For Supervsn's First Store, Gavin Mathieu Chose Slauson Over LA's Other Retail Hubs. Here's Why.

Supervsn's founder discusses his latest milestone, leading with experience over product, the state of streetwear in Los Angeles, and more.

Edy Perez / Via Edy Perez

The location of Supervsn's first flagship store located at 4440 West Slauson Ave. in Los Angeles’ View Park neighborhood has a deep connection to fashion. It used to house a women’s clothing boutique owned by Carolyn Shaw, a major figure in the neighborhood who has operated numerous retail shops over the past 40 years. The store was Tina Turner’s safe haven, and Ray Charles and his wife were repeat customers. Before his death in 2019, Nipsey Hussle was looking to move his Marathon clothing store into the space. Gavin Mathieu’s Supervsn is the latest chapter.

“When I came over here to look at this space, [Shaw] actually told me she had been looking for a men's clothing store to open up here. She showed me this space. That really stuck out to me,” says Mathieu. “One of the biggest things was that this was a space that [Nipsey Hussle] was actually looking at to move his store to just before he passed. My relationship with Nip and him just being a homie of mine, it felt like it was meant to be.”

Entering its fourth year of operation, Supervsn has been able to flourish thus far without a physical retail presence. But Mathieu says a flagship store was always in his plans. 

“The internet is really congested with a lot of shit,” says Mathieu. “Having something physical separates the people that are just online brands versus a real community, a real movement.”

Unlike most Los Angeles-based clothing brands, Mathieu didn’t take Supervsn to a popular retail block like Melrose, La Brea, or Fairfax. Before starting Supervsn, he operated a retail space for his brand YOUth on Fairfax from 2013 to 2015. During its two years of operation, he learned a lot about the block.

“I think Fairfax served its purpose as far as inspiring the next generation of creatives that something like this is possible. But I think the problem with Fairfax was it was not inclusive. It was a lot of hype and it was exclusive,” says Mathieu. “There's no longevity in making people feel insecure about themselves. I think that was the problem with Fairfax. And I noticed that early on.”

By putting Supervsn’s store on Slauson Avenue, he's choosing a neighborhood he's more closely connected to. “You can run straight to La Brea and you could pay an arm and a leg for rent. You're gonna get that foot traffic, but it's gonna be people that may or may not know your brand,” says Mathieu. “When I'm outside [of the Supervsn store], I run into five or six different people that I grew up with, that know the brand, that are super excited, and I can tell are as proud of it as I am.”

In addition to selling Supervsn’s latest drops, the store will also be home to a rotating gallery to host local artists and events. A fridge will serve drinks and eventually maybe even house Supervsn beverage collabs. A lounge area filled with a curated selection of reading materials like South Central Is Mecca will rotate quarterly to give visitors a reason to stick around after they make their latest purchase. For Mathieu, the store isn’t simply a hub for transactions. It’s a way to foster a community. 

“Having a space, I can ideate experience first and then product second,” says Mathieu. “I want you to stick around. It's a destination. Come kick it. Go get some food next door. You never know who's gonna be DJing here on a random day. It's gonna be that type of vibe.”

The interior of the store is meant to fuse South Central’s essence with some of Mathieu’s favorite design styles: Brutalist, Bali, and mid-century modern. Co-founder of Noah and creative director of Dream Awake Design Estelle Bailey-Babenzien helped achieve his vision. “All of those little details that I may not be thinking about, she understands when it comes to retail,” says Mathieu.

A singular wooden wall is meant to resemble his grandmother’s house where he first printed T-shirts as a kid. Lime green tiling accentuates pillars overhead. The giant image behind the cash wrap, like many elements of the store, will be modified frequently. Noguchi lamps nod to the Japanese retail that Mathieu says informed a lot of what he wanted to do with the space. Fittingly, a photo of Nipsey Hussle will be framed in the store as a small tribute. But his contributions to the brand go beyond just physical memorials. The ethos of what he represents and what he stood for is woven all through the brand and why we chose to do it here,” says Mathieu. 

Ahead of the Supervsn’s grand opening, we sat down for a video chat with Mathieu to discuss his latest milestone, Los Angeles’ streetwear scene, and more. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How does it feel that you've been able to grow the brand to this point now where you can operate a flagship store in just a few years?
Honestly, it all feels surreal. I just set out to create something that was meaningful and special for my crew of friends and creative homies. People always used to ask me, “Are you gonna ever open the store?” I was thinking like three, four more years maybe, but I didn't imagine that it would be now. It’s a beautiful feeling because everything feels like it's falling right in place. The team is strong right now. The location is perfect. People are all super excited about it. The product is there. 

Why did this feel like the right time?
Anything I've ever done over my career has been very community based. Everything I do is really about connecting with people. When the pandemic happened, we weren't able to do a lot of that. I think now having a space, I can ideate experience first and then product second. We'll be doing installations almost monthly. And our product, when you see it on the internet, it's flat, but when you see it in person you can touch and feel the quality and details. For me, that's important because we put a lot of attention into the product. 

