Rio Uribe of Gypsy Sport on Finding More Meaningful Diversity in Fashion

178

As many brands have begun attempting to address the systemic racism that has created a fashion industry dominated by white creatives, models, and executives, they would do well to look to Gypsy Sport as an example. Since it was first established in 2012, Rio Uribe’s project has served as a shining example of how these principles can be embedded into a brand’s philosophy from the ground up. “If I wasn’t already representing Black or trans people, then I think it would be the perfect time to do so,” he says. “But I’m glad that it’s always been part of our message—right now, we’re just speaking up a little louder.”

Rio Uribe has a clear memory of his first encounter with the world of fashion. “I remember watching Fashion TV when that existed,” he recalls of growing up in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles with Mexican parents. “I loved seeing supermodels, and growing up it was just a fascination, but there was a certain point in my youth when it clicked. I realized that everybody on the covers and billboards was a beautiful, skinny, and most likely white person, and I never fit that stereotype. So it became my mission to break into the fashion industry and create a space that was for people who were shorter or darker or fatter or queer, or whatever you might be. And when I started Gypsy Sport, I was able to do that.”

Uribe’s route to establishing the brand was a circuitous one. While he had made clothes for his little brothers all his life, it was after working his way up to a senior position in merchandising at Balenciaga that he began making his signature upcycled pieces and promoting them through Tumblr. There was a guerilla-style show staged in Washington Square Park in 2014 that truly caught the fashion world’s attention. A year later, he found himself a co-winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund’s top prize alongside Aurora James of Brother Vellies and Jonathan Simkhai.

It’s this inherent sense of inclusivity and community Uribe has cultivated around the brand that has put him in good stead to navigate the uncertainties posed by the COVID-19 crisis. “I think in the first couple of years of the brand I felt like we had a weakness, because I couldn’t secure long-term retail partners and it was hard for me to maintain a business on the wholesale end,” he says. “And so in about 2018, we decided to just go full force with our direct-to-consumer channels via Instagram and our online store. I think as a result we’re definitely better equipped for it.”