Before there was Supreme, there was Union. Opened in New York City in 1989 by James Jebbia and Mary Ann Fusco, the store went through several iterations before Chris Gibbs, an Ottawa-born skateboarder and fashion enthusiast (who had worked for Mr. Jebbia at Union), bought the store’s La Brea outpost in Los Angeles in 2008.
Since then, Mr. Gibbs has transformed Union from a street wear boutique to a men’s wear destination, specializing in Japanese designers. In November, the 43-year-old entrepreneur and father of two took on a new métier: designer. For the first time, Union has created its own private label, called Union, that includes well-washed jackets, jeans, trousers and hoodies, all made in Japan.
Why launch your own line now?
My wife was frustrated because we’re a store that has a huge résumé of breaking new brands, and then these new brands go on to leave us in the dust. She kind of forced me into it, and grabbed the things I wear all the time. We want to offer our point of view.
What is that point of view?
For instance, I’m a big chore-coat guy; the Bill Cunningham kind of jacket. If street wear does a chore coat, they’re going to throw a bunch of graphics on it. High fashion makes it into an art piece. What we’re really good at is showcasing the classics with a twist. It’s a three-quarter-length jacket and I wanted something more boxy, something shorter and wider. I was big into a wash. We found this dense, cotton twill fabric in Japan. If you want luxe fabrics, you go to Europe; Japan takes work wear fabrics and treats them like luxury.
Making it all in Japan, that makes it expensive, no?
It does. I said to hell with our margins for this first collection. I want to get some things out there that I’m proud of.
So is this the new Supreme?
Wow. I have to tell you: I don’t like that question. But I don’t think it’s unfair. I used to work for that company. I don’t think we’re the new Supreme. There’s a part of me that would love to be the new Supreme, but I’m coming at this from a different place.
You know the saying, "All press is good press!" And continuing with highlighting some of the major coverage surrounding the launch of our private label, we share with you the latest entry, from none other than The New York Times. Coming through with a brief Q&A, check out the interview down below.