Union LA Wants to Meet the Next Generation for Spring 2024

Hypebeast spoke with creative director Chris Gibbs about his approach to brand-building, the importance of contemporary marketing strategies and his latest collection’s young persona.

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Union LA’s seasonal collections are crafted under a two-pronged umbrella: there’s the signature slew of logomanic prints that adorn hoodies and T-shirts, quenching the streetwear aficionado’s thirst, and then there’s the refined cut-and-sew garments that tout the brand’s distinguishable tailoring (a cropped, wider fit on tops and a typically slim shape on bottoms), where branding, if any at all, is buried in hard-to-see placements. In conjunction with one another, the label’s dueling product categories echo the larger Union LA identity: a curatorial, community-oriented fashion landmark, proudly sporting its own name while building a purposeful wardrobe for what creative director Chris Gibbs calls the “unboxable creative.”

It’s been seven years since Gibbs introduced his first in-house collection to the multi-label boutique’s stylish clientele. Back then, the lineup counted just 10 iterations of tapered trousers, sharp sweatshirts and structured chore jackets. Today, Gibbs’ Spring/Summer 2024 collection includes more than double that, with an evolved approach to reworking those core silhouettes. Over the course of 13 seasons, the designer’s sartorial priorities — “strong colors, classic drape and fabric selection” — remain unchanged, mostly because he believes his approach offers consumers “an option outside of what’s readily available.” He added, “We do it with intention.”

This latest collection is titled “The Courage of Youth,” encapsulating both Gibbs’ exploration of the next generation’s “fearless” creativity and a collaboration with the next-in-line on his own lineage. Gibbs hired his eldest son, Solomon, and his roommates, Ciaran, Isaac, and Alan — all of whom are fashion majors at Central St. Martins in London — to produce the collection’s campaign, shot by Jebi Labembika. In unison, they took on the roles of creative director, casting director and stylist for the shoot in London’s Kensington neighborhood. “I want this brand to feel relevant to young people,” Gibbs explained, “so this was one of our attempts to try to put forth something that was a little more youthful than what I would do.”

To draw a comparison, the clean-cut lookbook, pictured below, was led by Gibbs, and it’s clear that his visionary lens is shaped by the consumerism. (He did lead UNION’s buying strategy for several years, after all.) Here, Gibbs believes that his son and his friends’ sprightly, editorial vision platforms the brand’s cool factor for Gen Z.

This season’s cut-and-sew creations channel this freshness, with playful pieces made in cheerful colors, like soft pink, muted yellow, forest green and light blue, that draw inspiration from Gibbs’ West Indian heritage. The Rahn Cardigan opts for an open-knit construction for warmer weather, taking cues from a mesh marina tank top, while the woven Crothers shirt gives brown-and-blue gingham a pass for the heat. The Barrow Pant, made with thick cotton-poly poplin, references vintage Air Force pilot jumpsuits. “I’m a sucker for dense fabrics,” Gibbs said, holding the trousers. It’s true: the designer manages to incorporate this preferred bulkiness into many of his springtime looks, eliminating any fret for sweat by allowing wearers room to breathe.

Graphic hoodies and T-shirts play into the line’s young personality with big-thinking dreams and a strong perspective. One illustration is modeled after a movie poster, promoting “A Union Cinemas Film” titled after the collection. The made-up synopsis reads, “In struggle, one not only fights against something — injustice, oppression — but one must struggle for something equally positive.” Meanwhile, another design houses a peace sign, bolstered by “Fight The Power” lettering and the imprint’s famous words, “Know The Ledge.” Both pieces articulate an empowered message for the youth: believe in something, and challenge the status quo.

“Right now, we’re in this really interesting phase where I think the customer is going to discover who we are at the same time we do,” said Gibbs, who notes that his design tricks stem from UNION’s democratic approach to curating the stylized pieces in its storefront. “We’re a small, up-and-coming brand…and I’m happy with what we’re making.”

UNION LA’s Spring 2024 collection is available now on the brand’s webstore and in its Los Angeles, Tokyo and Osaka outposts. Take a closer look at the line in the galleries above.

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