“We find our models everywhere from street castings, to Instagram, to different agencies that represent a diverse group of people,” Uribe tells me. A diverse cast of models is part of what makes up the core of the gypsy sport aesthetic: genderless clothes for today’s youth who are less enmeshed in defined barriers than previous generations.
“I consider myself a Chicano or native American/Mexican. I grew up in a single-parent home with a lot of brothers and cousins,” Uribe says during a small break waiting for models to arrive for their fitting, “we moved around a lot from Los Angeles, to Mexico City, to Atlanta, and back. My mom always had great personal style and she taught me to dress myself and my little brothers. She really informed my sense of style and urged me to be very expressive. Growing up in the late ‘80s and the ‘90s meant a lot of colors and oversized everything—my hair, big shoulder pads.”
After finishing his first year in college, Uribe wanted a change in his life and bought a one-way ticket to new york with the dream of working in the fashion industry. After sending his Résume out to boutiques, showrooms, and even restaurants, a friend told him about a job at Balenciaga and he applied without many expectations.
“I was at Balenciaga for six years. First as a stock/janitor guy counting inventory and shoveling snow. I became an assistant merchandiser, dressing the mannequins and eventually travelling to Paris to be trained by Nicolas Ghesquière and his team. Finally, I became the Director of Merchandising for north America, traveling and opening new stores,” Uribe recounted. “I felt super inspired by Balenciaga but somehow I wasn’t personally happy, so in 2012, I gave up the glamor to start something on my own, something affordable and inclusive.”
His years at Balenciaga taught Uribe invaluable lessons about fashion, consumption, and the luxury business. “I learned what people like to buy and why—it’s about connecting with customers on an emotional level,” Uribe says, “every single sample at Balenciaga was a true work of art. Luxury is a way of thinking to me—it’s less about big money and expensive fabrics and more about freedom and time. I’d rather be on a boat in a cheap t-shirt than sitting at my desk in a Prada coat. I’m trying to find a way to go directly to my community and keep an honest conversation.”
Uribe began gypsy sport by making hats. “I made ethnic baseball hats out of unconventional materials, anything from African kufis to brimless Yankees caps. One of the hats was made from karate belts and those made it into a DKNY show and led to some additional collaboration thereafter with the brand. I realized that this could be a career for me. I wanted to make clothes that I could distribute worldwide without discriminating against customers by their social class or budget.”
Those clothes became a serious contender when gypsy sport was nominated for an online crowd-sourced fashion show under the auspices of VFiles—the site centered on fashion and style with a focus on unknown talent and underground street fashion from around the world. Despite having less than three weeks to make the outfits for the show in September 2013, the collection immediately defined the core Gypsy Sport aesthetic—mixing fabrics and dress components to create garments comprising a menagerie of culture, ethnicity, and gender.
In an impromptu show in Washington square park in September 2014—the first time a fashion show in New York took place in a public space completely open to a public audience—a diverse group of street-cast male models walked down a makeshift runway wearing a fresh and colorful collection that reinforced the particular vision of gypsy sport and its products while, at the same time, emblazoning the brand’s outsider status. This mélange of genres, inspirations, and moods crystallized gypsy sport’s point of view and aesthetic and—most critically— made Uribe’s fashion appealing to young people, allowing them to see a part of themselves in an otherwise often alien world of high-end fashion.
Uribe formally launched a womenswear line in September of 2015, with a show inspired by the China exhibition at the Met. Male models wore several of the “women’s” garments—like a silk at-front sleeveless tank with a fine pleated below-the-knee-skirt. “People should be able to buy clothes for whatever gender they want,” Uribe says, “I think that not labeling our garments as menswear or womenswear is just an easier way to include everyone.”
“Speaking about boundaries,” I ask, “what’s the difference between high and low fashion today?”
“My design is all about mixing too many references, adding some Diy, and bringing all of my friends into the mix. I don’t like to follow rules. Every season, I make a collection, and in the end, the person who fits it best will buy it regardless of race, or gender, or social class. The cultural and racial diversity in new york City is so inspiring as are the people that have become the gypsy sport family—a collective of amazing performers, artists, designers, and filmmakers that revolve around us.”
“I went with Rio to the 12th annual CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award dinner last November,” says Justine Skye, the budding R&B singer- songwriter as she waits her turn to try on an out t for the show, “I’ve followed gypsy sport for a while and really love the freedom Rio has in making clothes, they are so unique in their blend of urban culture.” she shows me a pic of her and Rio at the Vogue dinner.
“Does winning the CFDA/Vogue force you to focus on more commercial aspects?” I ask Uribe. “Yes. For sure the win put pressure on being a sustainable business, but I don’t want to stop having fun, so it’s about finding a balance. We are developing a new website and online store and I want to eventually open gypsy sport studio in different cities. Since it’s a community-based brand, I am not in a rush to grow too fast.”
On my way out—to attend the Alexander Wang show uptown—I see a fuchsia post-it note above Uribe’s desk with the words, “Uggs 4 Thugs” written in black felt marker. I have the feeling that, even if gypsy sport veers into greater commercial arenas, Uribe will never let go of the freedom and the creative energy that informs his unique garments.