British DJ and writer Ross Wilson has been a friend of Supreme since the early days and has subsequently amassed one of the largest collections worldwide. In early 2018, The Idle Man will exclusively open the doors to Ross Wilson’s 23 year old Supreme vault for a unique opportunity to view and purchase some of the brands most iconic designs and collaborations. We sat down with Ross to find out his personal history with the brand, and why now is the time to unlock this incredible collection of over 1,000 pieces to the public.
If you’re a true Supreme fan, then you should really know about Ross Wilson. Ross’ Instagram is a temple of some of the rarest, most elusive and best Supreme pieces, stretching back to the brands birth in 1994. As you can imagine, collecting since the box logo brand’s early days, Ross has got a pretty large collection under his belt. Now, we have unlocked Wilson’s Vaults to give other Supreme fans and collectors the chance to buy some of these pieces and continue on their own journey with Supreme.
I sat down with Ross to talk about his very early days with the brand, to how it has developed over time and, of course, his collection. This is a tell-all tale, talking about Ross’ early years with the store employees, how he became such a close friend of the brand and now why he feels that it is the right time to let go of some of these pieces. This is Wilson’s Vaults, completely unlocked, here at The Idle Man.
- 1 Can you introduce yourself and a little bit your collection?
- 2 How did you get into Supreme?
- 3 How long has it taken for you to collect all of this Supreme?
- 4 What are some of the grails in your collection?
- 5 What are some of your favourite pieces?
- 6 Can you talk about your relationship with Supreme?
- 7 Why did you start collecting Supreme?
- 8 What’s the most you’ve spent on a single item?
- 9 What has made you decide to start selling off your collection?
- 10 What makes ‘Wilson’s Vaults’ a unique collection and retail event?
- 11 How hard was the decision to start selling it?
- 12 What are some pieces that you’ve held back?
- 13 Why The Idle Man?
- 14 Having been a close friend of Supreme for over two decades, how have you seen the brand develop and grow in that time?
- 15 What are your thoughts on Supreme once this project is over and all your stuff has gone to a new home?
- 16 Finally, is there anyone in particular that you want to thank?
Can you introduce yourself and a little bit your collection?
Hi I’m Ross Wilson, I’m a club DJ, freelance writer and brand consultant now living in Bath, England. I’m also the owner of one of the largest collections of Supreme items all purchased at original retail.
How did you get into Supreme?
The first time I visited Supreme was in October 1994. I had always been fascinated with New York City through the city’s eclectic history in music, film, art and fashion. So as soon as I had saved up enough money I booked a flight, a tiny room in the Chelsea Hotel, and headed out there armed with my skateboard and an empty suitcase.
I was skating around the city looking for a skate store, but the skateboard industry was in a bit of a slump in the mid-‘90s and unfortunately a lot of independent skate shops folded during this period. Pushing around some Soho side streets, I stopped off for a slice at Ray’s Pizza on Prince St, where a fellow skater told me about a new skate store that had just opened right around the corner. I rolled around the block to find this shop called “Supreme.”
There were a bank of TVs in the window and really loud music pumping out the door. This was like no skate store I had been to in the UK before. Where products are stacked from floor-to-ceiling on every available bit of wall space at home, this store’s clean surroundings and impeccably displayed products presented itself more like a high-end fashion boutique or art gallery.
The shelving unit closest to the counter had a neat display of the store’s own shop tees. A simple design of a white logo inside a red box – a stylish contrast to the garish, colourful designs covering most skate brands of the time. Having hung out in the store for most of that afternoon watching videos and chatting to the staff about the UK skate scene, I decided to show some support and bought one of the shop’s tees for about $19, and they also gave me a second one as a free gift “to rep in London”.
