Streetwear style became a global phenomenon in recent decades and its worldwide acclaim has been largely attributed to men in the industry. From photographers and designers to consumers, the success of this industry is overwhelmingly credited to male figures like Shawn Stussy, Raf Simmons, or Virgil Abloh. The term “streetwear” itself was created by men as an alternative to a limited variety of male apparel, sparking a movement which heavily perpetuated a masculine lifestyle. Because of this, some people believe that streetwear is a style reserved exclusively for men. This idea has culminated in a toxic culture that erases women from its history despite the fact that women have played a significant role in the influence and popularization of street style since its inception.
Beth Gibbs is one of the many women behind the scenes of the streetwear industry who has quietly set trends for decades. As the co-owner and creative director of streetwear giant UNION, founder of her own clothing line, Bephie, and the creative director who has engineered many of your favorite ads, Gibbs is the mastermind behind the vision for countless brands that define streetwear. Though her list of accomplishments is extensive and her talent is indisputable, Gibbs still fails to receive the same respect and recognition as her male colleagues.
“The same dudes that have done what I have are a lot more visible,” Gibbs said, in an article by Highsnobiety.
As a result, Gibbs strives to bring awareness to the disparities between men and women in the industry, specifically focusing on the barriers that women of color face. Although Gibbs’s designs are gender-neutral to represent the freedom of movement, Gibbs said that her objective is to create clothing for Black women. Moreover, she views the streetwear movement as an opportunity to create a community that heavily incorporates women of color.
“Creating a brand that’s for ‘us’ by ‘us’ allows the future of young girls of color to have a lane that’s never existed before,” Gibbs said.
The foundation of Bephie is built on ideas of community and authenticity, and the brand has received high accolades for its fresh, inclusionary approach to the once exclusionary culture of street style. Featuring avant-garde, gender-neutral silhouettes that emphasize freedom of movement and core ideologies that represent freedom of thought, Gibbs’ commitment to community is apparent in her designs. Named as the “most interesting brand in women’s streetwear” by Complex, Bephie continues to open doors for any and all genders to take part in street fashion. Bephie approaches streetwear with a modern lens that is “redefining fashion, by being unapologetically, a Woman, Black, and a progressive designer,” according to Gibbs.
In addition to paving new lanes in streetwear, Gibbs is the creative genius behind numerous brand campaigns and advertisements. Most recently, Gibbs worked as the stylist for the film Native Son, and she is the current co-owner and creative director at UNION, alongside her husband, Chris. Throughout her career, Gibbs has collaborated with well-known brands including Nike, Jordan, Dickies, and Beats, and has directed a number of short films on channels such as Esquire, MTV, and Showtime. Although Gibbs’ influence sometimes goes unacknowledged, she continues to inspire the streetwear community with her innovation.