You had a storefront on Fairfax a handful of years ago. What did you learn from that experience that helped you prepare this one?
A handful of different things. But a few really stand out. One, just making sure that I had the right team to support me. Back then, I was young and I was designing everything, I was shooting everything, and I was running the store. And then two, I think just taking my time with it. We signed a lease here six or seven months ago. We didn't rush into the build out. We did everything very intentionally. And it shows. I think when you see the store, you'll feel that.

Can you talk about the significance of Slauson Ave. and putting the store here versus Fairfax, La Brea, or Melrose?
Honestly, going straight to my people and to the place where I feel like was sort of my launching path for my career. When I'm outside, I run into five or six different people that I grew up with, that know the brand, that are super excited, and I can tell are as proud of it as I am. The intention, detail, and love that we put into the store I think is gonna really resonate with the community.

Did you ever consider another spot or did you know from the jump that this location made the most sense for you?
During planning we considered different things and weighed the pros and the cons. You're coming here with an intention to spend some time here. It's not a lot of foot traffic. You’re coming here to see Supervsn. I prefer that type of customer, the customer that knows what they want.

You mentioned you're going to have the gallery component in the space in addition to the retail section. Can you just talk a little bit about what you plan to do with that space?
We'll be doing all different activations. My whole thing, I lead with experience first. I lead with the story first. Before I even think about a product, I think about the messaging and what does that world look like where this product lives. We're in a creative community. What better thing to do than tell your friend like, “Bro, I got a spot, let's do something. You don't gotta pay for nothing. Let's just do something dope.” To be that catalyst is really important for moving the culture forward.

Are you going to do that type of curation on the clothing side of things too? Will you sell your friends’ brands or smaller brands in addition to Supervsn?
It could be a clothing pop-up. It could be an art installation. It could be a programming thing for our foundation. We'll also have different accessories and home goods from other brands and designers here. We’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with these people when they come in here. Let's do a Supervsn collab. Maybe let's put it in Union as well. This space isn’t the only resource for the community. We’re just bringing it into the fold. 

You brought up Union. You're close with Chris Gibbs and have worked with him on projects in the past. Given his success with Union, did you bounce ideas off of him and did he help you visualize what you wanted to do with this space?
He gave me a lot of good advice. He's definitely been a big mentor and advisor, especially when it comes to retail. He was one of the people that I weighed out the pros and cons of things with. You can run straight to La Brea and you could pay an arm and a leg for rent. You're gonna get that foot traffic, but it's gonna be people that may or may not know your brand. That has a positive side to it. But at the same time, what feels good to us is putting it in the community that inspires me in everything that I do. He was like, “Yeah bro, go with that. That makes all the sense in the world.” 

When you were coming up, what was the importance of physical retail? What did visiting those places teach you? In the back of your head, are you thinking how you're playing that role for a new generation?
Fairfax in LA was the streetwear retail hub of the world. When I was a kid, going to Fairfax was like leaving our world. It was like leaving this side of town to experience something different. It was cool and I loved it. But there was also a thing about Fairfax that I don't really subscribe to and it's that hype shit. It's that hype fucking cool guy shit. So, coming from my side of town and going over there, I did think it was really dope to see everybody hanging out. But niggas was calling shit streetwear and are not really from the streets. It was just different to me. I couldn't really understand it. 

What about the term streetwear are you not necessarily a fan of?
I'm not a fan of the categorization of T-shirts to just be considered streetwear. People like to frame things to call it streetwear when it's associated with people of color. Nobody looks at a Louis Vuitton T-shirt and calls it streetwear, but the minute a Black person or a brown person makes it, it's considered streetwear. Just stop putting us in a box. I’m going to present at the highest level to take all doubt away from anybody's mind. This is not some low end whatever the fuck type shit you wanna frame it to be. This is not no hood shit. This is some fly shit. This is to be respected at the same level of design that you respect any of these other luxury brands. It's coming from a Black man that reps South Central. Put some respect on it and know that it's got a lot more history than just a little kid who wants to make some T-shirts. I'm not a fan of how people like to frame that word and use that word to dumb some shit down.

So, do you consider your brand streetwear or do you categorize it as something else?
I don't categorize it at all. We're a brand. I don't know about this categorization shit. I don't subscribe to that. Call it what you want to. Like my grandfather said, “I'm whatever color you want me to be. Just gimme some money.” [Laughs.] 

Do you think Fairfax is dead?
I think Fairfax served its purpose as far as inspiring the next generation of creatives that something like this is possible. But I think the problem with Fairfax was it was not inclusive. It was a lot of hype and it was exclusive. That was the word of that fucking generation, exclusive everything. But that backfires on you. You weren't really cool. You just made us feel like we wanted to be a part of that. 

