Can Supreme survive its acquisition by VF Corp?

Many are wondering what the news of VF Corp’s acquisition of Supreme means to the brand. The bigger question is what it means to the future of fashion. The signals tell us that there is a lot of work for this to be successful.

At some point a brand just becomes a cheap logo. Younger fashion consumers are numb to the lack of imagination in fashion retail at the moment. For them, thrift and resale has taken on a new meaning. Brands like Depop are more Supreme than Supreme now. The younger consumer is re-seizing the role they play in the fashion system. Innovation will rely on recognizing their involvement and that cycle of meaning to know where both Supreme and fashion as a whole will go next. And, no, it is not as simple as “let the customer design what they want.” They know they want inspired thinking. “What does that mean?” is the big question.

Mapping the culture of a brand as a system of human ideologies and stories helps us assist clients in getting ahead of cultural changes and their broader implications. A former subculture brand moving to more of a brand license means looking at the sustainability of the acquisition and how it is handled from the start. 

Companies too often make fatal mistakes by buying into trends too late as they become obvious to see. Their process is one of autopsy. Popularity is a signal of dilution as much as it is growth. The reason these mistakes are fatal is because they are being conducted after the fact of former success. There is no room for vision. Investor needs are easily met by reaching back to what worked before. The consumer rhythm of engagement is one of asystole. There is no electric and they walk away.

 Supreme’s recent successes has actually been the harbinger of Supreme’s decline and the rise of other more localized global fashion trends. Supreme has not been Supreme for some time. The pandemic has accelerated the fragility of brand engagement in new ways prior to COVD-19. The inability for wealthy consumers in China to travel has changed the nature of fashion social currency in those growing markets.

 That is not to say there are no opportunities here. The price of entry in buying this brand begs the question of what you get. I am reminded of the failed acquisition of Tiffany’s earlier this year. What do you do with it once it is yours?  

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