Interview with Need Supply Co. Creative Director

Apr 10, 2014


Lately there has been a surge in companies sprouting up with the main objective of curating the lifestyle of refined, urbane gentlemen. This trend has risen mostly because men have realized that they can still be manly and masculine, yet also be particular and meticulous about how they present themselves. Need Supply Co. is one of the names that’s way ahead of the curve in this arena. Since 1996, the Richmond, VA based outfit has been providing men with a rich and textured blend of vintage & modern clothes and lifestyle accessories, all selected with a nuanced and design-focused eye. American made pieces from names like Gitman Brothers Vintage and Steven Alan are presented alongside forward-thinking, foreign brands like Zanerobe and Cuisse de Grenouille. A high emphasis is placed on craftsmanship and the innate design quotient of each item. We reached out to Gabriel Ricioppo, the creative director of Need Supply Co. to find out more about the company’s winning formula.

What was your journey to becoming Creative Director of Need Supply Co. – did you come from a fashion/merchandising/buying background?
I grew up surfing, and I give it a lot of credit for teaching me about brands. There isn’t a huge difference between two t-shirts, so the brand and culture become very important. Back when I was a kid I thought I’d have a surf company at some point. I moved away from the beach and decided to study design in school, focusing on the Internet. If you get me talking about it I’ll get all nostalgic because I cut my teeth online. There was an amazing design community back then, pushing the internet and discovering new things through the process. After having a design studio for several years I transitioned to Need Supply Co. full-time.

With so many retailers on the internet – what do you think it is that makes Need Supply Co. stand apart and be successful?
We see ourselves as a lifestyle brand, not just a retailer. We take a big picture, well-rounded approach to our customers and their lives to build something that’s more than just a website. We place a strong emphasis on community and creativity.  The store has been in Richmond, VA for seventeen years and there is a great culture in this city that has supported that. I think we’ve been successful in getting that culture through across a digital medium. It might be a bit of the “inmates running the asylum,” but we’re just trying to keep it interesting.

Is there an overarching philosophy you adhere to in picking the brands you decide to carry on Need Supply Co.?
I wouldn’t say there is a specific protocol to reviewing new brands but it’s usually pretty apparent when someone cares about what they’re doing. How they present their brand is important because it directly reflects us. We look for products that we find interesting and we think will resonate with our customers. I think it’s important to listen and watch the entire landscape of our industry, it’s common for us to watch a company for a few seasons before we bring it in.

What is the DNA of the male shopper at Need Supply Co. – are they hipster-leaning, vintage lovers, older, younger etc?
I think our customers are conscious shoppers. They have a good idea of what they want and care about the thinking that goes into it. We attract people who are design focused because of our store and brand. Our customers also look to us as resource for new and interesting things.

How do you go about creating a viable, fresh and unique online presence for Need Supply – is it through original content, social media etc?
I think it’s all of it. We support our social channels and care about our blog content. We’re into the idea of living a good life and we try to share that. We’re big fans of the merchandise in the store; in a lot of cases we’re the customer also. From that excitement for the product, we’re driven to share it.

What are some of your personal favorite men’s brands/accessories currently being offered at Need Supply Co.?
I have a lot of Gitman shirts in my closet and I’m always excited about a new pair of Common Projects. We recently launched a collaboration with Rogue Territory called Wash Me Over, and the trouser will get heavy use from me this summer. It’s a lightweight chambray washed down, perfect for the hot summers in Virginia. I probably get the most comments about my Babar shirt from Soulland though, people really love that one.

What do you do on your downtime and off-time to keep yourself energized and creatively inspired?
When I’m not working I’m usually doing something with my wife and daughter. Something is wired in me to create things, so I’m constantly thinking of new projects. They don’t always have to do with the store, but that’s where I’m focused right now. Fortunately I’m fascinated by a lot of topics; technology, clothing, design, architecture, food and I think that’s what keeps me inspired or interested. My focus can be on something as simple as a paperclip. I’ve found some in Europe that I can’t find in the US.

Lastly if there was one mantra or quote you live by which you constantly rely on in your creative life – what would that be?
Create beautiful things.

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