A Conversation with Gabriel Ricioppo of Need Supply Co.
Situated within the Carytown district of Richmond, Virginia, Need Supply Co. has long been a mainstay to the local retail and fashion scene since its inception in 1996. Having recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, Need Supply Co. has seen a substantial expansion having evolved its staple brick & mortar boutique to a widely known, and well-respected online store. Despite the prevalence and importance of an online/e-commerce presence in the modern retail landscape, it can often be a treacherous path down which many independent boutiques tend to shy away from. Or in the case of those that do make the attempt, it is often a struggle to stay afloat. One of the pioneering forces behind Need Supply’s success, Creative Director Gabe Ricioppo and his Carytown team have managed to maintain a degree of authenticity and originality throughout every step of the store’s evolution, effectively cultivating a global audience without neglecting the shop’s cherished local clientele. From retail to collaborative design projects, Ricioppo discusses his perspectives on the menswear scene in the greater Richmond area, the shop’s 15th anniversary, the store’s buying strategy, as well as offering some insight into how he manages to keep a pulse on local and global trends and the intermingling of the two.
Virginia’s approach to menswear… like any state is going to vary. There is a large rural area, with a few densely populated cities. Even in Richmond there are several subcultures. The past couple decades were extremely punk-influenced, but we’re seeing something different now, there is more appreciation for quality products. Traditionally I think Virginia as very classic, with a Southern influence, but we stock a mix that’s probably fairly contemporary.
A 15th anniversary for us… was a memorable milestone. It shows the store’s relevance locally and now to a larger audience. A lot of things change over 15 years, and being able to adapt is really important. History also gives you something to talk about over dinner. The best part is we’re still doing new things all the time.
Helping in the design process for collaborations… gives us a chance to tweak an already good thing, just a little bit, for our customers. We also learn a lot through these opportunities, understanding more history about a company, product or material. The story, why or how something originated, is a special thing.
Retailers offer an eye for design… when it’s important to them. We see design, brand and product equally important as the other. If you’re going to say something, make it smart, beautiful and please keep it simple.
Need Supply Co.’s philosophy towards buying… slow and mindful might be it. We often watch things for a while; try to understand if it makes sense for us. It’s almost like a recipe, getting the mix right, between all the various parts. As new things evolve, we get excited just like everyone else – it’s just important not to get caught up in something because it’s shiny and new.
Some of my favorite brands… are driven by people who see a bigger picture, create things I appreciate, don’t settle, push for something better and do it because they care. I like the little guy, but also like it when a large company is able to keep its authenticity.
The principle to choosing brands is… quality across all parts. We look closely at the brand itself, the people behind it, the community excited about it, and always the products they produce.
The online marketing strategy… means everything you do matters a little more, because you aren’t able to interact with people the same way you can when they’re in the store. We have to create friendships through images and content, and hope they understand our point of view without actually having a conversation about it.
Staying in tune with local vs. online trends… has always been very important to us. We have a lot of conversations about Richmond and how it’s a part of the brand. I think a lot of it comes from the people who work here, push and remain excited about what we’re doing. We’re fortunate to have a creative city, a college with a strong art department, and good food.
If we weren’t store owners… we’d go back to running a design studio, have more conversations about opening restaurants, travel for pleasure not to find clothes, relax a little more over the holidays, miss the excitement around new seasonal deliveries, and probably talk about opening a store.