A Supreme x Louis Vuitton trunk and a Hermès crocodile-skin Birkin bag fetched a whopping $125,000 each last night at Christie’s Handbag x HYPE online auction. Realising double their original estimates, the auction totalled over $2.1 million USD, with 89% of stock selling at lot. The largest auction of Supreme ever, pieces sold included Supreme skateboards designed by Damien Hirst, KAWS, Jeff Koons and George Condo, as well as a Stern Pinball Machine, Fender Guitar and a Coleman Mini Bike, all created in collaboration with the streetwear brand.
As well as making news for its high-value lot, the online auction has also served to bolster the continued merging of streetwear and luxury - a world of ‘new luxury’ and hype. Where Supreme was once a New York skate shop on Lafayette Street in 1994, it is today a global powerhouse breaking the barriers of high and low fashion. Last night’s event reminded us all that Supreme is the original hype brand.
But first let’s define this term, ‘hype’, which could be considered the 2019 term for ‘trend’; it could be a piece of clothing, a pair of sneakers or a collectable object or a capsule collection. It’s often a piece or collection made in limited editions, which creates a buzz on social media. The said hype item may be endorsed by a celebrity, maybe it’s a collaboration of two powerhouses. Often it becomes such an object of desire that its worth values way above the usual 2.5-2.8 times wholesale equation, and it transcends from its original use and into a piece of art. For example, a Supreme basketball isn’t just a basketball, even though it may appear as such - it’s a relic of global lust. People who lust over these pieces, therefore, have become colloquially known as ‘Hypebeasts’.
But in Supreme’s case, often regarded as the original streetwear label, is it contradictory? Isn’t expense the antithesis of streetwear fashion? In other words, can it still call itself streetwear, if those on the street can’t afford it? The Christie’s auction acknowledges this ‘new luxury’ movement by selling Chanel and Hermès Birkin bags, the most covetable luxury accessories in history, in the same lot as Supreme lifestyle pieces. No longer just T-shirts and skateboards, but toolboxes, punching bags and Louis Vuitton trunks - are these collectables just ‘merch’ or objet d’art? Whether the answer is neither, or in fact in both, one thing’s for sure: Supreme didn’t coin the term ‘hype,’ but it’s definitely come to define it.