Season after season, you can count on Supreme for covetable streetwear, logo-adorned accessories—and of course, collaborations on collaborations. For each collection, the streetwear juggernaut has more than a handful of partnerships on deck: Nike, Vans, Timberland, and The North Face, to name a few. Time and time again, these are the labels that Supreme turns to. But this season’s collaboration with The North Face feels a little bit different than the others—and is perhaps a sign of things to come.
First things first: this collaboration is a big one. The scope of Supreme’s The North Face collaborations scales up and down over the years, but you can reliably count on a jacket, a secondary fashion item, possibly a third, and a handful of accessories ranging from headwear to bags. This season is—how do we put this?—way heavier. It includes a heavy coat, a lighter jacket, a vest, some pants, a sweatshirt, and a T-shirt—and that’s just on the clothing front. The collection is rounded out by a duffle bag, tote bag, blanket, and a pair of mules. Throw in the fact that most of the wares come in three colorways, and you’ve got a collection that clocks in at a whopping 26 items. Design-wise, it’s of course a pitch-perfect Supreme collaboration: a bold print at the center, clever logo placements, and enough product styles so that there is something for every type of shopper. (Coming on the heels of TNF’s white-hot Gucci collab doesn’t hurt, either.)
The other reason that this collaboration feels a bit different is that it is the first since Supreme was purchased for a mind-blowing $2.1 billion by VF Corporation. (The deal officially closed on December 28, just before the start of the new year.) VF Corp happens to be the apparel conglomerate that also owns The North Face, Timberland, and Vans—all frequent collaborators of Supreme. The situation is therefore sort of a unique one: a partnering of two individualistic labels that send money back to one single, controlling source. It makes me think of an old Aziz Ansari bit, where he muses about a night out with Kanye West and Jay-Z and jokes about Hova’s business acumen: “Jay-Z was drinking vodka he makes. How baller is that? Jay-Z signed the tab, and money went back into his own pocket.” (In this scenario, VF Corporation is Jay-Z, and Supreme and Timberland are the vodka.)
This practice of private equity companies and major apparel conglomerates getting intertwined within the once-underground world of streetwear isn’t slowing anytime soon. This week, it was reported that The Carlyle Group (the former majority owner of Supreme) was nearing a deal to invest in the United Kingdom-based streetwear retailer End Clothing. It’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s a better financial move for VF Corporation to tap collaborations with brands within its roster than outside of it. Big business aside, as long as the brands keep putting out sharply designed collections, customers likely won’t care what the behind-the-scenes corporate structure looks like.
And luckily for Supreme heads and The North Face fans, this particular collaboration is about as good as it gets. And as long as the New York streetwear giant keeps it up with beloved and unexpected collaborations, like the ones with Yohji Yamamoto and Daniel Johnston, then all is well in the world of Supreme.