MR-PORTER has launched a new brand called Gallery Dept. that is the brainchild of designer Josué Thomas, who has never stopped creating since he was a child. For most of his life, he has been working in the fashion industry, spanning its studio, workshop, and showroom in Los Angeles.
You would be half right if you thought Mr Thomas’ chosen profession was inevitable based on the family business. In his role as a painter and graphic designer, his father never encouraged him to pursue a creative career, but he always made sure he had supplies available when he needed them. Mr Thomas states he doesn’t remember him sitting down with him to train me or explain anything to me. My passion and natural affinity for creating and painting have always existed, but I’ve not only always had the materials to do so.”
It was even his older brother who encouraged him to participate in sports with some success. He was a kid doing this stuff, and he imagined that he would do this, but everything seemed to lead back to art. “I sketched Nike shoes a lot,” he confesses. During that time, he does not consider anything else.
Many of the pieces deconstructed and reimagined in Gallery Dept Clothing are sourced from vintage brand, which was a passion of Gallery Dept.’s growing up. This was the effect of his parents, according to Thomas. He developed an appreciation for vintage clothing during his childhood. His collection of antique clothing date back to his father’s boots, Converse, and motorcycle jackets. He developed an aesthetic for certain items early on and enjoyed weathered and aged items. These items have a character and a personality.”
It can be described as neither a gallery nor a department store, but rather a clothing label that bridges the gap between streetwear, denim ateliers, and vintage stores and tailors. Josué Thomas, the designer and illustrator behind Gallery Dept. whose own creative impulses are equally diverse and layered, would also be an accurate way to describe the project.
Although many smaller labels have gone into retreat this summer, Mr. Thomas’ label has not only survived, but thrived during this challenging time. As a result of Gallery Dept. ‘s hoodies, logo tees, anoraks, and flare-cut jeans – all of which were designed and painted by Thomas on upcycled or dead-stock garments – becoming unlikely streetwear art objects, Gallery Dept. moved from a crowded workshop to its new location.
It is not uncommon to see collaborations and merchandise drops in this corner of the fashion industry, and corporate collaborations have become more prevalent than ever before. On the other hand, Gallery Dept. is somewhat of a bespoke operation that offers basics in streetwear with a distinctive artistic touch (in this case, Mr. Thomas’s).
Mr. Thomas, who recently toured Gallery Dept. ‘s new space, said that the expansion was funded by the company’s online sales this past spring, not by investors or venture capital. Because of this, he and the label, which now employs 12 people, can conduct business according to their own esoteric terms. This is not an unprecedented situation. There are no mirrors in the store’s dressing rooms, so there’s no way to verify that the clothes fit. Prices are not displayed on the garments, nor is it able to determine whether a piece is good or bad.