We see so many things prior to its release that the sudden appearance of a Mo’Wax Supreme box logo tee at the Saatchi Gallery on Monday night was too fast for blogs to even register. 50 shirts, 38 quid each, all gone. Seeing as Mr. Lavelle was rocking the Supreme shirt on the Champion blank back in the 1990s and he’s tight with employee #1, artist Gio Estevez, whose work is on this shirt, it’s not too unusual that these entities met. A nice throwback to the days when things were gone before you knew that they existed.
Whoa. Did Apple just acknowledge the obligatory Supreme box logo sticker on a MacBook that’s the Hypebeast Essentials equivalent of a Scarface poster in an episode of Cribs? That’s an interesting corporate co-sign. Things have come a long way. Personally, I think that it’s a 19th anniversary salute to Lord Nikon in Hackers, the Supreme sticker on a laptop OG back in 1995 who slapped a box onto a Toshiba Satellite. In a film that seems to be Apple sponsored, Nikon was one of the few without a chunky Powerbook, meaning he never quite brought the worlds together entirely, but Laurence Mason’s character is still the father of that rectangle you carefully applied to expensive hardware to fake not-caring. Unless we’re Dutch, we’re not listening to Urban Dance Squad, wearing shades to hack in strange digital cityscapes or whizzing around on rollerblades, but Hackers got one prophecy on point.
The whole Genealogy of Innovation project I worked on for Nike has been collated in a book by Sneaker Freaker and it’s very good. Weirdly, I put a book project on hold to write that website copy and now it’s a book, but there’s extra copy in there, all the shoes, all the stuff I wrote, some interviews with Nike football folks I did, other interviews with famous people and about 230-something pages of stuff. The packaging is bananas with the Magista (and Superfly) colour contrast on the slipcase. I still wish I’d written THIS IS THE ORIGINAL MARIAH AND NOT THE MARIAH PR after my Mariah copy all those months ago, but it’s a minor (and it’s correct on the site). I know quite a few were produced as promo pieces, Salutes to Woody, Ryan and the team on this — ridiculously fast turnaround and a very impressive product.
I hoard paper promotional materials like one of those oddballs stacking rubbish to the point where its visible on Google Earth. Some of the best stuff is promo only, because it’s free of clearance issues trimming the good stuff. Every shoe brand has books. PUMA has a hardbacked brand history, Nike’s ‘Irreverance Justified’ and a host of perfect bound listings, New Balance had a 100th anniversary tome, Vans put a book together and while there’s been histories(the 2008 book was okay, but it only scratched the surface) and Japanese catalogue style affairs, there always seemed to be scope for an adidas book that really fleshed out the roots of the company and celebrate the clinical brilliance of their very best output. So when some nice folks at adidas Originals sent over a copy of their book, ‘The Story as Told by Those Who Have Lived and are Living It’ (I just call it the big fucking adidas book), a gap on the shelf was filled. Actually, it’s more than a gap, because this book requires a chasmic space.
At 650 pages, in its own cardboard carrier and accompanied by two large posters — one of archive shoes and the other of classic adidas marketing campaigns — the adidas book is serious. Interviewing key athletes old and new, talking to execs, breaking down the entire timeline of adidas and making no attempt to gloss over darker days, showcasing classic sporting images with adidas in the frame, profiling the masterminds who created marketing waves still resonating, like Rob Strasser (RIP) and Run-DMC deal man Angelo Anastasio as well as DMC himself, it was worth waiting for the brand to deliver a book. With a personal preoccupation with EQT, I was well served by the contents, and if you’re expecting a breakdown of every adidas shoe ever, you’re out of luck, but the handful of pages at the book’s close are pure footwear porn (bring back the 1936 roller skating shoe please adidas). The embossed cover, inserts, paper stock and print quality is outstanding — even the book’s marker is coloured appropriately. The catch? It’s not going on sale. I have no idea how you get hold of a copy either, but the hours that have gone into this one show in the execution.
