This story is part of Image issue 17, “Offering,” a special gift from L.A.’s creative community to a city that seemingly has it all. Read the whole issue here.
Union’s Chris Gibbs has toed the line for as long as he can remember: How to be warm but not look warm.
It started as a kid in Ottawa, where most of the time his heavy outerwear made him appear “insulated, like the Michelin tire guy,” he remembers. “That created a certain sense of trauma. I never want to have that look.”
So in Paris last month for Men’s Fashion Week, where it was “cold cold,” Gibbs wore a knee-length, French military-inspired parka that encapsulated the form and function he’d always been looking for. The piece was sleek, with a drawstring hood and adjustable fit. It skimmed close to the body in a sandy beige color. Gibbs wore it with a heavy-duty quilted liner jacket for extra warmth.
Both the parka and the liner, dubbed the Toussaint Coat and the Breda Liner Jacket, are part of Union’s collaboration with Canada Goose in celebration of the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 19. The limited-edition capsule collection features five outerwear pieces meant to layer, reverse, detach and expand the views of what outerwear can be.
Pieces are designed to wear together in colder climates and style separately in (generally) warmer places like L.A. Energetically, stylistically, the pieces feel like Union — a La Brea fashion institution long known for its thoughtful curation and high-profile collaborations with brands including Nike and New Era — while delivering the heavy-duty functionality of luxury performance brand Canada Goose.
The collaboration started organically by way of Sarah Andelman, the longtime creative director of the beloved (now closed) Paris boutique Colette, says Gibbs. Andelman put him in touch with people at Canada Goose, which had expressed interest in working with Union. “Whenever we’re collaborating, we always try and meet the partner with something that maybe they wouldn’t traditionally do. We try and push them into something different,” Gibbs says.
The campaign, directed by co-owner and creative director of Union (and founder of Bephies Beauty Supply) Beth Birkett-Gibbs, stars musician Tierra Whack in a rhythmic dream sequence, revealing pieces in the collection through scenes, spaces and people important to the culture. This includes a TikTok, barbershop, music studio and concept shop in which characters including NBA All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet, poet Kai Isaiah Jamal, R&B duo Majid Jordan and Gibbs himself wear the collection, inspiring Whack to do the same.
Upon learning about the collab, friends asked Gibbs if they could expect a traditional Canada Goose silhouette. “And I’m like, no, we did something different. Because otherwise we’re just slapping our logo on something that Canada Goose has already done. That just doesn’t seem fun, you know? That’s not why they would come to us.”
Gibbs always designs a collection with a North Star piece in mind, and in this case it was the Toussaint Coat, the one that kept him warm in Paris for Men’s Fashion Week and the one he was wearing on our Zoom call back home in L.A. on a gray, cold day. Another standout is the Bullard Bomber, which is essentially a hybrid of a traditional letterman‘s jacket, in a nod to the NBA, and a MA-1 bomber jacket. The piece, designed by Union’s head designer Jamie Benson, is “the prize of the whole collection,” Gibbs says. Rounding out the collection is the Legion Vest in tartan fleece, available in adult and youth sizes.
Although heavy outerwear may not be in constant rotation in L.A., this city loves a good statement jacket. And we flex it when the weather drops anywhere below 71 degrees. “ ‘SoCal, it’s always sunny.’ It’s not right,” says Gibbs. “We have a winter. It does get cold. Some people come out here wanting to go to the beach in February and get a rude awakening.”
The pieces were designed with the city in mind, Gibbs says. Colorways are rich with the hues of the West Coast: earth tones, burnt oranges and blues. Union hopes the collection expands its customers’ purview to include a piece of luxury outerwear that feels like it’s for them.
Gibbs’ connection to the collaboration is undoubtedly stronger because it’s happening in celebration of the NBA All-Stars game — Union’s first collaboration with the organization. “I’m a lifelong Sixers fan. That’s my team,” he says. “Dr. J through to Iverson. That Sixers team lost to the Lakers in 2001, but they won Game 1 against the Kobe-Shaq Lakers. I always tell people that’s my championship.”
All of Gibbs’ early fashion icons were NBA players, he says. There’s something special about the access and visibility fans have to NBA players and their style.
“Hopefully, we’ll see some Canada Goose X Union in the tunnel fits.”
Styling: Keyla Marquez
Hair: Jet Presley
Models: The Bailey Twins