Union has been open since 1989, with Union LA following in 1991, and now, one of the most influential boutiques in the world is finally launching an in-house clothing line.
The inaugural collection is scheduled to arrive November 16 in LA and at Union Tokyo when it opens in March. The 10-piece assortment is comprised of a blend pieces that owner Chris Gibbs believes is missing from the market, in addition to styles that more accurately represent the Union aesthetic.
Items include tapered pants, sweatshirts and boxy chore jackets that are a clear nod to Gibbs' personal uniform.
The painted lookbook for Union's first-ever collection — courtesy of artist Delfin Finley — stars actor/activist Jesse Williams, model Alton Mason, Gibbs' two children, and himself.
In addition to the lookbook reveal, the Union shop owner recently got together with GQ to dish on the transition. Below we've in turn highlighted a few excerpts from the conversation, which you can check out in-full here.
On waiting until 2017 to introduce the line:
"The boring version of that answer is just the capital. I took everything I had to buy the store [in 2004], and for the first 5-6 years of owning the store every penny went back into it. And not a lot of stores have successfully made the shift from just doing wholesale to their own brand. Do you want to go buy a Barney’s branded jacket? Maybe you do, but you’re not really going to commit to the brand. So it was also about figuring out the right way to navigate something that nobody has really done successfully, which is a multi-brand store doing their own brand."
"And the more interesting answer is, quite frankly, my wife Beth was just like, You’re an idiot why aren’t you doing this? She literally pulled five things out of my closet that I wear every day as my uniform and was like, You make your version of these."
On getting customers to commit to the in-house brand:
"We haven’t launched yet, so we don’t really know [laughs]. My big thing since taking over here has been usually when I fall in love with something in here, 9 times out of 10 the fabric is what gets me. I’m a sucker for good fabric. So the really important thing to me was to try to get really good fabric. Outside of fabric it’s the fit. If you look at the difference between high fashion and men’s contemporary, at least historically, high fashion’s got those silhouettes just dialed in."
On navigating a brand via social media:
"Quite frankly, I was just going to make good product and put it out and hope somebody bought it. Which sounds really naïve and stupid, and it was actually my wife Beth who was like, What are you doing? Those days are over. She’s the one who came up with getting [the lookbook] painted."
On if he sees the brand taking over the store one day:
"Truth be told, it might not be happening today, but the market trajectory seems to be moving against the traditional wholesale model. So I would say we’re hedging our bets, because the market isn’t working toward a place where wholesale will work."
"Raf makes something dope, we buy it, we sell it. But Raf can do his own website and you can buy it straight from him and skip the middleman. But there’s an argument against that, too, because we’re bringing a certain point of view that maybe Raf doesn’t have to a different customer. And we’ve been very blessed that people want to come get it from us. Plus, we have a provenance and people trust our taste. So it’s still working, but it’s definitely trending away from that a little bit."
"We want to stay true to what we’ve been as long as we can, as long as the market allows us to, but inevitably we’d like to have a section of Union stuff in here all the time. I don’t want you to come in here in 5 years and we don’t carry anybody else’s brand. I always wanted it to be a mix. We’re just trying to create things that we don’t see in the marketplace."
In related news, Union recently joined with Noah for an "Anti Nazi" capsule.