I spend an unnecessary amount of time pondering as to what rappers actually have in the bank. Traditionally they have to talk it up, but listening to some of Posta Boy’s wild claims on ‘Jurassic Harlem,’ frequently rappers talk big career talk before they’ve made it up the first rung of the ladder. And Young Buck mocking those who throw their rent money around and going broke, before reports rolled in of his bankruptcy a few years later? It’s a cold world. It’s nice to hear a little truth once in a while from a realm that favours exaggeration. It’s funny to see journos and commentators still falling about in shock at a rapper being articulate — not all rappers are Webbie in Wal-Mart mode.
The rap bio is the best kind of bio. Prodigy proved that with his trashtalking My Infamous Life (one of 2011’s best books), rivaling Dustin Diamond in the shit talking stakes. But hip-hop is a multi-layered thing. Even a behind-the-scenes player like Steve Stoute has his book out. Jeezy’s recent documentary and video interview campaign trail revealed enough details to create a compelling read in the corner boy-turned unit shifter stakes (I need a Project Pat Bob Dylan ‘Chronicles’ type tome in my life, charting a life of antics in Memphis) and RA the Rugged Man’s opus will surprise the uninitiated with his knowledge recall and journalistic savvy.
On the shelves, you can pick up Common’s ‘One Day It’ll All Make Sense,’ J-Zone’s ‘Root for the Villain’ and — the admittedly older — ‘Game Over’ by Azie Faison. That’s some commercially palatable Wholefoods rap, an indie rapper who had Mr Bongo’s going nuts and the gangster-turned-rapper multi-tasker all charting their lives thus far. If you’ve read J-Zone’s excellent blog on Ego Trip’s site, you’ll know he’s a MobStyle fanatic, so there’s a certain synergy between Azie’s book and his. Common’s book has plenty of rap trivia, Dilla recollections and introspect by the pound — the spiritual talk and maternal asides all makes it a little twee, but for better or for worse, it’s a decent distillation of the man’s sound.
J-Zone’s book is a self-published expose of the indie rap life circa 1998-2004, charting the rise and fall of walls of vinyl and serious kids with Jansport bags distorting their spines. It’s not bitter, but rather a rational look at the point where a rapper has to get a day job. It happens, and with Mr. Zone’s ‘Music for Tu Madre’, ‘A Bottle of Whup Ass’ and ‘Pimps Don’t Pay Taxes’ remaining some of the few non-gutter, illicit money street label indie releases worth breaking out in 2012 (most people spending their cash on J-Rawls records back then pretend they were listening to nothing but Pun, the Lox and DMX nowadays), there’s no shame in J-Zone’s game. He’s a gifted writer and despite trying to paint himself as a curmudgeon, is a likable character too, and while the autobiographical element fades like the protagonist’s income from the industry to give way to some angry essays, it’s a rare insight into a career in the underground and its ups and downs.
Go buy J-Zone’s book. I want to read Money Boss Players, Boosie, J Prince, Kool G Rap and Scarface autobiographies one day too.
I saw ‘Strange Behavior’ when I was a kid. Appropriately, it’s a strange, seedy little film. Ostensibly, it’s a slasher flick, there was weird stuff with a male character and his dad, a certain scuzziness that was answered when `I found out that it was an Australian movie despite American accents. But the soundtrack is amazing. Tangerine Dream on the score, a scene where an entire party breaks into a choreographed dance to Lou Christie’s solitary hit ‘Lightnin’ Strikes’ and my introduction to Nick Cave in the form of the pre-Birthday Party group Boys Next Door, whose remarkable ‘Shivers’ on the car stereo pre-stabbing blew me away. ‘Shivers’ was written by Rowland S. Howard who passed away almost two years to the day, and I’m looking forward to getting hold of Richard Lowenstein’s documentary on the man, ‘Autoluminescent.’
