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Gypsy Sport SS15 Dazed
Gypsy Sport SS15

Gypsy Sport step up to the plate

Rio Uribe and Jerome Williams – the brains behind one of New York's most exciting streetwear brands – on their Coogi collaboration and making hats for 'The Hunger Games'

For their SS15 offering at New York Fashion Week, Gypsy Sport took over Washington Square Park with a guerrilla show which even featured the park's contortionist dance performers – placing it in strong contrast to the week's flashier productions. Read the report here.

Gypsy Sport sashayed onto New York’s scene at last September’s VFiles’ fashion show, but the brand had already been gaining a steady rep with the city’s stylists, club kids and cutting-edge retail community through wild and witty hats that used basketball nets and karate belts, with phantom peaks and chandelier rims. Cali-born Rio Uribe founded the label in 2012 and now works with Harlem’s Jerome Williams on collections that have become firm favourites in Opening Ceremony stores worldwide. We chatted to them about collaborating with DKNY and Coogi, being repped by Rihanna and A$AP Ferg and working on the next Hunger Games movie.

How did Gypsy Sport get started?

Rio Uribe: We were taking materials that weren’t for clothing and making them into hats and clothing. I made a few of these karate belt hats and then the stylist Alastair McKimm saw it on a friend of mine and asked if he could put it in DKNY’s runway show. The creative directors at Donna Karan were super into it, so they hired me to collaborate with them on different stuff. That kind of launched us.

I first saw you at the VFiles show last September.

Rio Uribe: That was our first actual show. I definitely always wanted to make clothing and it was the press we got from the DKNY collaboration that forced us to develop more than just hats. We were nominated for the VFiles show award, but they told us two and a half weeks before the show date that we needed to have a full collection, so we had to sort everything. There’s some backstage footage of us still sewing shells onto pieces. It was fun.

How did you get involved Jerome?           

Jerome Williams: At the time, I was consulting for A$AP Ferg and I would always put him in a Gypsy Sport hat. Then at the beginning of the year, Rio and I started joining forces. We worked round the corner from each other at Y-3 and Philip Lim. Rio came in one day and was like, “Listen, there’s something I want to tell you.” He really needed someone who understood the brand and sportswear is my niche, so I told him I was down.

Rio Uribe: I think the more people involved in the creative process, the better it comes out. 'Rome obviously understands what we’re trying to do with our brand.

Does your experience on the New York retail scene help? Lots of the people working in the stores seem to want to move into design.

Jerome Williams: Yeah, having that diversity of high and low. It definitely gives you that balance.

Rio Uribe: I know a lot of people who have started their own brands while they’re still working at Opening Ceremony, VFiles or Barneys. When you see so many people buying things and spending money, you think, “I can make that!”

What other collaborations have you worked on?

Rio Uribe: We decided early on that collaboration is a statement in itself. It was great to work with DKNY, because they’re so refined and polished. We worked with Kiko Mizuhara. She’s a superstar in Japan. She tapped us because she was going to make a collection for Opening Ceremony and she wanted hats to be part of it. She wanted fur headbands in baby blue and baby pink and a few five panels with pizza print. It’s very New York. We’re also finalising designs for the next Hunger Games movie. We’re doing District 12, the poor district. Unfortunately that’s the one they gave us! We’re doing all the hats for their entire town.

Does the movie world have more money than the fashion world?

Rio Uribe: The thing is, with film, they’ll take a risk on things. They go to town, whereas fashion, people are afraid of the risk. Also, in the movie world you can have as much fun with the design as you want, because you’re creating a fantasy.

“We’re also finalising designs for the Hunger Games movie. We’re doing District 12, the poor district. Unfortunately that’s the one they gave us!” – Rio Uribe

Who has worn Gypsy Sport apart from A$AP Ferg?      

Rio Uribe: I think everyone knows now, if you see someone like Miley Cyrus wearing product, it’s generally not their choice to buy that. We want people who are wearing Gypsy Sport to have bought it, or at least asked us for it! Travis Scott, Rita Ora and Rihanna have all worn us. They’re the people who go into VFiles and take personal shopping trips.

And you’re doing a collaboration with Coogi. What are your memories of Coogi from the 90s?

Rio Uribe: I remember growing up in high school in Los Angeles, wearing a lot of streetwear, sportswear and Polo Sport. I’d told my dad I really wanted a pair of Timberland boots and he was like, “Hell no! They’re too expensive. You need to save up your money for that.” So I did. They were like $250, so I saved up a ton of money and went down to the store that sold them. I went there to buy the boots, but saw this super colourful, crazy, knitted beast hanging there. And I was like, “Oh my god wait, do I want the shoes or do I want this piece?” The sweater was a little more, so I begged my father to give me $60 extra just to get the sweater. I wish I still had it.

How about you Jerome?     

Jerome Williams: Being born and raised in Harlem, if you were wearing Coogi – along with other brands – you were it. I remember begging my mum for my first Coogi sweater. She was a hard-working single mother and I started having a finer taste for things as I got into my teens. At that time, you had to wear things XXL. There was a store on 125th Street in Harlem and my godfather used to spoil me rotten, especially if I did good in school. I was working really hard and he was very proud of me. I was like, “Please, we have a school dance, and I need to come to that school auditorium in a Coogi sweater.” So we didn’t tell my mum, but bought the sweater. The next day, I had it on, and my mother was like, “How in the world did you get that!? I told him not to do this!” I still have it today.

What have you been working on with Coogi?     

Rio Uribe: You can expect some basics. There will be t-shirts, overalls, hats.

Jerome Williams: And a beanbag! It’s crazy because I remember wearing the brand and now I’m here designing for it. And for us to be so fresh in the game, they noticed us and thought, “These guys must be doing something right.”

Rio Uribe: A lot of the branding that we’re doing will have Coogi pattern and our polka dot integrated. It’ll be in stores in January. For spring, the inspiration that we were already working with was rugby, New York and denim, mainly indigo and all the tacky over-washed, over-embellished denim. So we took those ideas and turned them into Coogi knits.