by MIKE CHAIKEN
Brothers William and Truman Rhinehart were fans of the clothing brand, Supreme.
But as much as the owners of Tristans Boutique at 86 Bank Street in Waterbury, Conn. were fans of the brand, they found themselves in a position like most consumers – they were chasing a frustratingly limited supply of garments from the highly sought-after nameplate.
However, that was part of the allure of Supreme, which started off as a merchandiser of clothing for skateboarders. The brand was later adopted by artists making rap music, which caused its cache among the fashionable set to rise even higher. People would line up around the block to get the latest drops. The brand also teamed up with artists like Damien Hirst and pop stars like Andre 3000 and Lil Kim to additional kick to its popularity.
Back in 2014, William said he and his brother watched Supreme clothing disappear as soon as the items were put on the racks at the company’s New York City store.
William, a graduate of Waterbury’s Kennedy High School, said the two brothers spoke and wondered if they should open a store where they resold the Supreme garments that they were able to buy.
“We knew that we were able to get at least a good number of pieces every time they come out, so that’s when we knew we could actually sell this stuff (and take advantage of the demand for Supreme),” said William.
Thus, Tristans was born. (Tristan is the name of William’s nephew and was selected because it sounded like the name of a high end boutique.)
There were challenges initially buying and selling Supreme from the sartorial mother ship.
“When you go up there (in NYC) and buy a shirt, you only can get one size, one color, that’s it,” said Truman, who is an alumnus of Kaynor Technical High School. “There’s a way you can get around it if you’ve got multiple people working with you to get multiple colors and sizes and stuff.”
And that’ what the siblings did.
The Rhineharts quickly were tapping into a white-hot market by reselling Supreme.
Eventually, Tristans expanded beyond selling just Supreme. They began to carry popular items from Bape and Gallery Department as well as vintage t-shirts, jeans and sneakers.
And now the brothers are looking at eventually launching their own brand.
“That’s where we kind of really trying to focus on right now also because it’s obviously it’s much cheaper if you’re doing your own brand,” said Truman.
The store on Bank Street reflects Truman’s vision for a clothing boutique.
Truman explained he liked to travel to Los Angeles and California. And he would visit the boutiques on Melrose Avenue and the Fairfax shopping district while he was on the west coast.
“You go to their boutiques, they all look like this,” said Truman, pointing out the features of the Waterbury store.
Establishing a clothing store, in a way, was a way for the brothers to build upon a family tradition.
The Rhineharts said their father was always a stylish dresser. And both William and Truman said they had a flare for fashion when they were growing up as well.
Tristans does have a customer base in Waterbury, the brothers said. But its reputation—and its marketing on social media (on Instagram @tristansclothingboutique and Facebook, @Tristans-Clothing-Boutique— has helped the retailer bring in shoppers from Hartford, Bristol and Southbury.
As far as the future is concerned for Tristans, besides focusing on their own brand, the Rhineharts said they are interested in eventually opening other locations. But they are adamant about keeping the store in Waterbury as their centerpiece.
“I would like to keep (the Bank Street location) nice and small, especially with this being our first store. Keep it nice and cozy,” said William.
As for the brand that got Tristan’s going, Supreme, this past summer it tapped a new creative director, Tremaine Emory, to take charge. Emory comes to Supreme from Denim Tears most recently. His resume also includes a stint at Marc Jacobs.
Emory’s arrival follows the sale of Supreme to conglomerate VF Corp. The owners of Vans and Timberland bought the Supreme brand for $2.1 billion.
The Rhineharts were hopeful about Emory’s impact on Supreme.
William said, “A lot of people have been complaining the last couple years that (Supreme) kind of fell off a little bit. (It was) not the quality, but more (that) the designs and stuff (were lacking). They came out with basic stuff, nothing really too crazy. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still going to sell out because they’ve got a fanbase that’s just straight loyal. It doesn’t matter if they drop a T-shirt that said nothing, they’re going to sell out.”
William added, “Hopefully, the new designer comes out with some new stuff to get the fans (excited).”