‘Autoluminescent’ is set for a DVD release in March, but we Brits are being spoilt by Studio Canal with a budget-priced UK Blu-ray release of the Paul Schrader’ co-written revenge masterpiece ‘Rolling Thunder’ at the end of January. William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones are great in this gritty, faintly weird classic that’s a perfect supplement to other late ’70s Schrader aided revengers ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Hardcore’ — a John Flynn Q&A? Heywood Gould commentary? Linda Haynes interview? I’m in. Why we’re getting it and the rest of the world isn’t is a mystery, but hey, that was the case with the recent Blu-ray of ‘The Outsiders’ which was admittedly the ‘Complete Novel’ edition with the ill-judged rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, but the extras and extra footage almost make up for jettisoning Carmine Coppola’s score. Almost. On that film’s extras there’s discussion of Francis treating the Soc actors and extras like rich kids and putting the Greasers into no-frills accommodation, but I had no idea that there were Soc and Greaser t-shirts, plus an inter-faction basketball match until I saw the GreaserSocProject photostream with Paul Raczkowski’s image of the teams of extras posing. It’s a good set of images if you’re strange about that movie like I am. Being an extra in that film would have been a life highlight. I still want to see Mickey Rourke’s screen test for the film though.
On the subject of movie merchandise, Mr. Sofarok put me onto the sale of one of the prop jackets worn by Sylvester Stallone’s character Gabe Walker in 1993’s ‘Cliffhanger’ for $1200. Between this doing the ’90s outdoor tech thing and Seagal’s ‘On Deadly Ground’ (sold recently for the same amount) doing the native handcrafted RRL-esque look, I believe that action movie star outerwear will be a big trend for the coming season. I like the fictional accolades, locales and made up expeditions somebody had to mock-up for those patches.
You don’t see many interviews with James Jebbia, because he’s fully aware that most journalists will either miss the point or misquote him. Plus Supreme doesn’t need very much press coverage, does it? But you can trust ‘032c’ to get something right though, and their Supreme piece in the new completely redesigned edition of the magazine is decent. They approach subjects with a certain intensity, but even they only got a short interview with him that necessitated quotes from the book’s KAWS conversation and tracking down some Supreme affiliates for extra soundbites. It even discusses his reticence for Q&As. In the case of production runs, labels and chatter, the man behind the brand knows that less is more. Even in a world where you’re expected to Instagram and tweet your breakfast and the subsequent bowel movements. Still, as you’d expect, it’s a nicely presented article, with foldouts, the Nate Lowman artwork from the NYC store and plenty of red. ‘Absolutely Fabulous’s Christmas special was a car wreck testament to a shoe that was hardly funny in the first place, but nine years before the Kate Moss and Supreme shirt, there was a Supreme and Naomi Campbell collaboration on BBC1 at primetime. Check the hairdresser’s tee out in an episode originally transmitted in April 1995…
I’m prone to acts of Supreme fandom on the level of my Nike and Polo preoccupations. I make no secret of that. I am a Supreme Stan. I’m obsessed with other brands too, but the majority that ditched print and went “cut and sew” just seem Supreme-lite. The Supreme realm complements my love of brands like Fuct, Stussy and GFS, yet attempts to enter Supreme’s lane rendered some other once-credible lines corny. I remember wanting an OBEY design back when it was called Rebel or some such shit, but now they’re making shirts, slacks and militaristic little hats? That’s not so good. Supreme is just…Supreme. The reference points are tight, it rewards a certain geekery and nobody there’s trying to lay claim to inventing the wheel and sticking a box logo on it…they just make great gear. By avoiding any of 1994’s design pitfalls (graffiti fonts, drip, bolshy visuals), it stays looking correct at the core. Tight control and constant maintenance stops the wheels falling off and the no-bullshit nature of the empire has plenty of brands taking notes. By shirking any allegations that the brand is streetwear is a smart place to start, but it’s nice that your dad could find some well-made slacks in there, as he’d bumble around hordes of serious kids with plugs in their ears, AM87s and slender chinos. That’s the key to the brand. It caters to more than one audience. Plus they put in work and keep it thorough — those Prodigy projects weren’t a coincidence.
