Timing is everything for Gianni Lee. The West Philadelphia-born fine artist has seen much success over the years as a fashion designer and DJ and more recently through his signature skeleton artworks. But even he will admit that things are finally starting to come together: On Friday, he will launch a capsule collection with Philadelphia-based sneaker and apparel store Ubiq.
One of the cofounders of the Babylon Cartel label and collective, Lee took a step away from fashion to focus on his paintings and fine artwork. But on the heels of his first art exhibit at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition in 2017 and a powerful show about slavery and consumerism titled “They Sat Back, They Let It Happen” in 2018, the artist is making works with garments again instead of canvas and wood.
Lee met Ubiq brand director Kyle Riggle in Los Angeles and kept in touch in hopes of collaborating. The result of the wait is a nine-piece capsule collection comprised of black-and-white graphic T-shirts and Bone Pants, featuring Lee’s signature skeleton artworks, a cobranded black hoodie, and a custom Levi’s denim jacket, all retailing between $84 and $225.
“I’m excited about the collaboration. It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a while and let develop organically,” said Riggle.
“Gianni represents a philosophy that I want to push further. Philadelphia is blowing up. Talent has historically left this city, but more recently has decided to stay and call it home,” he added. “There are a bunch of interesting people doing great things here and I believe it is our job to support it. Ubiq has been a staple here for 20 years. If we’re not supporting those that helped us build, then we’re doing something wrong.”
To further support Lee, Ubiq opened its entire second floor to the artist, who painted a mural titled “The Art of War: Archive” of skeleton characters in battle. The installation spans a range of topics, including war, black liberation, hypersexualization and its effects on people of color and society as a whole. He is also hanging previous works there that share a similar feeling and message. The space is debuting on Friday with live music from DJ Sylo, PrayForChristian and Swizzymack, and will remain open for one month.
This collaboration will not be Lee’s final foray in fashion. The artist is working with Adidas on a mural for the German footwear company’s Los Angeles store, and he has plans to revive his Babylon Cartel label that developed a cult following after being seen on the likes of Rihanna, Jaden and Willow Smith and rapper Young Thug, among others.
Ubiq also plans to continue to support Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., communities, where it opened stores, and local artists.
“We’re partnering with First Last to launch a newsprint publication, featuring 10 posters, folded into book form, showcasing four artists,” said Riggle. “After that, we’re launching a capsule with Middle Child, a popular sandwich destination.”
The boutique in March also partnered with Nike and The Boys and Girls Club to collect nearly 1,000 pairs of shoes for children.
“We’re always looking for ways to bring unique experiences to our stores, while supporting the community and pushing the boundaries of traditional brick-and-mortar retail.”