meet the man who traveled to every supreme store and wrote a book about it
I read, therefore I am.
SupremacistYou're Not Much Use to Anyone
is a novel written by David Shapiro. It follows a character, also called David Shapiro, as he sets out to visit every Supreme store in the world (apart from Paris, which opened after the book takes place). He takes along his disinterested friend, Camilla, and together they explore the collector fetishism behind the most coveted of streetwear brands. It's Shapiro's second work of semi-autobiographical fiction — his first, , charted his experience as a blogger who finds viral success (something the real David knows a thing or two about, the fever surrounding this piece enough to make him, shall we say, unwelcome at Supreme's New York store) — and in its minimalistic prose, philosophical tone, and properly addictive quality, it's a fitting ode to world the brand plays into. Oh, and there's tons of nice pictures of Supreme stuff in it, too. We chatted with real-life David about it.
What's Supremacist all about?
It's a novel about a drug addict obsessed with the men's clothing brand Supreme trying to find meaning and companionship by going on a trip around the world to every one of the brand's stores.
The book has been described as both "semi-autobiographical" and "semi-fictitious." Have you really visited every Supreme store?
Yes, except the Paris store, which opened after the book takes place. Regarding the line between truth and fiction in the book, it's important for me, personally, to explain that broad swaths of the book are entirely fictional. Certain parts are demonstrably true through a quick Google search, but much of the rest is not. Sometimes, I'm afraid that the only thing this book has going for it is the fun of trying to determine what's real and what isn't, so I will leave the ambiguity intact here.
So, why does book David decide to visit every store?
The narrator understands Supreme as — in addition to being a purveyor of skateboarding-inspired men's clothing — a long-term conceptual art project. Supreme is a puzzle to solve, and each store is a piece. I didn't see it as materially different from, for example, a book involving the life of an artist where the narrator visits the galleries where her work is shown. The narrator is also interested in satisfying his curiosity about the brand — the same instinct I think that drives people to, say, sleep on the street outside the store or post thousands of times on message boards about it.
And what does he discover?
A few things about Japan and maybe something about himself and his traveling companion, a character named Camilla. Beyond that, hard to say. In some books, characters go on journeys where they learn, grow, etc. In real life — or at least in my real life — it takes years or decades for material learning and growth to happen, if it ever does. I think the book reflects that.
On Amazon, it says the book "is equal parts travel diary and love story for the internet age, where a logo replaces the crucifix." Is Supreme the ultimate internet age brand?
The only brand that I can think of that inspires anywhere close to the degrees of fervor and reverence that Supreme does is Apple, and even Apple isn't quite Apple anymore. The answer to your question, I think, is yes. I don't believe I could have written a similar book involving any other brand. Let me know if you can think of one.
Can you explain the hype?
I disagree with the use of the word "hype" in this context if it suggests that there is something artificial or faddish about the brand. I would call it popularity. Supreme makes powerful products — more aggressive, clever, thoughtful than anyone else. The quality has been more or less consistent for 20 years. The products are fairly priced. The brand is careful and is not desperate to sell itself to you. I believe that the people behind the brand are in it for the money to a lesser degree than any other business I'm familiar with. There is something very special going on with Supreme. Plus, everything and everyone else just sucks. Nothing cornier than brands. These things explain the popularity of Supreme.
Is the book just for Supreme heads or will you like it even if you get all your clothes from Marks & Spencer?
My publisher, who is in his late 40s, was not familiar with the brand before he read the manuscript. The book doesn't presuppose familiarity with the brand. I'm more curious to know what readers who are not familiar with the brand think. Additionally, the book is a novel about a trip around the world whose destinations include every Supreme store, not a history of the brand or similar. I don't have the book in front of me, but I think there are several chapters that contain no mention of Supreme at all.
Are you really banned from the New York store?
Banned is a strong word. I don't think they have a picture of my face behind the cash register. I think it's more accurate to say that I am not welcome. I understand that. Supreme does its business and I do mine.
Text Matthew Whitehouse