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Musicians using merch to help promote their albums is nothing new in 2021. In fact, it’s more shocking if it doesn’t happen these days. Some artists do it better than others (we’re looking at you Travis Scott). But the merch is always a bit more memorable when it feels authentic to a particular artist and not just an album cover slapped on a Gildan blank.
When Migos dropped their highly anticipated album Culture III in June, they did exactly that, by releasing a special capsule in collaboration with Gallery Dept., an up-and-coming luxury brand from Los Angeles that has become a staple in the wardrobe of the Migos and countless other rappers as of late.
Josué Thomas founded the brand in 2017 to fuse his passions for vintage clothing and art into one cohesive vision. Both were influences of his parents growing up. They each were artists and his father, Stefan Gilbert, even operated a womenswear label for a brief period of time. Thomas has said in past interviews that his penchant for vintage clothes came from liking the unique quality of the aged items in his parents’ closets. “I’ve always loved collecting and seeing the aged pieces of clothing my parents had,” he told MR PORTER in 2020. “You know, my dad’s old boots, Converse, and motorcycle jackets. Early on, I had an aesthetic for certain pieces and I loved something weathered or aged. It has a character, a personality to it.”
Before he operated his own brand, the 36-year-old Thomas worked at Ralph Lauren in his 20s. As one of the few Black employees, he quickly realized that the only way to climb the ladder of the fashion industry would be on his own accord. He began making one-off reconstructed vintage pieces and in 2016 sold a poncho he had made off of his back to Johnny Depp’s stylist. By the following year, Gallery Dept. was officially underway.
Virgil Abloh was one of the earliest adopters of the brand who could be seen on numerous occasions in his own showrooms wearing one of its faded hoodies or flared Carhartts. “He’s a perfect example of someone creating their own path from a community that hasn’t traditionally participated in fashion,” Abloh said in a 2020 New York Times interview. “I see Josué as making a new canon of his own, showcasing what Black design can do.”
The brand specializes in reinterpretations (hand-painted alterations by Thomas have become the most recognizable) of vintage items like workwear pants with flared bottoms, distressed denim, T-shirts, hoodies, and more. It currently operates a retail store in Los Angeles on Beverly Boulevard. The space is the same location where each item comes to life with the help of tailor Jesse Jones, thanks to expert tailoring and other alterations like distressing and patchwork. Given the craftsmanship and unique nature of Gallery Dept.’s pieces, the prices are steeper than you may expect. For instance, a pair of flared sweats costs $895 and a sun-faded hoodie will run you $495. But don’t expect to see those price tags if you shop at the LA flagship. “If the first thing you look at is the price, it’s going to alter your thinking about a piece,” Thomas told the New York Times.
One of its biggest innovations has been its LA Flare denim that debuted in 2017, a stark contrast from the skinny silhouettes that have dominated modern men’s fashion for the better part of the last decade. The flared look was introduced at a time when people were looking for something new. Now, with the baggier look back in vogue, Thomas’ flared bottoms have been a go-to for plenty of rappers. His merch with the Migos even included flared denim and sweatpants. The brand’s mission is, “to create compelling product without sacrificing quality or artistic integrity.”
Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff aren’t the only rappers supporting the brand right now though. While its rise has been steady since starting just four years ago, it seems like recently a new rapper is spotted in one of Gallery Dept.’s signature splatter painted sweatsuits every other day. It’s growing in other ways, too. Earlier this year, it debuted its first official collaboration with French fashion house Lanvin one month before the release of its Culture III capsule, which hints that collaboration could become more frequent moving forward. Its wholesale partners keep growing too, with boutiques like The Webster, MR PORTER, LN-CC, and Farfetch all carrying its products at the moment. Given the brand’s recent uptick in exposure, we decided to highlight how a handful of big names are wearing their pieces.
Take a look at how some of your favorite celebrities have been rocking Gallery Dept. below.