Chris Gibbs is the founder, owner, and head buyer of Union Los Angeles, one of the dopest stores in the world. So when Heineken was looking for a dude to head up their "#Heineken100" program, it only made sense to re-enlist the man with deep connections and vision (for example, he brought Visvim to the U.S. market). Using relationships he's fostered since the days he worked under James Jebbia, this year the #Heineken100 program and Chris Gibbs partnered with Mark McNairy, Neighborhood, Kill Spencer, and Haze to produce four super-limited items that will be sent to only 100 of the coolest dudes in the world.
So what does it require to make the cut? Chris gives his take on what the label-du-jour "Influencer" means to him, and why these brands are the ones that people would actually want to wear. He also waxes poetic on the romanticism of regionally unique style, and the sleeper hit of the capsule collaboration. Cross your fingers and hope you made the list, and even if you didn't, this interview gives some insight into what it takes to direct one of the most innovative stores in the world and lead a global cool-guy initiative.
What can you tell me about this #Heineken100 program? I mean this year in particular.
It’s our second year doing it. The first year was an amazing success, as far as I’m convinced and I think all involved would agree. The first year we just did the Mark McNairy shoe. Basically we didn’t make enough. I had so many requests from people who just couldn’t get it, which is always a good thing. I was really happy from beginning to end with the whole process. Heineken gave me my room to kind of do what I wanted to do. Everyone was happy, Mark made amazing product and we got it out to some really cool people.
We want to make something that 100 of the coolest people in America are getting gifted and I want to make sure that they like it and they want it and that they are going to use it. To me, this project fails if the guys who get it just put it in their closet or even on their desk. I want them wearing it. So that’s the number one thought process to me, I want to make sure that the people who are getting this, the coolest people, appreciate it and wear it and use it. That happened last season, so this season we were able to double down or I guess quadruple down so we’ve made not only the shoes, we also added in denim from Neighborhood and a bag from Kill Spencer. There’s also going to be an art angle to it so Haze is doing a 100 custom pieces and we were able to expand on last year. So I’m really excited. This season has come out great again and I think everybody is going to be really happy.
So I know you’re boys with Mark and you guys go way back. Do you have pre-existing relationships with Kill Spencer, Neighborhood, and with Haze? Did you seek them out or was there a process of choosing who to work with?
The clothing part was more me, and Heineken has a pre-existing relationship with Haze. I know Haze and I know him and I love that he’s apart of the project so I was totally down for it. I’m a big fan of bringing an artist into this because it’s a little bit different than clothing and designers. I wanted to give him the most freedom so I’ve been the least involved with Haze. We talked yesterday for an hour and we were hashing out ideas but at the end of it, I expressed to him that, "Hey, this is what I think we should do but at the end of the day you’re the artist, it’s your art. Do your thing." And I already know, it’s not as if I’m saying that to some crazy artist that’s going to come with some crazy shit like I already know that Haze is going to come with the dope so I’m not really worried but also not as involved with Haze.
With the other products, it was all me and my pre-existing relationships. We [Union Los Angeles] do not carry Kill Spencer as a brand but a mutual friend put me and Spencer in contact a long time ago and we’ve kind of had a relationship from afar and we’ve kept in touch. He started out doing this kind of custom bag line where he caters to everyone's individual needs. You go to him and have an interview with him and explain everything you travel with, what you do, and all other specifications and he makes it for you. That was how I first got introduced to him, but he’s obviously expanded his label because he’s making his very own ready to wear bags and phone accessories and all that king of stuff. The Kill Spencer piece that turned out to be one of the better parts of the project. I’m happy with all three of them but he’s just so awesome to work with. He’s gone above and beyond, we’ve made a bag that exceeds the value of the price that we put on this stuff. He’s made like a super luxe, super dope bag that I think is going to be this season’s kind of like sleeper. A lot of people might not have heard of him but after this bag comes out, people are going to be all on it.
...we have to make something that the guy who has access to the best stuff in the world will appreciate.
Then with Neighborhood, obviously we have carried Neighborhood for over ten years at the store and that was an easy call. I used to work for James Jebbia, the owner of Supreme. The advice he had given me a long, long time ago was to buy from people what they do the best. And for this project I’ve been able to wither that down to Mark who kills it with the shoes, Kill Spencer who does bags amazingly, and Neighborhood's denim. They are now like a very diverse brand but what made them "them" was their denim program from early on.
This project got from everyone what they do the best.