The vibe of the store, it’s stylish minimal approach and the welcoming attitude of the staff all felt good and I ended up hanging out at this little skate shop on each returning visit to the city. As the years progressed, Supreme’s design range widened and their graphic T-shirts became really interesting. Their own design flips on famous photographs and logos were both refreshing and exciting, and seemed to encompass everything I was personally into. Punk, Hip Hop, Reggae, Rock, Art, Pop Culture, Movies, Boxing, Skateboarding and New York’s underground history.
The T-shirts were reasonably priced at $25 (back then it was $2 to each £1) so I’d often buy a design I liked in two or three colours. Back then there was no official Supreme website, no streetwear blogs and no social media so, therefore, no hype or queues. It was just like any other skate shop but with really interesting products.
How long has it taken for you to collect all of this Supreme?
Since that first visit in October 1994, so I guess you could say it’s taken 23 years to get to where it is now. Over that time there have been so many items I’ve used and abused, lost or had stolen, and given away to friends – this collection could have been almost double what it is if I’d been more careful!
There was actually one incident back in Spring 2000 where I had a large amount of my early Supreme clothing stolen. I had taken a huge load of clothing to the local self-service launderette and while waiting for it to be washed I went to a nearby pub to meet a friend for a pint. One pint turned into ten pints and I woke up the following day realising I had completely forgotten to collect my laundry. Arriving at the laundrette that morning I faced the ugly realisation that all my stuff had been taken.
It was mostly all Supreme gear from ’94-’99. About a dozen old Box Logo tees, some graphic tees, a couple of Box Logo sweats and a hoodie. The ironic thing is that Supreme wasn’t a well-known brand in the UK back then, so whoever stole the goods would’ve had no idea of their future worth!
What are some of the grails in your collection?
I actually hate the term “grail” almost as much as I hate the word “bogo.” I feel like it’s so overused and no longer really means anything when you have kids desperately searching for their “grail” only to sell it the following week. I think I’ve never really looked at this stuff in those terms as there’s nothing I’ve ever really sought out to find. I guess I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to access most of what I’ve liked in the past.
What are some of your favourite pieces?
Ah that’s tough! There’s been so many great products over the past two decades. I’ll always have a soft spot for the standard Box Logo T-shirt, particularly the red on white and the black on black. That design is so simple and has become as much as an iconic symbol for our generation as Chanel’s interlocking C’s. I don’t think I could ever not appreciate that.
I have always liked their “Classic Logo” which is a flip of the courrèges logo, and featured on their first ever jacket; the 5 Boroughs coach jacket from ’95. There’s a great photo by Sue Kwon, of the late great MCA from the Beastie Boys, wearing it when he met the Dalai Lama to interview him for Grand Royal magazine in 1996.
Some of the T-shirt graphics from the early ‘00s are my favourites, especially the music references like The Exploited, Subhumans, Santana, James Brown and The Beatles. I really like a lot of the Nike collaborations, particularly the early Dunk SBs and Blazer SBs. Those were really groundbreaking projects at the time and introduced the brand to an entirely new demographic and elevated a little skate shop with a cult following to a globally desired brand.
Can you talk about your relationship with Supreme?
Just going back to that first time I went there, they’ve always been cool with me. What many people don’t realise is that those early years at Supreme people weren’t really buying much stuff. It was more of a place to hang out, chat shit and watch skate videos before heading up to skate Astor Place or down to the Brooklyn Banks. There were no lookbooks, weekly drops, queues outside or anything like that – it was just a cool little skateboard shop. Before people were using social media to see what their friends were up to, they had to actually meet in person. This little shop on Lafayette Street quickly became the clubhouse for every skate rat in downtown NYC.
For the following 15 years, I became a bit of a part-time New Yorker, with regular bi-monthly visits for work, and Supreme would always be a familiar spot. I met some fascinating characters and made some great friends from that time, and it all centred around that downtown skate scene.
