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The CFDA shakes things up

The CFDA shakes things up

The CFDA Awards are fashion’s biggest night—as close as the industry gets to its own Oscars, they’re designed to celebrate the best in American design. Last night, the nominations for Menswear Designer of the Year were announced, and they include the usual suspects: Thom Browne, Tom Ford, Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, and, because even the CFDA can’t ignore streetwear’s ascendance, Virgil Abloh for his label Off-White. But the industry group didn’t stop there—one more, and more surprising, name scored a nomination, too: the New York-based hype factory Supreme and its founder James Jebbia.

The closest precedent to Supreme is Public School, the streetwear-meets-fashion label, which won in 2014. But Public School has put on runway shows (although it’s currently shifting to a direct-to-consumer model), was sold in Barneys, and at one point its designers were at the helm of DKNY. Supreme, meanwhile, is a world apart: the brand comes from the world of skateboarding, collaborates with groups like Public Enemy, and its most desirable items are almost all graphic hoodies and T-shirts. And, yes, Supreme occasionally puts out suits and collaborates with other brands on expensive leather jackets. But the brand’s most significant contribution to the world is still a logo tee. It’s not the kind of quote-unquote proper fashion that typically excites CFDA voters.

But where Supreme has previously thrown a middle finger to the powers at be in the fashion world—in the past ripping fashion houses off wholesale without permission—it’s shown a willingness to play nice (or at least nicer) over the past 12 months. In 2017, the brand took on a massive investment from the Carlyle Group, collaborated with Louis Vuitton, and even opened an extra store in New York City so more customers would be able to shop the famously hard-to-actually-buy brand. From this angle, then, it’s barely surprising that Supreme has drawn the CFDA’s attention. Streetwear brands like Off-White are huge sellers at department stores, and designer houses like Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, and Versace are elevating mainstays of streetwear culture, like sneakers, and tacking on $800 price tags. Why not throw Supreme into the mix?

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