A Conversation with Chris Gibbs
Many striving retailers often struggle with uncovering their target demographic’s always-evolving tastes. Setting the men from the boys, the shops that manage to stay relevant through the cloud of contemporary trends do so by enlisting a buyer with a natural inclination for style. Case in point Union Los Angeles. Bringing the encompassing retailer to California by way of New York, owner and buyer Chris Gibbs leisurely studies fashion, opting rather to buy based on his personal likes, not necessarily what the market perceives to be the next major “must-have.” As a result the renowned retailer is among the more influential brick and mortars opening the eyes of its countless patrons to the various brands that innovate around the world. Having recently linked up with Hypebeast for a modest display of his everyday Essentials, fashion aficionado Chris Gibbs sits down for a introspecting interview covering a wide range of topics, both industry and personal. Exhibiting an approachable, down-to-earth personality, Gibbs talks about his upbringing, the future of retail, his stance on buying, Los Angeles, and more. Be sure to check out our earlier interviews and editorials highlighting the cool-guy swag that is Chris Gibbs.
Individuality is… key. My motto is kind of “do you.” You would be surprised to know how people seem to just organically gravitate to things that are genuine. I was blessed enough to have the knowledge of one’s self, to just believe in myself and also to have worked for a company that supported that kind of free thought.
As a kid, growing up in Canada… I had the best upbringing. Canada is a really dope country. The only reason that I left is because I fell in love with NYC and wanted to be in the Big Apple. I think Canada is in a really interesting time period right now. They have always walked the thin line of the “modified free enterprise” system. Not quite the socialist Europe, not quite the capitalist USA. As both these economic systems seem to be currently struggling….Canada might be the best of both worlds. Oh Canada!
My approach to buying… is pretty simple. Think like a customer. Would they wear this? Could they wear this? Can they get something better, cheaper? Anywhere else?
Food in Los Angeles… when I first moved here was terrible to me, but over time I have found my spots and also the cuisine has gotten better too. It’s still not on par with SF, Chicago or NYC but there are some more than respectable spots and it’s getting better everyday.
Our average customer… is someone like me. Someone who dresses themselves and doesn’t need magazines or blogs telling them what’s dope. Someone who wants something unique and can appreciate the value in what we offer, whether it be a high-priced item or something more affordable.
The perfect vacation… would be Barbados. My father is from Barbados so it would start with two parts of Barbados’s beach/water and food. Maybe add one part of a big dope exotic city…something like Rio and then add in my friends and family. I don’t know where that place is but I would love to be there right now.
A brick & mortar store vs. online… are two entirely different beasts. We have done a good job with our brick and mortar but the details that make us good there, actually hurt us online. We are great in person and anyone who shops here appreciates the hands-on approach, but we have a tough time translating the hands-on approach online. Also, “the devil is in the details” on a lot of the product that we bring in. Those details are much harder to translate online.
When I’m not at the shop… I am chilling with my family. I work long hours during the week and I am traveling quite a bit so I try and leave the weekend to my wife and kids. Nothing too exciting but it gives me a good balance in life.
Balancing mass and niche… is something I suck at! We are all niche here. It’s tough, most of the mass shit just bores me. I am a sucker for outside the box shit.
The future of retail… is not looking good. All the big brands are eating up the smaller guys and although the global marketplace and information highway keeps everyone in the loop, it also helps keep the wack companies/brands/designers/retailers in the loop as well. It is much easier to emulate/copy and fake the funk these days. We are like the last of the Mohicans, trying to keep the world from looking like Star Trek up in this piece.
Current trends that are obnoxious, include… nothing at the moment. Honestly, we are in a good time right now. Most people have pretty decent style. Nothing too obnoxious these days, sorry to disappoint.