Every streetwear boutique is successful for a different reason: KITH makes its bread on limited-edition sneaker releases and Ronnie Fieg X EVERYONE collaborations. Bodega Boston uses secrecy to assert their “coolness”. Dover Street Market is both a playhouse and the best place to find androgynous products. colette does a million out-of-the-box collaborations on just about everything imaginable (shoes, sunglasses, chairs, plates, scooters).
But what about Union Los Angeles, the street and high-end fashion store that’s been a go-to outfitter for the in-the-know since 1989?
Union first opened its doors on Spring Street in SoHo, Manhattan, as “a place to showcase what the local community of kids were up to with music, art and fashion”. But when co-founder Eddie Cruz took his life out west to LA, he brought the Union idea out with him, opening the La Brea Ave location that is the boutique’s one remaining storefront.
Ownership rights then passed to Chris Gibbs, who worked as a kid at the original NYC shop, and he’s the man behind the brick-and-mortar showroom now. But, ok, that’s the story, but what’s the story behind the story? Why is Union Los Angeles so damn successful?
Union made its name offering a selection of impossible-to-find fashion staples from around the world. Before the internet was a thing, Union stocked the kind of Japanese and European brands that you simply couldn’t get anywhere else. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find another retailer that has a better relationship with visvim (Gibbs and Union presented a visvim Trunk Show back in 2013 and continues to offer access to their newest releases).
visvim Trunk Show Presented by Union Los Angeles
We frequently focus our profiles on the collaborations that helped propel our profilees to streetwear success, but surprisingly enough, Union Los Angeles doesn’t focus much of its energy on traditional product collaborations. Yes, Gibbs and his team do them — the Union x Converse First String 1970s Chuck Taylor All Star Collection, the Dr. Romanelli for Union Los Angeles Summit Collection, the Union X Heineken X Mark McNairy Saddle Shoe — are three wildly dope examples (see gallery below). But by-and-large, Gibbs’ artistry lies in his ability to curate products that his loyal customers continue to buy. It’s small batch. It’s exclusive. It’s always something rare.
And Gibbs has fun with it. Back in 2012, Gibbs styled USA soccer star Clint Dempsey; if you want to see why people love working with Gibbs, just watch the video.
Union’s Chris Gibbs Styles Clint Dempsey for Nike
Yes, before the internet even existed, Union was the only place you could find pieces from foreign fashion houses. But now that the Internet does exist, and you can basically order anything from anywhere at any time of the day, Union continues to thrive. How? It goes back to the store’s founding concept:
“Buy brands that we will wear ourselves and clothes that walk the line between fashion and function, avoiding the ‘costumey’ side of fashion by offering classics with a twist”.
Bring them beautiful, unique and exciting products and they’ll reward you for it. Gibbs knows this. His Union team knows this. And that’s why every time you visit LA, you go to Union Los Angeles.