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Headline Of The Week: Samsung Partners With Knock-off Supreme Brand

By Sarah Moran 14 December 2018
Another day, another series of nauseating news. We get it, it’s difficult to keep up with all the information out there. Sometimes you watch the news and it feels like the world is spiralling out of control (kind of like a bad hangover) and you end up walking away from the TV with a banging headache. In the spirit of public enlightenment, we bring you our weekly fun news column, where we give you the craziest international, national, or local headline from the past week — that you have likely overlooked.

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Shortly after being exposed for faking their Portrait Mode feature with a stock photo, Samsung finds themselves in hot waters over "fakes" once more. This time, involving the iconic New York-based streetwear fashion brand, Supreme. On December 10, Samsung China revealed a supposed partnership with Supreme during a launch event in China for the new Galaxy A8s smartphone, which was streamed on Weibo (China’s Twitter-like social media platform). Both streetwear fans and techies were ecstatic – until they found out one small catch. The company Samsung will be working with isn't the renowned and hyped fashion label Supreme founded by James Jebbia, but rather, a fake version of the brand. About halfway into the launch event, Samsung and Supreme logos flashed on screens behind the stage, and a Samsung representative began to talk about a crossover between the two companies. He introduced two alleged CEOs of Supreme, who joined him on stage to talk about Samsung and Supreme's collaboration, and the latter's plans for establishing a presence in China's market in the upcoming year. The fact that both CEOs were Chinese was the first giveaway – the Supreme founder, James Jebbia, is a British Caucasian. Then, some sharp-eyed internet users noticed one of the CEOs wore a jacket from Supreme Spain, a legally registered brand that sells fake Supreme products. But what made it clear that this is not the real Supreme, was when the original Supreme brand announced in an official statement on Hypebeast, as well as its Instagram Story that, "Supreme is not working with Samsung, opening a flagship location in Beijing or participating in a Mercedes-Benz runway show," as the alleged CEOs had claimed, and that, "these claims are blatantly false and propagated by a counterfeit organisation.” Samsung’s response? In a now deleted post, digital marketing manager of Samsung China, Leo Lau, responded by writing on his Weibo account, "The brand we are collaborating with is Supreme Italia, not Supreme U.S.. Supreme U.S. doesn’t have the authorisation to sell and market in China, whereas the Italian brand obtained product retail and marketing authorisation in the Asia Pacific Region (except Japan).” Supreme Italia is a "legal fake" brand that has taken advantage of the lack of legal terms around the real New-York-born Supreme's trademark. They thought they could make some easy money out of Supreme not being trademarked in all territories, and therefore legally launched and registered "Supreme Italia” using the (almost) same red box logo, white lettering, and Futura Heavy Oblique font. And, since this is a legal company that has authorisation to retail and market its products in China, Samsung's partnership with them would technically be legal. However, the fact that Samsung is knowingly collaborating with a fake company caused an uproar among Chinese internet users, many calling the whole thing a joke, a disgrace, and a reflection of China and Samsung's lax attitude towards intellectual property. It's clear that while the Chinese government may be lax about intellectual copyrights, Chinese citizens aren't as accepting. Responding to the backlash, Samsung China took to its Weibo to officially respond: "Recently, Samsung Electronics announced at the launch event of Galaxy A8s that we will collaborate with Supreme Italia in China. We are currently re-evaluating this cooperation, and we are deeply sorry for the inconvenience caused."
Supreme is massively popular in China, so it’s understandable that Samsung would want to partner with the brand. Earlier this year, a video of a group of Chinese shoppers dragging an army of Supreme suitcases in Hong Kong went viral on the internet, and apart from fake Supreme stores all over China, there was even a fake Supreme event held in China, with an actor posing as the “president” of Supreme to promote counterfeit products. Given that China produces a large amount of the world's counterfeit consumer goods, perhaps Samsung thought they could get away with partnering with a "legal fake" Supreme company. After all, it's not like they're breaking the law.

If you want to learn more about the controversies surrounding Supreme, American comedian Hasan Minhaj dives into all of it in a recent episode of his show Patriot Act, you can read about the story of how Supreme Italia came to be here, and learn how knockoffs can be legal.

Read More! In related news, read more about Dolce & Gabbana's Controversy in China, or explore the rest of our Culture section.

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Sarah Moran

Staff writer

Born and raised in Hong Kong to expat parents, Sarah grew up as your typical third-culture kid, caught between two worlds. As someone who is nosy (or just curious) and loves the written word, there was never any other career that appealed to her as much as journalism. When she’s not busy on her mission to find the line between not enough coffee and too much coffee, you can find her exploring the city or getting stuck in a good book.