Launched in 2005 after a meeting of three creative minds – Greg Lucci, Jon Buscemi and Greg Johnsen, Gourmet occupies a niche position in street wear, one where high and street culture are looked to as equal sources of inspiration, channeling an aesthetic influenced by Italian American lifestyle in all of its excesses and grit.
Since the brand’s foundation, Gourmet has been adopted as a cult favourite by those with a discerning eye for a brand that advocates more of a cultural sense of purpose than your average T-Shirt ’n’ sneaker line.
Jump forward to 2014 and the authentic lifestyle that Gourmet was founded on still lingers. The apparel and accessories range has given way to more of a solid focus on sneakers — some silhouettes of which have become classics in their own right — and Lucci now stands alone as both the designer and the face behind the brand.
Fresh off a busy 2013 (a year which saw numerous collaborations, product launches, editorial coverage and travel), we managed to catch up with Gourmet’s main man himself while he was visiting London at the tail-end of the European menswear circuit. During the course of our chat, Greg discussed the brand’s background, where it’s heading and what to expect in the near future (definitely stay tuned), as well as talking us through Gourmet’s Spring/Summer 2014 offering.
2013 was a big year for Gourmet in terms of collaborations – can you talk us through some of those?
2013 was good. We had the Black Scale collaboration come out which was good – l like to collaborate with friends. A lot of the collaborations Gourmet do are based of friendships or close relationships. I think a lot of people collaborate once, but we like to keep doing them.
So we’re going to see another Black Scale collaboration this season, right?
There are a couple. There’s some Summer stuff and some Holiday stuff.
How about the Young Jeezy collab – the Croc Pack – how did that come about?
Those were shoes we had in the line and Jeezy’s been in and out, wearing our stuff since the beginning. We got in contact with him and he was really feeling the brand, and we thought it was time to really expose the relationship and the basis of it. The croc stuff just happened to be his favourite in the line and we kind of told the story of that.
Let’s take it back slightly, to when you were starting the brand back in 2005 – did you have a mission statement in mind? Were you looking to fill a gap in the market?
Yeah, we were. Our brand was founded around a couple of things; Italian American lineage and the highs and lows of everything – fashion, life – things of that nature. From a style perspective we always found the beauty in both really cheap things and really expensive things, and trying to find a way to put that all together was our thing. But the bigger statement was trying to offer that at a price that wasn’t at the top top but wasn’t dirt cheap, so pretty much anyone could afford it. So when we started, you know, we were doing American sportswear but out of Italy, with big factories – like the Dior factory, or Missoni or Loro Piana. And we made fine jewellery and sneakers. So at first we were trying to show this high-low format through clothing and jewellery and sneakers, and then kind of started re-formatting everything into sneakers. We were showing how you could take a beautiful fabric from Italy, import it, make a shoe, but have something that everyone could afford.
Was that a natural progression? To start focussing more on sneakers?
Absolutely, that was the breath of the brand. When we did apparel we were definitely ahead of the curve, you know, making hoodies with Loro Piana eight years ago… people weren’t ready for it. We were ahead with a higher concept, so we re-formatted it all into footwear. As a business model it made sense; at the time, doing fine jewellery like we were, it might as well have been from outer space, but sneakers sold for us.
On that note, what are your thoughts on street wear today?
It’s obviously more eclectic in terms of the genres it draws inspiration from, and I really appreciate that. I think the trend has always been you either want super high-end things or really cheap things, and a lot of people still haven’t come around to this philosophy that we have, where we’re borrowing elements of high and low and putting them together, but I still think this is the right place to be. We’re right in the middle.
From a product perspective, certain Gourmet silhouettes have become quite classic, almost iconic. On the product front how do feel the brand is developing?
I think one of the things with footwear that is interesting is that we’ve always done athletic stuff – things you can actually train in. We kind of give you a more fashionable version of that, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less functional. And I guess that’s something I want to market a little bit more, the fact that people put our footwear on for many different reasons, but they’re not just to look cool – I mean, you could be that guy and that’s cool – but the fact is that they function, and that’s something that sets us apart with our footwear in this industry. Gourmet has made functional stuff from day one and that’s a road we’re going to keep going down.
Can you take us through the Spring/Summer 2014 collection?
For Spring/Summer 2014 we expanded our women’s range a little bit. In terms of fabrics we’re still working with a lot of imported fabrics from Italy, Japan, again working with a range of high and low. With the success of the 35 silhouette we’ve brought in another low-top running shoe based on that. The Quattro Skate is back. We’re also starting to take another shoe we’ve been known for, the mid-top duck boot, and we’ve redesigned that into our running tooling to make it more athletic but with the same exact aesthetic, which we’re really excited about. The Cork came back but instead of last season’s primary color paint, we’re using primary color fabric swatches inlaid into the cork. Also another Black Scale collab, this time with orange snakeskin.
Can you name a favourite for the season?
I’m very excited about the redesign of the Quadicci on the running sole – the Quadicci Lite – I’d say that’s my little baby.
Are we gonna see the Dignam make a comeback?
The Dignam is making a comeback, actually! Again, it’s been reformatted on the super-lightweight running tooling. It’ll be here the season after this season [FW14].
Any other collaborations or exclusives coming up that you can talk about?
We’re going to get back into clothing. Starting off with printables and then moving into a bit of cut-and-sew late ’14 and early ’15, back to where we started. There’s gonna be plenty of new collaborations this year and then into ’15 a really big collaboration that I can’t talk about.
Yeah, it’s coming – this one goes back to my freelance career. Footwear and apparel. I don’t think people are gonna see this one coming.
Photography: DK Woon / SLAMXHYPE
Thanks to a number of names*