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Is Supreme really becoming a religion?

We spoke with the artist who organized the 2019 Supreme Walk - a pilgrimage for hypebeasts

Is Supreme really becoming a religion? We spoke with the artist who organized the 2019 Supreme Walk - a pilgrimage for hypebeasts

In recent years Supreme has become the epicentre of the hypebeast culture, with the army of young enthusiasts who occupy the sidewalks outside the stores each time a release is made. It is worth a sort of investigation, as the hypebeasts have become a real youth subculture with values (realness), rituals (camping, discussing releases), controversies (the resell market) and sacred places (the shops, the Instagram pages). At the center of this universe is the relationship between the consumer and the brand that in the case of Supreme is defined as an unconditional love, comparable only to religious sentiment.

However, we know that this theory is often an exaggerated reality, but it does not seem so in the case of the 2019 Supreme Walk, a march organized by the Korean artist and hypebeast Ho Chul Jason Lee on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the brand founded by James Jebbia. On a rainy afternoon in New York, Lee and other followers (in all not more than a dozen) walked from the Dover Street Market to the new Supreme store on the Bowery with a Supreme logoed cross. The intent of this two-hour march was to demonstrate the fury and commitment with which fans follow the brand, channeling their passion into a sort of collective ritual and art performance.

 The event - however ridiculous and lateral it may seem - has rekindled the spotlight of the hypebeast culture, which is growing but still stigmatized. The founder of Supreme himself, James Jebbia, has taken it up several times with the hypebeast community, which is charged with inflating prices on the secondary market and monopolizing the brand's releases. Furthermore, the Supreme fanbase in the first 15 years of the brand's life was completely different, fuelling a secret ‘cool club’ that has completely disappeared in 2013, when the brand entered the mainstream of global fashion. Some people have defended the community, like Kim Jones "When you see the lines for Supreme in New York or London, you see so many different types of people, and they are people with whom you can relate: they are intelligent and humorous. They know what they want and are very loyal, and a loyal customer is a true aspiration for anyone with a brand ".

To understand the purpose behind the march and the love the hypebeast community has for Supreme, we asked Ho Chul Jason Lee, who today, in addition to being an aspiring artist, works as a manager of a karaoke bar. Lee moved to New York just two years ago to seek his fortune. He said he came from an extremely poor family and came into contact with the brand just two years ago.

"For my artistic philosophy Supreme is Jesus. The Jesus that people support and follow blindly. For me, Supreme is also a woman," said Lee.

 

 

#1 As an artist, what about Supreme appealed to you the most among all other brands? 

I am mesmerized by its ability to sell out any given product in a minute and increase the value of a $40 T-shirt to $300 and I wanted to be a part of this phenomenon. 
 
 

#2 In your opinion, what has made Supreme the global phenomenon that it is today and gained it its mass of cult followers?

Other brands have a tendency to expand their business operations internationally as soon as they gain traction while proving their supremacy. But Supreme knows it's already "supreme" and rides a Tesla as if they've been rich for three generations. They don't follow other brands, they have their own philosophy and they proclaim rather than creating trends.
 
 

#3 What were the reactions you got from the public and passersby during the March? 

It was raining heavily and not many filled the streets, but a few cheered us on while playing paparazzi. In general, however, people enjoyed making fun of us, at times making snide remarks, not really caring to understand the motive behind the walk nor my artistic direction. But the walk wasn’t planned to win the hearts of the public — with that said, we were OK.
 
 

#4 Are you religious?

No.
 

#5 Are you also a die-hard Supreme fan?

I am a huge Supreme fan. I have an extensive collection of Supreme and Chrome Hearts in my room.
  

#6 Is this something you are hoping to happen annually and grow in numbers? 

Most definitely. We hope the Supreme Walk will catch enough interest of fans around the world to start a chain of global Supreme Walks. 
 

#7 What was your hope for people to take away/learn from the walk?

If there is something you’d like to achieve just go for it. Love Supreme; don’t worship it.
 
 

#8 Will there be a focus on any other brands or ‘cults’ in your future performances?

I am currently planning my next project "WALL" in which I will build the gigantic wall that Trump wants to build. It will be destroyed in the centre of NYC as the Berlin Wall was historically destroyed. This is not only to oppose Trump but also to destroy boundaries between race, social groups and countries. I will always share a particular perspective of the world through interactive projects that tie together art, brands and people.