‘A declaration of what America looks like.’ Rio Uribe’s Gypsy Sport Marks a Decade of Disruption

· Updated on October 4, 2023

In downtown Los Angles, on the strip between the Beverly Shop n’ Pawn and Jollibees, a queer takeover is happening. A first-time model struts down the sidewalk in platform heels and a pleated miniskirt, transforming the street into a catwalk. A tall, elegant trans woman poses in a floor-length dress, slit on both sides, with opera gloves to match. It’s a quintessential Gypsy Sport moment.

The sun beats down on the models as they pose in upcycled denim and eco canvas. “I’m glad there’s so much traffic,” one of the models says, “because then people are less likely to say sh*t.” 

It’s true: apart from a few rude honks, those who see the sight look awed. Trans, Chicano models sporting top surgery scars, vibrant tattoos, and handmade accessories pose proudly against a loud blue wall pasted with WIC ads and embellished with a mural of the Virgin Mary. They’re here to celebrate ten years of a brand that, from day one, hasn’t made any compromises regarding realness and representation. 

Models wear upcycled denim designs by Gypsy Sport
Upcycled denim designs by Gypsy Sport. Photo by Liam Woods

When Rio Uribe founded Gypsy Sport in 2012, he was already ahead of the game. In an industry that has traditionally favored white, thin bodies and an elitist bent, Uribe’s fashion immediately stood out. His use of upcycled denim, colorful accents and patterns, and queer and trans models of color on the runway. 

“Ten years ago,” Uribe tells INTO, “I think I just wanted to create a space in the fashion industry that was inviting and safe for queer people.”

From its founding in 2013, Gypsy Sport stood for something. That year, Uribe used family and friends to walk the runway for his first show. “It created a dialogue in the industry,” he says, making him realize that a big part of his brand would be about people and family. 

Rio Uribe and models wearing Gypsy Sport
Photo by Liam Woods

“I honestly just wanted to kind of like have fun with friends,” Uribe says, “and find a way to make fashion that was inclusive of all of us.”

Uribe grew up in LA’s Koreatown in the 80s, making clothes for his younger siblings. Gypsy Sport still bears the earmarks of that early creativity: layered, unisex skirts from this year’s collection combine styles playfully in what Uribe calls a “mash-up” of quinceañera dresses and early Vivienne Westwood designs. 

Upcycled denim (which Uribe points out is the world’s most toxic fabric to produce) and eco-canvas mean that the clothes aren’t just beautiful but sustainable; accessorized wallet chains adorned with colorful jewels and trinkets harken back to the pachuco style of the 1940s. 

“They would wear wallet chains so that they wouldn’t be stolen, obviously,” Uribe says, “but different from other cultures, Chicanos always would embellish theirs with trinkets, tokens, or familiar heirlooms.” 

Another statement piece, which Uribe calls the “Superhero Jacket,” combines pieces of nylon, plaid, and the American flag. 

“I tend to upcycle and repurpose American flags pretty often,” he explains. “For me, those symbols of Americana are not so much about patriotism, but more so a declaration of what America looks like for us and what our America looks like. And saying that even though we’re queer, or Black, or trans, whatever identity we have doesn’t strip away our American identity.” 

Rio Urube wears designs from his fashion brand Gypsy Sport, featuring plaid and pieces of an American flag.
“For me, those symbols of Americana are not so much about patriotism, but more so a declaration of what America looks like for us and what our America looks like,” says Uribe. Photo by Liam Woods

It’s also about family: speaking to Raven Valentine, a model who’s worked with Gypsy Sport for years, she tells me that it’s one of the few brands that feels “like family” to her. Uribe agrees: that’s what he’s accomplished with Gypsy Sport. During a moment when so much representation in fashion and media can feel performative, he’s striving for something real. 

For INTO’s exclusive photo shoot, Uribe was passionate about casting queer Chicano models. 

“I feel like I haven’t seen Chicano-specific story with anybody, to be honest,” says Uribe. “So I just thought, if we’re going to do something to champion my community and culture… it was very important to me to find Chicano people for this.” 