I guess because I found Supreme so naturally through skateboarding it was never really gonna be anything but cool. We were all around the same age and into the same kinda stuff, so it just became a good place to hang out. The guys who worked there appreciated my respect for the stuff they were making and the more I went there the more they would look after me with gifts and items that were stored out the back, rather than displayed on the shelves. Giovanni Estevez, Alex Corporan, Pooky, Ryan Hickey, Moyà, Chris Keefe, Alex Dymond, Charles Lamb, Akira Mowatt, Ty Lyons and Pryce Holmes were all behind that infamous counter at some point and all great people who kept me in fresh Supreme gear on each visit to NYC.
When they opened their first European store in 2011, the New York crew flew over and Gio introduced me to the new London shop team with “look after Ross, he’s OG.”
I’ve got a great relationship with Jagger, who holds down the London shop. He’s a stand-up guy who has always been really cool with me since Day One, so it’s nice to have a Supreme store on my home turf after all these years – especially now that I don’t get over to NYC so regularly. It was really nice to be invited to the opening of the new Supreme store in Brooklyn last October and great to catch up with all the OG’s from the early days. It felt like a real celebration of the brand’s journey so far.
Why did you start collecting Supreme?
This may be a huge collection of stuff but I’ve never seen myself as a “collector” – more of an “accumulator.” I feel a true collector often goes to great lengths to seek out items to add to their collection, but I’ve never been that guy. I’ve simply amassed a lot of products I like over years of travelling. I have a broad taste when it comes to clothing, but Supreme has always been a mainstay in my closet for over 20 years. I guess it’s just built up into this massive vault of products by accident!
What’s the most you’ve spent on a single item?
Every Supreme item I own was either purchased at the time of release from a Supreme store in New York, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo, or given to me by someone at Supreme. I’ve never purchased anything on the secondary market.
I think the most expensive item I’ve bought from Supreme is the first black leather down jacket they made in 2004. I think it was about $500 but it’s the most incredible quality jacket I’ve ever owned. It’s goose down and so warm you only need to rock a T-shirt underneath in severe winter weather. It was a really considered purchase at the time, but I liked it so much I bought the brown version when they rereleased it the following year!
What has made you decide to start selling off your collection?
I feel like Supreme has taken over my house now. When there’s an entire room of your house full of clothes, shoes and accessories, it’s time to take action and look at what you really need and what you don’t. Nowadays, Supreme is a global brand with millions of devoted fans worldwide, many of whom were either too young or not even born when I first set foot in that little single-door independent skate shop back in 1994. I feel like it’s time to pass on all those historical products to the new generation of Supreme devotees who may not have been able to access them before.
What makes ‘Wilson’s Vaults’ a unique collection and retail event?
In 2018 anyone can call themselves a “Supreme Collector” – if you have the money you can purchase a collection via various online outlets. The thing that makes this collection unique is that it’s all come from time of release over the last 23 years which makes a genuine timeline of the brand’s history in products. I have well over 1,000 Supreme items for sale ranging from tees to sweats, shoes to skateboards, jackets to hats, accessories to stickers, all directly from Supreme.
Before the retail event kicks off online, I will feature a selection of some of my favourite products at an exclusive exhibition in London. I will be taking over The Idle Man’s retail space in Leather Lane to curate a timeline of key Supreme products from my personal 23 year archive for the public viewing. It’ll be exciting to see all these great designs displayed in gallery format before they go on to their new owners.
How hard was the decision to start selling it?
I’ve been with this brand from pretty much the beginning and it’s been a major constant in my life for the past twenty years, so it was a difficult decision to sell so much of it. Supreme to me has never been about a tradable commodity like it is to so many people nowadays. I’ve never been one of those dudes to flip products for resale. To sell this gear, I wanted to do something special with it which is why I’m hosting the physical exhibition as well as the online sale.
What are some pieces that you’ve held back?
I’ve held back around 20-25% of my personal collection – some old Box Logo tees, a couple of hats, a jacket, some sneakers and a few trinkets. Some of the more recent stuff I’ve kept too – the key pieces from the past few seasons.
Why The Idle Man?
