A Conversation with Gabriel: Need Supply Co.

When GQ name’s you as one of the 25 best shops in the U.S., more specifically the best e-Commerce site in the U.S., you chalk that up as a huge team win. Need Supply Co. has grown to become a staple in the menswear world, stocking some of the best goods available; along with creating an online platform with more than just shopping to interest the visitor with web stories, amazingly curated lookbook videos and more. But mixed into these team wins is one key player who tends to be at the forefront of these victories. Gabriel Ricioppo has MVP-status with Need Supply Co. taking it back to Richmond, Virginia.

Growing up in the laid back surf culture of Virginia Beach, eventually mastering graphic design and working on projects for Coca-Cola, American Express and more– has molded Gabriel into a Renaissance Man, a quality needed as co-owner of a shop which our niche community has accepted as a Mecca. With hands in on the Wes Anderson inspired Spring 2012 lookbook, collaborations with Alden and the amazing Meet the Maker video series with Cause & Effect, creativity reigns supreme.

"I often make the statement I dislike everything but taken out of context you might not understand me. It's more of a desire to see things done better, from city planning to the water glass at a restaurant. I'd like to see people care more."

Interview by Nick Grant
Photography by Need Supply Co.

To Gabriel Ricioppo & the team at Need Supply Co.

Need Supply Co.

I know you had been hanging around the shop, back when you moved to Richmond in 2005. Can you talk a little about how your friendship with the shop curators and eventual employment, came to fruition? What did you see around the store that you thought you could immediately contribute to?

I had just moved to Richmond, VA via Atlanta, GA. It was a bit of a transition time and I was freelancing on various design projects, mainly remotely. That left me with a bit of free time, so I would walk up to the store to visit some of my friends there. I was doing my own line of t-shirts, pillows and various other items. The opportunity came up to redesign the website and basically one thing led to another. I've always been a fan of the store, so managing the entire creative process was pretty fun. After art directing the brand for a year I became a partner.

Growing up in the surf culture of Virginia Beach must've opened your horizons to many different outlooks on life. Could you touch on your experiences growing up in a certain lifestyle and how those experiences may have helped to lead you down the path you're on right now?

Growing up in the surf industry was really good for me. I always thought I'd have a clothing company one day but shortly after high school I moved away from the beach. What I took away from it all was the importance on brand and culture. I saw a lot of similarity in the surf brands, sometimes being more defined by the guys they sponsored. Traditionally I've gravitated to the smaller, independent or non-conforming brands. There is definitely a part of me that's jaded toward anything normal or common. I often make the statement I dislike everything but taken out of context you might not understand me. It's more of a desire to see things done better, from city planning to the water glass at a restaurant. I'd like to see people care more.

You mention your love for smaller, independent and non-conforming brands. With these criteria, what are some of the brands you gravitate to and how much of a say do you get in trying to stock them within the shop? What other standards are you looking to add– knowing how they will fit in to the Need Supply Co. aesthetic?

Smaller is all relative. We're a small store but sometimes people assume it's a larger operation. I think it's interesting when there is passion behind a product or brand. We work with some of the largest companies, like Levis or Nike, right down to the smallest where it's one guy making goods in his spare room. Cultivating some of the smaller or more independent lines has been a focus over the last few years. I'm fortunate, being able to bring in the ones I'm interested in. Typically, there is something genuine about them, hopefully with a little edge. Karl, from Rogue Territory is a good example, he's making great stuff but it isn't everywhere. As for aesthetic and standards, it's a bit of a gut thing, something has to interest us. Then it has to make sense to our customers.

Since you work a lot with the online content of the site, how have you felt about the success Need Supply Co. has received through the online presence? And what do you think it's most attributable to what helps the website as a whole stand out?

Our exposure over the last few years has been great. We are in a smaller market, so the site has put us in front of a lot of new people. There is something really interesting about Richmond and we're trying to show it. My background is in design, specifically web and branding, so we've been able to leverage that. We're very hands-on with the process, from print to the site to the images we create, it all matters. There are a lot of ways to stand out in the world, we've always tried to do it in a subtle way.

Seems like everything has worked out swimmingly for you guys so far. What does the future hold for you and Need Supply Co.?

The future is still in the works. We're rolling out a few last pieces from our spring/summer concept. Planning for fall now and starting to prepare for our next catalog shoot. I'd like it to be more of a magazine than a catalog, so we have a lot of work to do there. We're looking forward to new creative, growing some in-house ideas and always trying to stay excited about what we're doing.