Exclusive: Chris Gibbs Talks Union LA x #Heineken100 Collaboration & More!

On Thursday September 24, Union Los Angeles hosted Heineken’s One Hundred event, which is an exclusive program that celebrates Heineken’s creative collaborations with various hand picked artists from different industries.

These pieces are separated and distributed to 100 influencers and tastemakers that comprise the #Heineken100 seeding list. The Reverse Weave Jersey Blazer was the collaboration piece between Chris Gibbs and Heineken and was the focal point of the event. Heineken’s trademark green hue lit the room as their lager beer was heavy in rotation along with music from Dj Abjo courtesy of Soulection.

On this very special list, The Knockturnal was able to interview none other than the host of the party and owner of Union Los Angeles himself, Chris Gibbs. Read our exclusive interview below:

What was the idea behind the collaboration you did with Heineken?

I’ve been working with Heineken. This is the fourth season. Basically the concept is to produce some garments that they seed out to 100 people who they consider to be tastemakers or those that are molding the market for them. So we produce something that we can give out to them. It’s kind of like a thank you for supporting the brand, while being more creative. So when they pitched it to me, I thought it would be fun. From there, I reached out to a number brands that we sell in here and friends of mine that also have brands to come together and pretty much made what we want, which ended up being really cool.

We’ve made some dope products and I always trying to make something and Heineken has allowed me to do this as well — I’m not trying to make something that has Heineken written all over it because it’s something that somebody is going to wear. My hope is that somebody get stopped and asked, “I like the jacket, I like those glasses or whatever” and they say “oh that’s something that Heineken sent me for this project.” So it’s a little bit more subtle kind of marketing as opposed to it has Heineken written all over it and it’s ugly and you would never wear it and they’ve allowed me to do that. So it’s been fun.

And how did that collaboration come to be?

I’m good friends with a guy who works with them on the marketing side. He’s a fan of the store and as he has explained to me when he’s working with these brands he hears the problems that they have, he hears things that they want solved and it’s his job to go out there and find solutions, and it just so happens that I guess I was one of the solutions.

Speaking to Union’s influence on not just street wear culture, but culture as a whole what type of position do you feel like Union holds on fashion, music and entertainment.

It’s something that I definitely acknowledge and I take pretty seriously. I’ve always wanted this store to represent the city. I’ve always tried to do things that represents either the culture of the people and the fashion. I think at the very least we’ve been apart of this kind of “California look” which is very casual because it’s 70 and sunny every day and most people don’t work on Wall Street where they have to wear suits. It’s also high-fashion because people want to flex and floss, but it’s also street because it’s an urban center. I definitely think that there’s a look that’s been developed here in the city and I’m proud to be the store has been of that and be a hub in the center of it.

With that how are you constantly bringing together brands or just ideas and aesthetics for the store? A big influence is Japanese culture and European culture. 

It’s one of those things where we kind of started something. I’m getting older now, I’m 40. We started when I was 20 something and I’ve always tried to keep a youthful spirit to it even though I’ve gotten older, even though the the store has gotten a little more sophisticated and older, our customers have gotten older, I’ve always been mindful that we’re a youth store. We may not carry the same T-shirt, hat, sweatshirt, skateboards that we used to, but we still have a youthful energy. Some of the clothing still represents that, so we still have some younger international and Japanese as well as American brands that are for a 16 year old. Even the older or more sophisticated brands that we bring in have a kind of a young energy to them that I like to bring in.

There’s certain brands that we don’t have that we could be selling really well, but to me … it doesn’t represent who we are. I always keep in mind at the end of the day at the core of what the store is — is it’s a youth driven store, then you just make the decisions from there whether a brand, line or designer has that same energy.

Also speaking to the fact that initially you were looking to be a teacher does that have something to do with trying to give back to the youth/

I mean if it does it’s probably very indirectly. … I don’t think that way, but the brands that we carry by default need an education, we’re bringing in stuff from Japan.You need to understand it, so I suppose maybe it may be in the back of my mind subconsciously. It’s not direct but at the same time I suppose I’ve always been a curious person and I’ve always wanted knowledge. I’ve always been thirsty and whatever I’ve been into I want to be into the right thing to have the knowledge behind the right thing and so that part of it is carried over too. I’d like to think that the clothing that we carry is special and has a story to it. There’s a lot of attention to detail and information has to be shared for someone to be willing to spend a little bit extra for it.

And even at the beginning before we were selling a $600 button-down shirt from a Japanese brand. Even early on in Union we were selling a $32 T-shirt, when T-shirts are $20, and why is that? You know a lot of the times early on it wasn’t because the quality is better, it’s because this is a young independent designer who’s not making one million of these T-shirts. It’s not Nike … it’s not mass-produced, it’s a young dude that’s making it on his own … this person is making 100 of these T-shirts and we’ve been able to cultivate a customer who appreciates something special and unique.

What are some things that are really on the forefront for Union as a brand?

I just think that we’re constantly trying to offer something that isn’t always readily available on the market so we’re always looking for the next new thing. It’s difficult to find because it’s not out there but once you see it, it’s not hard to recognize. The other day someone asked me what’s your ratio on picking the sh*t that’s going to blow up and at first I was like it’s probably horrible. Then I was like actually no I always know what’s going to blow up, that’s actually quite easy but there’s only three of those things on any given year and it’s unique and special, so recognizing them isn’t hard, but finding them is because they’re not around.

Lastly, what’s up coming for Union that people should look out for?

Next spring we want to start doing our own in-house brand to make our own stuff, so you’ll get our point of view. I’m excited about that, but I’m scared at the same time. You know it’s easy to pick someone else’s stuff, it’s harder to make your own. For sure, that’s not my pedigree. I’ve been an editor and a curator for a long time. It’s going to be new and I’m sure there’s going to be challenges, but I’m also excited to give our point of view especially nowadays because the market is so saturated. It’s getting harder and harder to be an editor and a curator and be unique because the minute we decide on something that we think is a new direction, with the Internet and the global economy and market, the very next day, the next brand has it and they’re possibly doing it better.

I recently did an interview and it was a whole series that they did on “The Mind Of A Buyer” and they asked other buyers, the buyer at Colette and Tres Bien about what their process is for buying and everybody has a different process so it was cool. I read the comments after and everybody was like “well all these stores carry the same sh*t” and they were like “that’s whack.”

I wanted to be like you’re right but think about why that is. If I go buy Brand X and it’s hot, every other store in the world wants it and that brand wants to be in every other store. These stores have built themselves on being a place where they want those brands to be finding them.

Having been around for 20 plus years Union Los Angeles is world renowned for its aesthetics and their premium selection. Known in the fashion world as a go to specialty spot for high fashion street wear, causal dress wear and everything in between, Union’s culture and lineage will keep things fresh in the coming years.

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