I'm not trying to play mind games and act like I sold my shit out in two minutes. Supervsn is for those who fuck with Supervsn, period. If that's on some cool shit, on some positive cool, there's longevity in that. There's no longevity in making people feel insecure about themselves. I think that was the problem with Fairfax. And I noticed that early on. It was kind of corny.

How do you feel about LA’s current streetwear scene?
I think it's great. I don't have anything negative to say about anybody. I want everybody that's creating here to believe in themselves enough to believe that you can take it beyond here. I think it's a really prime time for LA creatives to take their shit global and stamp their flag in fashion. We have a perspective too, Black and brown creatives too, put your shit out there on a pedestal and make sure people respect it. That's my hope for everybody. Anybody creating with positivity behind 'em, I'm for that.

What’s one piece that you have featured in the space that stands out to you?
There's this really dope book called South Central Is Mecca. It’s like a history book of South Central. It has all these crazy photos and it talks about what some of these businesses were before. It talks about how the Black community was thriving in these areas and how certain things happened over history that tore these neighborhoods apart a little bit. It's a very rich history throughout South Central that I think is important for people to know. So we're gonna have that book available. It's just little things like that, man. We want the outside world to look at our community and look at South Central and not think it's just gang banging and drugs. My grandfather and his brothers all own businesses. That's where I got my entrepreneurial spirit from. 

Other than the store, how do you feel Supervsn has grown lately?
Oh man, we're definitely experimenting with some new cut and sew. We're definitely experimenting with home goods and accessories. Having the store is going to give people an opportunity to see how we are approaching that a little differently than somebody else. And more than just products. In-person events, live experiences, things that we can connect with people and lead with the experience. 

You have an ongoing partnership with PacSun. On the distribution end, you work with Triple7. As a growing brand, when did you know that it was the right time to take on those types of partnerships and how have they helped you take that next step?
The PacSun partnership was a good starting point for creating a line that we can tie back into our foundation and give the proceeds back to the things that we care about, which is supporting emerging creatives. That's really what that collection is. We give 4% off the top of all those sales to paid internship opportunities through our foundation. So for me, it made all the sense in the world to build that around something that I really care about. We'll be growing it and scaling it beyond PacSun this year.

Working with Triple7, it just helps get the brand out there. We're still very hands-on. I ideate with these people on how we can create that experience for the customer. I never want to lose that part. I think that's the big thing when you go to distribution is it just becomes a product on the shelf. I don't want that. I'd rather be in less stores and be able to curate the experience more. 

Can you talk about your work on the White Men Can’t Jump remake and seeing the Supervsn logo all over the movie?
That was wild. Calmatic and I go way back, so if he calls me it's automatic. Whatever he needs, I got him. I know the attention to detail and care that he puts into any project. I trust that. So, he hit me up about some creative for the basketball tournament moment. What would it look and feel like? That's easy. I've already imagined these types of things in my head, so I just went to work and I designed the entire [Village Classic] tournament. I designed the court and all of the jerseys for the teams. He wanted it to feel like Supervsn was a presenting sponsor of this tournament. I didn't do any of the banners. They added all of that. I didn't know what to expect when I went to the premiere. I left that shit and I felt like I won the Super Bowl. The Supervsn logo was everywhere. I was kind of blown away by that. 

Do you want to create the Village Classic in real life?
I would definitely like to see it. I would definitely like Complex to sponsor it and help pay for it. [Laughs.] I pushed for that tournament to be a thing. I tried to get a park in LA for them to make that court. They just couldn't get the budgets done on the movie side. But it's not over. I still got the design file. [Laughs.]

Would you like to work in the film world more in the future?
I'm definitely working in that world more. Top of last year, I told myself I wanted to design bigger things. I've done a couple billboards. I've done some murals. I want to build worlds. That's why I created this store. There's Supervsn clothes, but what does Supervsn’s store look like? What do Supervsn beverages look like? I want to create that world. 

When it comes to growing your brand, do you want to get your brand as big as you possibly can or do you still believe in a certain level of scarcity?
We definitely want to grow the brand, but I want to grow it with the same purity that it has now. I just don't want to ever lose the quality and the intention behind it. As long as I can be a part of the design process and be like, “This is what it's supposed to look and feel like,” we could do something. There's a kid that only has a Walmart in his neighborhood. I could design something for him. But when it gets to the point where I can't touch it or my internal team can't really support it, then it's not really Supervsn.

I know you're obviously focused on getting this store open now, but do you envision a Supervsn store in Tokyo, London, other parts of the world down the line?
We definitely gonna do that a hundred percent at some point.

This is obviously a big milestone for your brand. What’s next?
Man, my homeboy just got an Emmy and I went to this little bar with a group of friends of mine and had drinks and I laughed at myself like, “Man, I never do this. I never take a minute and just celebrate the win.” So honestly bro, I'm just gonna soak this one in and take my time with it. Just take a breather.

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