Every fashion brand worth its salt knows that most clothing collaborations aren’t moneymakers. Sure, really desirable drops bring in decent returns by clearing out the available stock, but, then again, that stock is usually so limited that profitability is finite. The real worth of apparel partnerships is that ever-covetable cultural cache, a sense of authenticity and “cool” that can’t be bought. Or can it? VF Corp may soon enjoy the best of both worlds, as the quiet conglomerate made international headlines on November 9 by announcing its forthcoming acquisition of streetwear juggernaut Supreme.
Although the Denver-based corporation is far from a household name, even the fashion agnostic have heard of the companies that VF owns: its portfolio includes cultural touchstones like The North Face, Vans, Timberland and Dickies, most of which have enjoyed lengthy partnerships with Supreme. In fact, VF’s 2004 purchase of Vans coincided with a pair of collaborative Supreme sneakers that launched the same year.
Despite turbulent finances resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, VF snapped up Supreme in its entirety in a deal valuated at $2.1 billion USD, nearly twice what the streetwear label was valued at in the wake of the Carlyle Group’s 2017 investment. Furthermore, VF is confident in its ability to properly oversee the future of Supreme.
“This will take time,” VF chairman Steve Rendle told WWD. “We talk about a light-touch integration with this business because it’s very successful, operating at a very high level today. We’ll take our time to get to know each other. This brand will continue to operate as it always has, we do not look to come in and make any changes. We’re here to help, support and enable,” explaining that VF has “a good understanding of this customer.”
“We’re not coming in with a new plan or approach, because frankly [Supreme’s] pretty darn good at it,” continued Scott Roe, VF’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. “When stores closed, their online business was robust and through the COVID period they’ve actually grown their business at a high-single digit rate year-to-date and even accelerated recently.” HYPEBEAST has reached out to VF Corp for further comment.
Supreme began working with some of the affiliated brands even before VF acquired them, dropping a trio of Vans collabs in the ’90s and a 2006 Timberland joint effort (VF acquired Timberland in 2011). Under VF’s guidance, the yearly partnerships multiplied, often launching every season; for instance, The North Face — which VF has owned since 2000 — originally linked with Supreme in 2007, then 2008. By 2010, however, VF had taken notice of Supreme’s unstoppable influence and began pushing for more expansive and frequent TNF collaborations to inject its outdoor brand with a shot of cool. This yielded the first of many outerwear and accessory-packed collections, which continue to this day.
Supreme x The North Face Summit Jacket, 2007
Summit Jacket, 2008
Denali Jacket, 2008
Expedition Pullover, 2010
Waxed Duffle, 2010
Leopard Print Nuptse Down Jacket and Rolling Thunder Bag, 2011
Windbreaker Pullover, 2011
Venture Jacket and Hot Shot Backpack, 2012
Mountain Shell, 2012
Faux Fur Nuptse Down Jacket, 2013
Expedition Jacket, 2014
Expedition Medium Day Pack, 2014
Paisley ThermoBall Traction Mule and Rolling Thunder Bag, 2014
“By Any Means” Mountain Pullover, 2015
Packable Coaches Jacket, 2015
Steep Tech Hooded Jacket, 2016
Mountain Light Jacket, 2016
Nuptse Down Jacket, 2016
Trans Antarctica Expedition Pullover and Pant, 2017
Baltoro Jacket, 2017
GORE-TEX and Cordura Expedition Jacket, 2018
Metallic Bib Pants, 2018
Snakeskin Print Taped Seam Stormbreak 3 Tent, 2018
Statue of Liberty Nuptse Down Jacket, 2019
Arc Logo Mountain Parka, 2019
Arc Logo Small Base Camp Duffle Bag, 2019
RTG Jacket, 2020
RTG Vest and Pant, 2020
No roundup of notable Supreme x The North Face drops would be complete with coverage of the duo’s innumerable graphic layers, from 2008’s cityscape Summit Jackets to 2012’s map-printed Venture Jackets to 2015’s iconic “BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY” Nuptse puffers. Other key collaborative drops include 2011’s leopard outerwear and luggage, 2013’s fur-printed Nuptse Jacket and Vest, the many blue and red paisley items issued in 2014, 2017’s photographic mountain goods and 2019’s arc logo laden goods.
Supreme x Vans ’90s sneakers
Supreme x Vans x Public Enemy; x Ari Marcopoulos, 2004
Half-Cabs; x NEIGHBORHOOD, 2007
x Bad Brains, 2008
x Malcolm McLaren, 2009
Checkered pack, 2009
Camouflage 106 Vulcanized, 2009
Tie-dye pack, 2010
Snakeskin pack, 2010
Zebra pack, 2011
Corduroy Authentic pack, 2012
x COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT, 2012
Mark Carrol signature, 2012
x COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT, 2013
Lampin pack, 2013
x Peter Saville, 2013
x COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT, 2014
x COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT, 2014
“Fuck ‘Em!” pack, 2014
x Playboy Sk8-Hi, 2014
x White Castle, 2015
Camo Old Skool, 2015
Checker Logo Sk8-Hi, 2016
Motion Logo Era, 2016
x Andres Serrano, 2017
Liquid Blue Skull Pile pack, 2018
Sid Pro, 2018
“Diamond Plate” pack, 2019
“Fuck the World” Sk8-Hi, 2019
Grid Logo pack, 2020
Distressed Denim pack, 2020
Vans is Supreme’s most frequent co-conspirator, as the duo initially joined forces only two years after Supreme New York opened its doors way back in 1996. The collaborative sneakers that resulted from that pairing encompass a variety of styles, but are only a fraction as diverse as the models that began rolling out after 2004, Vans’ first year under VF’s purview. Special Ari Marcopoulos and Public Enemy sneakers kicked things off, followed by more triple collabs with the likes of NEIGHBORHOOD, Malcolm Mclaren, COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT, Bruce Lee, Playboy and more.
Supreme also dreamed up a massive assortment of its own special Vans makeups. The run the gamut from brogued Half Cabs in 2007 to tie-dye Old Skools in 2009 to 2011’s colorful Chukkas to 2013’s velvety, star-studded Sk8-His. Along the way, Supreme revived a host of overlooked Vans silhouettes from the past, including the sleek 106 Vulcanized, the Lampin, the “Native American” and 1994’s Mike Carrol signature.
Supreme x Timberland Classic Field Boot, 2006
Euro Hiker, 2011
Waterproof Chukka 2012
6-Inch Field Boot, 2013
x COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT, 2015
Field Boot, 2014
American Flag 6-Inch Boot, 2017
World Hiker Front Country Boot, 2018
25th Anniversary 3-Eye Classic Lugs shoe, 2019
Apparel collection, 2020
Euro Hiker Low, 2020
Compared to its two VF peers, Timberland’s collaborations with Supreme have only just begun. After relaunching in 2011, the year VF acquired the brand, Timberland’s Supreme offerings remained unconventional, issuing premium leather Euro Hikers, waterproof Chukkas and in 2013 the classic 6-Inch boot. The two branched out into apparel in 2016, after a three-way joint effort with COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT a year earlier, giving way to this year’s concise multi-part drop.
VF’s executives have made it clear that they want to stay consistent with Supreme’s winning strategies of minimal social media output, selective physical presence and high-profile collaborations. If anything, more broad partnerships with VF’s brands will be in order, and don’t be surprised to see Supreme join forces with some of the others in VF’s portfolio either, be it Eastpak, Dickies or Napapijri. Otherwise, don’t expect sweeping change; VF didn’t buy Supreme to kill the goose, it merely wants to profit off those golden eggs.