The Instagram unpicking Supreme’s obscure hidden references

@dazedfashion’s Instagram of the week is @supreme_copies – its anonymous founder opens up about demystifying the brand’s designs

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Supreme copies Supreme hidden references Instagram
Supreme denim jacket and shorts versus image taken from a 2000 book titled ‘(un)Fashion’ by Tibor and Maira Kalman – read the full explanation @supreme_copiesvia @supreme_copies

Streetwear has its roots in appropriation, in borrowing and flipping graphics and logos to create something new and rebellious. Supreme, of course, is no exception to that – the legendary New York company is famed for its twisted takes on existing brand insignia and has been on the receiving end of more than a few cease and desist orders from big name companies as a result. Part of the brilliance in their designs is that the references to be found there are often wildly obscure – whether borrowed from 70s magazines, trash fiction or vintage sportswear, tracking down just what inspired a particular item has become a kind of 21st century sport. Enter @supreme_copies – a place where obsessives can send in, discuss and document some of the hidden stories behind their favourite items. This week’s @dazedfashion pick of the week, we speak to its anonymous founder.

Why did you start this account?

@supreme_copies: I began this account out of my own desire to see all of Supreme’s inspirations and references in one place. There have been forums in the past, and short articles written about a couple tees’ inspiration once every season, but no sort of archive on a platform like Instagram. I saw and felt the need, and more and more people like @sean_wotherspoon were posting the comparisons they’d find on their own, so I thought to create one place to view them all (or at least as many as I can find) and teach people about what they’re wearing along the way.

How often do you post? Do you have an archive of material stored up?

@supreme_copies: I began with posting around five times a day at specific times. However, I noticed the different trends when posting many times throughout the day opposed to once or twice and I think I’ve decided on doing three a day from now on, consistently. I have a very large archive of material stored up. It’s constantly growing, and with the AW16 preview releasing in a few weeks it will only get bigger.

How long have you been aware into Supreme?

@supreme_copies: I’ve been aware of Supreme since 2011. I’m not going to put on some front like I’ve always known of the brand. I did in fact, like a lot of followers out there, learn of them through my music taste (Yes, Odd Future) and of course, skateboarding.

Where do you do your research to make the comparisons? Is it just you?

@supreme_copies: I have a lot of help running the page. I’m the only one posting, writing the captions, and making the side by side photos, however, I’ve had many different sources send me in comparisons they find on their own – whether it be from the thrift store, watching a movie, or simply just driving by and seeing a familiar logo they’ve seen on a Supreme piece. These sources just DM me. As far as myself, I have the same methods as everyone else. Although I usually don’t just Google search for an older reference – Googling doesn’t get you too far if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, especially when trying to find clothes made decades ago.

What do you think the references reveal about Supreme as a brand/their design team?

@supreme_copies: In my personal opinion, it’s genius. There’s no denying the brand’s success. There is no denying that they have quite possibly the biggest following in streetwear. The fact of the matter is that when Supreme makes these references, no matter how obscure, they broaden their audience. It’s a combination of cultures. When scrolling through my page, I believe everyone can find a reference they are familiar with. And to many, that’s appealing. Sure some will say it is ‘unoriginal,’ and to each their own. By textbook definition, it is – even though streetwear has and always will have elements some find unoriginal. Yet when following Supreme, especially as familiar as I’ve become with the brand, it is almost like a constant history lesson. I think the design team works just as hard, and if not, harder than any other streetwear companies. To go as deep as they do to find some of these references is beyond me. Logos and fonts aside, Supreme has put in work to make the pieces they are often ‘reviving’ on a higher standard of quality than any other non-high end/luxury brand has.

“The fact of the matter is that when Supreme makes these references, no matter how obscure, they broaden their audience. It’s a combination of cultures” – @supreme_copies

Do you think there’s a kind of hierarchy with Supreme fans in terms of who knows more about the brand?

@supreme_copies: There’s definitely an invisible and undiscussed hierarchy for sure. Many saw the Complex documentary and the interviews they conduct on release day, and without a doubt they brought in an entirely new audience. There are a lot of factors doing that, though – from your favorite rapper, to your favorite skater, to the youngest Kardashian all being seen wearing Supreme. Of course lots of people are unfamiliar with its references – my page is still considered news to many – as they should be. At the end of the day it really just matters who has the money to pay for the product. Those who know more simply know more about what they’re wearing – which I view as a strength.

Why do you think Supreme is the subject of such reverence from fans?

@supreme_copies: There are many reasons. To some – it’s collectible. A modern day comic book nerd is really just a guy with 30 different box logo tees in plastic bags. When Supreme releases something (besides the occasional restock during the season) it is released once and only once, and never again. For some, it’s the exclusivity. For others, it’s their history and prevalence in the world of skateboarding. For some, it’s their combination of different aspects of pop culture. For others, it’s the consistency of releases (every Thursday during season, two seasons a year). For some, it’s who they see wearing it. For others, it's the value aspect of the products as well as the resell profit. And for some, it’s simply become the word they like the most – ‘I’m just buying it cuz it’s Supreme’. But for many, I believe it is truly just the clothes, their style, and their aesthetics. 

“A modern day comic book nerd is really just a guy with 30 different box logo tees in plastic bags” – @supreme_copies

What do you think the ethics of making bootleg style designs are – do Supreme owe anything to the companies or people they borrow from?

@supreme_copies: Supreme doesn’t owe anyone anything. Truly. Many of the pieces are made with intentions to pay homage to the designers and other figures they look up to and respect. Anything past that is streetwear’s foundations. Their ethics are perfectly acceptable when designing what they do, and if that’s not the case then every brand whose copied Supreme is perhaps worse than them.

What’s your favourite item Supreme have copied or has a weird reference?

@supreme_copies: My favourite reference I’ve seen so far is one that I have no certainty on whatsoever. It is the Cherry Sweater from AW14 compared with a piece seen in the 1973 Bruce Lee film ’Way Of The Dragon.’ The side by side image is on my page, as well as the full explanation I provide with every reference.

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