Supreme New York and its hyped streetwear threads are a global identity, but nowadays if you were to see someone donning the box logo down the street, it’d be hard to tell if it was real or an exceptional counterfeit. That’s the legal battle that original founder James Jebbia has been on since 2017 when International Business Firm and its brand Supreme Italia begun nabbing trademarks across Europe and the rest of the world. Now, there are a number of brick and mortar stores around the world selling the fake product.
In December 2018, Samsung announced it would be collaborating with Supreme though unknowingly with the counterfeit brand. Soon enough, the South Korean tech giant cancelled the partnership but ultimately the sandal sparked a mass conversation over the industry of “legal fake” goods. In a race for global trademarks – of which Supreme New York was slow to obtain in the beginning – who is the mastermind behind the growing empire of Supreme Italia?
Sitting down with The Wall Street Journal, the man behind IBF, Michele di Perro has finally spoken out and believes there is nothing wrong with what his brand is doing.
“Our success is not based on the box logo. It’s the quality.” According to the businessman, Supreme Italia is simply providing accessible style to young people by selling more affordable pieces in a different range of fabrics. “When I filed for registration in Italy, I did it in good faith. I didn’t know [Supreme] even existed. It wasn’t popular in Italy. There wasn’t even a store.”
The founder of Supreme New York on the other hand blatantly disagrees. Earlier in the year, James Jebbia opened up to Business of Fashion and described IBF as “a whole new level of criminal enterprise — these complete imposters and impersonators,” he told BoF.
“People should know that the notion of legal fakes is a complete farce,” he continued. “It would be sad if a new generation believes that is actually legit,” Jebbia added, likening IBF’s ability to spread disinformation to “fake news”. “We do not do a ton of press and we are very silent. These guys are taking advantage of the… We haven’t had the time to basically go with this massive disinformation tirade or press thing which most people would.”
Di Perro is no novice when it comes to the industry but not particularly successful either. According to documents obtained by the WSJ, before launching Supreme Italia, di Pierro operated a sportswear business which went bankrupt, and was convicted of fraud in relation to that bankruptcy. Nevertheless in 2017, IBF generated £514,000 (about $679,000) in earnings, based on public filings for a portion of its enterprise.
In the latest developments, Supreme Italia had its trademark for “ITSupremeNow” stripped by the China Trade Mark Office (CTMO). The decision comes as Supreme New York claims that the IBF-owned brand was “defrauding Chinese consumers and misleading law enforcement, reporters, and even global companies like Samsung by setting up a copycat retail store.”
And the American-based label isn’t stopping there. Supreme New York is fighting the fraudsters in courts across the globe and according to WSJ, “If a brand wasn’t the first to register but is well known in a given market, it can argue that another party did a “filing in bad faith” and is causing confusion among customers, said Etienne Sanz de Acedo, chief executive of the International Trademark Association, whose members include Supreme.”