The launch of the London store was fun. The space is tremendous and Gonz’s touch cuts through the cleanliness with some tactically applied abstraction. I didn’t realise how popular the UK-product was until my twitpic of a box shirt ended up on a handful of major sites. The blogs were thirsty and Supreme broke out hype-flavoured Snapple. I love Soho too and it was heartening to see all involved pick the area above some barren, no-foot fall eastern enclave of ironists. As an antisocial individual, it was fun to have a one-stop catch-up spot (Jason Dill holding court behind the counter in a wifebeater is some distilled Supreme swag), and the after party was immense. Obviously there was no Prodigy because of parole and no Dipset because of issues locally and internally, but Ghostface can get overseas and rip it with J-Love in tow. With an appropriate amount of ‘Supreme Clientele’ material (and a replica of the album cover mic), Mr. Starks’s big ‘C’ sweat took centre stage too. It’s notable that Ghostface is imposing enough to fill one too, but how many parties have Theo Parrish spitting the ODB verse from ‘Protect Ya Neck’? Hell, even I don’t know the words because of those pesky edits on the LP version. Shouts to James, West, Angelo, Jagger, Michael and the crew. Hopefully Soho will rise again after idiotic rents put some legendary spots into early retirement — there’s at least one more significant opening on the horizon too. Props to the dude who — according to the internet grapevine — camped out and then bought nothing. That’s extreme window shopping. Shit, Ghostface’s heatstroke-inducing apparel pick inspired me to break mine out today.
(Props to Spencer on the camera)
I like Double RL a lot, even if it’s hideously overpriced. Now it seems to be enjoying its moment to truly shine, with Ralph Lauren’s baby — a veritable Mr. Benn dress up in worn-in seasonal costumes that reflect a specific period — being the brand to be wearing. Tres Bien’s recent (intelligent) blast at the RRL sell-in, which was refreshing in a world where everyone seems to be outwardly nice about everything, linked to their Flickr, where they upped a phenomenal set of A/W RRL 2011 lookbook images. Now that’s woah. Sweden’s Très Bien actually have an amazing blog. Now every store feels obliged to have a blog because some tit told them they should, but like Oi Polloi, Très Bien seem so at ease with their chosen subject matter that they can get funny with it — watch them get their Black Rob on in a Dries van Noten post like this. To quote Rawse, fuck a blog, dog (unless you’re going to say something interesting in it). Despite being part of a vast corporation, Double RL maintains a certain mystique, and what’s reported there is probably part of it. They don’t just throw those accounts around like the dudes with ankle-tapper denim that dwell in that strange heritage gear hall at BBB. The very thing that pisses off partner retailers
In terms of marketing and approach, Double RL’s experienced some changes, but I still love the visual language of some of Bruce Weber’s original ads. Once, this line was a personal crusade for Lauren, but a perennial loss-maker in his Ahab-style quest to break the denim market with something he felt was authentic. Continuing the nautical literary riffing, it seemed to be something of a painstakingly vintaged albatross around the great man’s neck, appearing like some attempt to cash-in on a non-existent audience of wealthy grungers who would shell out $175 for distressed jeans in 1993. The Double RL bus doing the college rounds back then seems a little at odds with the densely packed curiosity store spaces and concessions scattered around the globe now. Lauren wants to imbue these pieces with implied stories like a hipper J. Peterman and I’m a fan, but once upon a time, he was buying back $10 million dollar’s worth of unsold stock to prevent it hitting sale racks with a vengeance. However, those horses from summer 1993, previewing the line and a particularly prescient selvedge turnup and vulc shoe combination from 1994 made for bold, brilliant campaigns. By looking back, Lauren was way ahead of his time. Oh yeah, was somebody trustworthy talking about Polo being discontinued soon? I hope it was just a bad dream.
Anyway, these ads are from the 1993, 1994 and 1995 print campaigns.
It’s nice to see these Supreme London box logo stickers cropping up too. This one’s shamelessly swaggerjacked and cropped from the homie Nick’s Tumblr. You knew there’d be a Union Jack Supreme box logo didn’t you?