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Louis Vuitton Goes From Lawyering Up Against Supreme to Collabing With Them, Maybe

How the high-end label fused street culture into its DNA over the past 17 years.

Louis Vuitton belt Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

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It was the year 2000. We were all listening to MP3s of Bye Bye Bye that we had downloaded off of Napster while iconic streetwear brand Supreme released a skate deck incorporating its logo into Louis Vuitton’s iconic monogram.

The unsanctioned use of Louis Vuitton’s trademark pattern resulted in a lawsuit — the French label even demanded that all of the decks be incinerated, according to Complex. The Supreme site simple reads: “Recalled after two weeks due to lawsuit.” And although Louis Vuitton clearly wasn’t too pleased by this encounter with streetwear, first impressions apparently aren’t everything.

Supreme Louis Vuitton Skate Deck Photo: Grailed

Just a year later, in 2001, then-LV creative director Marc Jacobs invited designer Stephen Sprouse to create a line of handbags with graffiti all over them. (Take that, current-day Gucci.) Suddenly, the official label of reality television stars was dabbling in quote-unquote street culture. Hot, indeed.

The label also has a history of bringing on rappers to design pieces or small capsule collections. Pharrell Williams released the “Millionaire” sunglasses as well as a jewelry collection with the label in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Then in 2009, Kanye collaborated with LV on a line of sneakers named after the rapper’s confidantes — Don Crawley, his barber Ibn Jasper, and artist Mr. Hudson.

Jacobs, during his time as Vuitton creative director, was quick to recognize rappers as one of fashion’s next superpowers. His successor, Nicolas Ghesquiere, understood that power early on as well. The designer was talking about melding streetwear and high fashion all the way back in 2007, when he was still creative director at Balenciaga: “I wanted to show a luxury style in the street? Why should street wear always be casual?” he asked the New York Times. The label, like any worth its salt in the past five years, has experimented with streetwear-inspired designs on the runway. Take this Juicy-esque jumpsuit, for example.

Of course, luxury labels like Louis Vuitton have always been big in the streetwear world. Look no further than someone like Harlem legend Dapper Dan, who threw the LV monogram pattern on jackets in the ‘80s. Or the popularity of the label’s belts among rappers. They caught on because the logo is an instantly recognizable symbol of luxury — as my colleague Eliza Brooke put it, they’re basically memes at this point: signifiers immediately understood that communicate a clear message. But this love affair was long one-sided.

However, in the past year, with Kim Jones at the helm of menswear (Jones was hired in 2011), both the label and designer have really leaned into more activations within the world of streetwear. Jones’ collaboration with Nike brought the designer’s love for sneakers and streetwear to the forefront; he reportedly owns hundreds of pairs of sneakers, according to Esquire, and is a lifelong Nike fan. This has bled over to his Louis Vuitton work, and Elle even claims that he “pioneered athleisure.” That might be a reach, but he’s at least cobbled together some collabs that are keeping Louis Vuitton even more relevant in this world.

In 2016, Louis Vuitton dropped an exclusive bomber at Dover Street Market and released one collaboration before announcing another with Japanese streetwear brand Fragment Design. And of course, everything was headed exactly where it ended up today: a rumored (and presumably official) collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton. We have reached out to Louis Vuitton to confirm.

The image was posted by Supreme fan account @MrBld, who wrote in the caption that the sweater, which mixes Supreme box logos with the LV monogram, was worn at a casting for the French label. Adding fuel to the fire, Jones posted then quickly deleted an image of a Supreme sticker on top of the LV monogram. The image heated up on the Reddit subforum dedicated to Supreme, and the best thing you could say about it is at least it got people talking. One of the most popular comments compares the sweater to toilet paper, and I don’t think that’s a clever way of saying this is the shit.

Regardless, it shows how far Supreme and streetwear have come since 2000. We’re almost two decades removed from that cease and desist, and now Louis Vuitton is welcoming Supreme to its Kumbaya circle, hoping it has a short memory.