Peter Saville designed skateboards in LA
) - Published 2005-10-21 9:34:00 AM - 9:34:00 AM
Though I rode a skateboard when I was younger, I never actually visited skate parks or joined a crew or anything — thus, I don’t claim any kind of “ex-skater” status (de rigueur as it may be). That said, the Supreme store in Hollywood is a retail spot to which I’m, somewhat inexplicably, frequently drawn.
Supreme is equal parts art installation, skate park and skater supply depot. If one were to indulge in enough chronic, one might imagine that the store’s design, with its symmetrical displays, cavernous white walls and in-store floating pool, was cooked up in a partnership between Tom Hanks’ character in Big and Stanley Kubrick’s production designer: a postmodern candy store for skaters with Visa cards.
At first glance, when spotted amid the numerous kosher delis and council thrifts on Fairfax Avenue, Supreme might seem like the façade of a gourmet deli for pareve hipsters — but on closer inspection, one realizes that the only thing kosher about the place is its manifestation of pure skate-culture ethos and its brilliantly jarring juxtaposition of form and function.
The L.A. store is a spinoff of Supreme’s 10-year-old flagship mart on New York City’s Lafayette Street. A longtime mecca for Manhattan’s hippest boarders, the downtown store is as famous for skaters treacherously swapping tricks outside the store as it is for the collectible wares within. When Supreme’s owner, James Jebbia, originally planned to open up an L.A. offshoot, he wanted to give the place an L.A.-specific feel. He decided to feature a version of a skate bowl designed by artist collaborative Simparch, which was a centerpiece of Deitch Projects’ “Session the Bowl” show in 2003 (including artists like Barry McGee, Ed Templeton and Ryan McGinness, and an in-gallery pro skate “session”).
Berto Liechty, 29, the L.A. store’s manager, elaborates: “Being that L.A. is the place of origin of skateboarding, we wanted to kind of give something back.” Walking into the cavernous space, one can’t help notice what it is they’ve given back: Behind the counter (where other stores might have a wall display of T-shirts or customized decks) looms a raised platform that sports a skate-ably smooth whale-shaped plywood depression (picture a backyard pool without the back yard) framed with a web of crosshatched supports holding it up like a huge wooden Cross-Your-Heart Bra.
This is the “Free Bowl.”
The Free Bowl is open only to pros, staff and other specially insured guests (plebes like you and me ain’t getting a chance to break our necks there anytime soon). But it’s well worth stopping in at the end of the day just to hear a skater “in session” — a sound so overwhelming it makes you feel, Fantastic Voyage–style, like you’ve actually entered the digestive tract of a Z-Boy. And, if you’re lucky, you may even see (or hear) skate legends like Tony Alva, Jay Adams and Lance Mountain, all of whom have visited since the store’s opening in 2004.
Even without the skate bowl, the Supreme brand has always attracted serious skaters, pros and enthusiasts who value high-quality, well-designed (if a tad pricey) gear. In the last couple of years, local kids have been catching on to what international collectors (who come from all over the globe for the highly coveted T-shirts, sweatshirts and decks) already know: Supreme makes and carries some collectible-ass gear. If you’re into wearing or accumulating items in the skate-aesthetic realm, it’s pretty much your first “must visit” in L.A.
Supreme changes its clothes with the seasons. Over the summer, T-shirts and skateboard decks designed for Supreme by Peter Saville flew off the shelves — one set was modeled after the artwork for Joy Division’s debut album, Unknown Pleasures; another set featured artwork from one of New Order’s EPs. You’ll have to search eBay to get them now. This season’s hot items are authentic remakes of vintage, high- and low-top Vans’ skate shoes. Vans did them exclusively for Supreme, so get ’em while you can.
The shop carries a sparse but excellent spectrum of tees, hats, shorts, shirts, jeans, chinos, and a selection of sneakers from skate-friendly companies like Nike, Lakais and the aforementioned Vans. As for skate gear, the store carries (aside from its own label) Anti Hero, Girl Chocolate, Four Star, Rasa Libre and Diamond.
The L.A. Supreme store is a must-see for skaters, has-beens, never-weres, wannabes and anyone else who likes cool shit put together in a cool place.
Supreme Store, 439 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 655-6205.
Excerpts taken from LA Weekly.
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