton trunks, which the brand sliced apart and atop which it added a slab of white stone.

The original Trunk, which combines Supreme’s red and white colorway with the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram, first debuted in 2017 and later fetched a handsome $125,000 at a Christie’s auction in 2019.

“There’s something really cool about taking a really expensive Louis Vuitton trunk and cutting it,” said Jordan. As for future collaborations with Vuitton, Jordan said, “We tend to not do things twice, and most of our products are rarely repeated.”

Supreme began its Asian market expansion last year by opening its first store in Seoul. In February, Supreme launched e-commerce in the market, which is also its first new online presence since 2013.

To adapt to China’s online-driven shopping habits, Supreme drops will happen on WeChat Mini Program every Saturday, in line with other Asian markets. To broaden its reach, Supreme is considering launching a Tmall store.

Supreme first entered the Chinese market by joining Dover Street Market Beijing’s new store in 2022.

According to Adrian Joffe, chief executive officer of Dover Street Market and president of Comme des Garçons International, Dover Street Market had Supreme on board to open in China for some time, but the American skate brand opted to wait out the coronavirus pandemic and DSM’s move to the new location.

It is understood Supreme received its official trademark from the Chinese Trademark Office in January 2020, securing its brand and intellectual property in the country.

In the years leading up to securing the trademark, Supreme had successfully eliminated the use of knockoff trademarks and put an end to multiple counterfeiters. Supreme was acquired by VF Corp. in 2020.

As for future China expansion plans, Cahn did not elaborate, but said that Supreme would take time to understand a city and its ecosystem of culture before making the call. “This helps ground our brand,” said Cahn. “We’re not trying to make a splash and then disappear.”

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