Supreme book (Rizzoli) | full book review

For the past 18 months or so, we’ve been quietly working on a feature about Supreme from a personal perspective. As soon as we heard that Rizzoli were releasing a book telling the Supreme story, I figured there was little point in trying rush our feature before having a good look at the book. Keep checking back here for when the feature goes live…

When I saw the first images of the Supreme book online, I was immediately excited. I like to think that I’ve calmed down on my material-hungry consumerism over the past couple of years – mortgages and job changes will soon put the hammer down on that for you – but Supreme is still a brand that I buy into. As much as I like the products themselves, I like the founder James Jebbia’s outlook on life and I think he’s one of the few people in the industry who have kept to doing what they want without any outside pressure. Sure, not everything in each collection they release resonates so much with me these days, but there’s always something that has me reaching for the credit card. Not many other independent brands I can say do the same.

The rest of the personal diatribe can wait for our feature, so let’s get back to the book review in hand.

Firstly, there are two different versions of the book. There’s a general ‘Trade’ release – available at your regular bookshops – and a special Supreme edition, which is only available in the official Supreme store locations and selected stockists. London had about 10 copies in total, split between The Hideout and Dover Street Market, so unless there’s a restock, your best bet is to deal with the Supreme stores directly. We’ll get to the differences between the two editions later on in this write-up.

First up, this is a proper book. Clear your paper-thin anthologies from the coffee table and make some room for the thick slipcase-covered tome. Coming in at over 5lbs and 300 pages, you might need to stick a couple of housebricks under the table just to handle the weight. The delivery guy wasn’t impressed. Open things up and you’ve got a nice full colour dustsleeve on top of a clean hardback book cover. Glenn O’Brien kicks things off with a nice five-page introduction which is very much from a personal viewpoint: Glenn’s recent interview with James Jebbia for Interview magazine was very well conducted and he proves to be the perfect choice to start the book off. Much of what he says rings true with my own thoughts and opinions of the brand:

‘Supreme has great products, but what is really most unique about it is that it seems to be run artistically and philosophically. Supreme exists to make a profit, but also to make things happen.”

You get a few montage-style pages of screengrabs from a video piece (Thomas Campbell’s ‘A Love Supreme’ from 1995), before Aaron Bondaroff (AKA A-Ron The Don) who I remember was working in the New York Supreme store the first time I visited. Now involved in many projects, A-Ron simply says:

‘While kids my age were in high school, I was dropped out and graduated from a skate shop. I was lucky at the time because it was kind of a shut-door policy and I was younger than most of them. But I got the green light; I slid in. It wasn’t easy at the beginning, even if you worked for the company it didn’t mean you were accepted automatically. There used to be a lamppost outside across the street. One thing a member had to do was get a pair of sneakers up there. It meant you were up in the sky and untouchable.

Supreme was so epic and major: race wasn’t an issue, money wasn’t an issue, we were all one color and that color was character. Some of us worked at the shop, some of us hung out at the shop, and some of us lived at the shop.’

Another few photo spreads and then KAWS and James Jebbia get into the background story behind the brand. It’s interesting to read and it’s nice to see Bond International namechecked in there: I was working with KJ at Bond in London’s Soho when I first saw Supreme products in the flesh. The shirts never stayed in stock long enough for me to amass many: I can remember giving up my Saturday and holiday pay in exchange for tees many times.

James tells the full story from his days arriving in New York from England through to opening Union and the first incarnation of the Stüssy store on Prince Street in 1991 and on to opening Supreme on Lafayette Street in 1994. A great interview and the perfect way to end the first section of the book. From there, the book is a series of photographic spreads documenting the various projects they’ve worked on over the years, pictures of crew, friends and affiliates, and product shots. There’s a real focus on the special projects they’ve done in collaboration with, rather than generic or randomly-placed imagery. This really is an art book in the truest sense, featuring images of their collaborative skate decks and shirts, with background and in-situ photos that add a little more depth to the studio-perfect shots. Terry Richardson, Larry Clark, Sue Kwon, Ari Marcopoulos and Jamil GS all feature heavily in terms of photographic contributions, which makes for a rich visual experience.

There’s a 40 page section at the back of the book (after the page of photo captions and credits that comes in very useful for identifying people in the book) which is a selection of products – shoes, t-shirts and caps – from the Supreme archive. Flicking through that section reminds you just how many great designs they’ve released over the years.

Review update: the differences between the two editions of the book

OK, so a little later than planned, Trashfilter can reveal the differences between the two editions of the book. Firstly, you get a nice slipcase with the Supreme edition, while the regular edition comes with a paper belly-band around the cover. As we guessed, some of the pornographic imagery (taken from the 2006 Supreme calendar) has been slightly toned-down for the regular trade edition – you get the same number of pages in both books, but the photos on pages 169 through to 171 are very slightly different. You can see the actual page differences below: the top book in each image below is the Supreme edition, the bottom one is the regular edition.



People can pull the content apart and shout about omissions, but there seems little point to make a product catalogue when everything ends up being shown online anyway. This isn’t a showcase of material objects: it’s a unique insight behind the Supreme family vibes.

Across the world, people have their own similar stories – places they’ve hung out at, ‘families’ they’ve joined, people they’ve grown up with. The people telling this story in this book are the ones who helped shape Supreme into the brand that’s been loved, feared and respected since 1994.

A great book that communicates the Supreme story perfectly. In my opinion, it’s another essential purchase from the Supreme crew.

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