With photographer Liam Woods capturing every detail (shooting with actual film), it was hard not to stand in awe of the enterprise’s boldness and beauty. It’s not easy to get up every day and face a world that often challenges our very existence. But clothes can be a strong ally in that fight, arming us for the unending battle of public life.

“I wanted to show that resilience and strength,” says Uribe, “and another side of queerness that’s not often exhibited. Like a gang of cool warriors.” ♦

Raven (she/her)

Age: 27

A model poses in front of a Virgin Mary mural wearing designs by Gypsy Sport.
Photo by Liam Woods

“For me, the parts of the job that have gotten easier are the nerves. Now that I’ve been doing it for a while, I lean into the nerves instead of trying to act like they’re not there. I just accept that the nerves and awkwardness and things that are unique to me are gonna make it the full, beautiful picture that it can be. It makes it raw.”

“I’ve known about Gypsy Sport and been friends with Rio for a minute now. They were one of the first brands in LA that ever really aligned with me culturally and identity-wise. It’s been really amazing to be able to work with them and watch everything blossom.” 

“I’m inspired and excited to see the direction fashion is going in. It’s definitely more inclusive in terms of bodies. It’s very important for people to be able to see all types of bodies, and a lot of brands hide behind keeping things sustainable in terms of materials, but we have the ability to make things for every body, in every size.”

Obsession: “I’m a sci-fi nerd. I love reading sci-fi books. I’ve read all of Aragon, Series of Unfortunate Events, and The Lord of the Rings. I’m a gamer, also. I love Overwatch.”

Raime (he/him)

Age: 39

Gypsy Sport
Photo by Liam Woods
Gypsy Sport
Photo by Liam Woods

“I’ve actually never modeled before. Better late than never. I hadn’t really looked into [modeling], but I follow Gypsy Sport, and I thought the clothes were really cool. It’s cool how things work out like that.”

What excites you about fashion?

“I go through phases where I’ll wear leggings for a month, and then it evolves to just wearing baggy clothes. Sometimes, I like to femme it up a little bit, and then I’ll go on a streak of going more masculine, baggy. It’s whatever I feel.” 

“I’m not a brand person, to be honest. I’ve never been into the fashion industry per se, but I like clothes.”

“I actually just got my RN license. I’m gonna be starting work as a nurse soon. But this is a nice side hustle for the future; we’ll see.”

Paulo (he/they)

Age: 26

Gypsy Sport
Photo by Liam Woods

“I had no intentions of becoming a model. I’m not even signed or anything. People just reach out and give me gigs. It’s not super consistent, but it’s something I really enjoy.”

“Growing up, my dad was a DJ. He was super into the party scene, so I always really loved goth and emo fashions. But mixed with my dad’s side of all these rave and scene kids. I love where they meet. Slutty, and studs — mix it all together.” 

Obsession: “I am a vintage horror toy collector. Anything horror-themed, blood, gore. Toys and gore.”

Gabriel (he/him)

Age: 29

Gypsy Sport
Gypsy Sport. Photo by Liam Woods

“I’ve known about Gypsy Sport for a minute. I walked for them for the first time in 2021 at LA Fashion Week, and then I walked again for them last year.”

“My aesthetic is very tied to my culture and upbringing as a Mexican and Puerto Rican person. I love brands that give that aesthetic and are Latino-owned.” 

“I see more brown, Latino artists and brown people emerging in the media, and that excites me.”

Obsession: “I’m kind of weird and kind of quirky. I’m really soft and kind of tenderqueer. I like to hang out at home and paint. I cut hair; I’m a chef. I do lots of stuff.”

I wanted to create a space in the fashion industry that was inviting and safe for queer people.

Rio Uribe, founder, Gypsy Sport
Rio Uribe, right, poses with a model wearing desgins from his brand Gypsy Sport. Photo by Liam Woods
Photo by Liam Woods

Produced by Matthew Wexler and Anthony Conti
Designs and styling: Rio Uribe
Photography: Liam Woods
Photography assistant: Kalos x
Makeup & hair: Sarah Loranca

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