The Carlyle Group has acquired a 50 percent stake in Supreme, the disruptive American skate brand whose collaborative business model has spread throughout the sports and fashion industries, according to Business of Fashion.
Carlyle, which has already put a lot of money into a growing fashion-oriented functional apparel brand, Moncler, and in a small but fast-growing Italian brand of lifestyle sneakers, Golden Goose, declined to comment on this new investment. The price paid for the share is said to be close to $500 million, but this could not be confirmed at the time of going to press. No information could be obtained about Supreme's turnover, but the investment looks disproportionately high, and observers wonder whether Supreme will continue to be as exclusive as it is now if it is pushed to grow further.
Supreme has an online store and 11 brick-and-mortar stores around the world. It all started with the establishment in 1994 of an underground skate store by James Jebbia on Lafayette Street in New York City, which suddenly became a very popular destination. Jebbia, who had moved from the U.K to the U.S. ten years earlier, had previously participated in the foundation of a streetwear retailer, Union NYC, and of Stüssi. Supreme opened its first store in Japan in 1998.
Two years later, Supreme launched a line of skateboards, beanies and T-shirts with the famous monogram of Louis Vuitton without its permission. It was forced to withdraw the products, but it then put new co-branded products on the market earlier this year with the brand's permission, leading to an unexpectedly high surge in demand. Supreme subsequently entered mutually agreed collaborations with the likes of Clarks and Vans. In many cases, the limited editions garnered very high prices on the resale market through the social media.
Supreme's first strong collaboration took place in 2007 with The North Face, in what has become an annual event that has reinforced the images of both brands. It subsequently worked together with high-end designers including Comme Des Garcons, which agreed to collaborate on other collections to give them a young, unconventional touch.
In 2014, Supreme began to open new stores in the U.S. A few days ago it opened an unconventional store at 152 Grand Street in Brooklyn that features a skateboarding ramp inside. The brand continued to launch limited editions that were not made available to other retailers.
In 2014, Supreme launched a successful collaboration with Nike on a fashion sneaker that ended up introducing the brand to the general public. It also worked with Jordan, Lacoste, Dr. Martens and Italy's Stone Island. Nike and Supreme have continued to release new limited editions. Postings on social networks indicates that the next one will involve a new version of Nike's Air Humara, first launched in 1998, in various colors. This time, the sneakers will be accompanied by co-branded tracksuits and hats.