I looked at so many options when I started planning this over a year ago. Firstly it was going to be entirely a physical sale like a pop-up, but then that felt a little unoriginal and boring. I wanted to be able to combine an exhibition style element to complement the online retail aspect, and The Idle Man came through with an offer to host both. I really liked the vibe and approach to their online content and they were genuinely interested in telling my story and history with the brand.
Working with The Idle Man has been great, the team here are really excited about the project and together we are creating what I hope to be a great visual project and unique shopping experience.
Having been a close friend of Supreme for over two decades, how have you seen the brand develop and grow in that time?
James and his tight-knit team have taken Supreme on an incredible journey from single-door independent skate shop to a leading global lifestyle brand. It’s been fascinating to witness, to be honest. I have to give credit to the dude for sticking to his core beliefs and never really watering down their output for an easy sell. Everything they put out has some kind of link to someone in the Supreme inner-circle which keeps a constant authenticity to the brand.
Once Supreme’s popularity started to significantly rise in the mid ‘00s, most companies would have capitalised on that success by expanding their output. However, James took the cautious and credible approach by withdrawing wholesale channels and retaining full control of the distribution. In that respect nothing has really changed for Supreme – they may have VC investment and more eyes on them than ever before but it hasn’t really changed the core ethos of the brand.
One of the most significant signs of how the times have changed is the case of French luxury brand Louis Vuitton threatening Supreme with a ‘cease and desist’ lawsuit in 2000, only to then approach them for an official collaboration in 2017.
What are your thoughts on Supreme once this project is over and all your stuff has gone to a new home?
It may sound weird to talk about a brand in this way, but Supreme has been a pretty big element in my life over the past two decades. I’ve met so many great friends and had so many good times on my travels, and much of that came out of that little skate shop on Lafayette Street in one way or another. No matter how big they become, to me, Supreme will always be rooted in skateboarding and that’s how I’ll always think of it.
I have the utmost respect for James and how he has slowly built up this incredible brand in the most organic and credible way possible. I’ll continue to follow Supreme’s journey and as long as they keep producing such creative and interesting products. I’m sure I’ll continue to keep supporting them for years to come.
Finally, is there anyone in particular that you want to thank?
Wow, there’s so many people to thank. I’d like to say a special thank you to everyone at Supreme, past and present, for all the holds, hook-ups, gifts and good times over the years. James, Gio, Jagger, Moya, Alex C, Angelo, Alex D, Ryan, Liz, Chris, Pooky, Neal, Charles, Pryce, Ty, Miles, Akira, Dave, Josh, Martin, BB, Christine, Samir, Tino, Karim, Kyle, Jin, Steve and Logan. Thanks to the whole crew at The Idle Man for their enthusiasm, dedication and hard work with this project, it’s been a pleasure to work with such an awesome team.
I’d also like to show my appreciation to everyone at Highsnobiety Berlin & NYC for giving me the best global platform to share my knowledge and experiences with this brand. Also special shout-outs to Fran Cutler, Blake Sabbath, Ben Hitchborn, Max Baines, Michael & Richard at The Hideout, Andrew & Simon at Fly, all the Supreme community who support me online and last but not least, I gotta thank skateboarding for bringing all of us together in the first place!
After sitting down with Ross, his passion for Supreme is evident. Amassing a collection of this magnitude many might consider an obsession, but it doesn’t feel that way after speaking with him. This is simply a man who loves a brand that has played such an important part in his life over the last 23 years. It’s a brand that Ross has grown up with, from a boy into a man, and the decision to let this go can’t have been an easy one.
There is, however, a huge sense of excitement about seeing all of these products from the past two decades presented in physical form. Personally, we can’t wait to show you everything that we have been working towards when it comes to Wilson’s Vaults. When the day comes and they are finally open to the public, I imagine that it will be bittersweet for Ross. But as he himself said, “I’m sure I’ll continue to keep supporting them for years to come.” We hope so.