Hey, You’re Cool: UBIQ’s Paul Lee
We talk with Paul Lee, one of the men behind Philly's premier clothing and sneaker shops, Ubiq.
For ten years now, Ubiq has been a cultural entity in Philadelphia as well as in Asia and on the Web. Ubiq’s big fish-small pond mentality has allowed them to become the cultural hub for streetwear fanatics and sneaker heads in the City of Brotherly Love. From being the second home for historic sports brand Mitchell and Ness, to having in-stores with The Dr.J and Stalley (together), Ubiq has become a haven for young people in a city that has seen better days when it comes to the overall fly shit.
To commemorate the 10th year anniversary of the boutique, we’ve decided to catch up with the man behind the brand, Paul Lee, who’s been working hard to solidify the future of this cultural trampoline. His goal is simple: keep Ubiq socially relevant on a mass scale, while still appealing to that core underground street consumer.
Mass Appeal:When did you start working for Ubiq start?
Paul Lee: Overall I’ve been working on and off with the company for six years. I’ve been really focusing on the store for three years. I am now the brand director and buyer. Everything you see here, I do the purchasing [for] and I reach out to the companies for pop-up shops. I also work with the Ubiq product of shoes over in Asia.
What did you do before Ubiq?
I worked in music over at Universal Music. I did a little bit of A&R work and some stuff on the publishing side. Then I worked in advertising over at Brand Buzz, but my passion was really in the footwear /apparel field so I reached out John, the owner of the company. I worked for him all throughout college so he kind of knew my work ethic and understood how I can elevate things so he brought me on.
What did you change when you became the buyer/brand manager?
There wasn’t focus. We were just a sort of retailer pumping out other products. When I came in I wanted to kind of reorganize the structure. Not to knock on the people here before me, but they were kind of just purchasing product on a larger scale, purchasing a little bit of everything. They weren’t really working with the brands. So I came in and picked the brands people were really messing with and expanded on that. I focused on a smaller amount of brands on a larger scale instead of a small amount of picks from 20 brands. We narrowed it down to eight or nine great brands and started showing their full range. Then I started working on projects like this Hall of Fame Pop Up. I’ve been talking to Vlad over at Hall of Fame for a while now. It started out as just a basic conversation then we started getting [artist] Kevin Lyons and everyone involved. It’s that type of sense, doing more than just a retailer, making it more of a destination for people who are really invested in this type of culture. At the end of the day, your goal is to make money, but there aren’t too many guys like us around anymore. I wanted Ubiq to be a cultural hub.
Why Hall of Fame?
We really just wanted to show love and appreciation for those brands that are still doing what they are doing. That haven’t really gone mainstream and doing what other brands are doing: watering it down. I’m going to start talking with the Hundreds and speak with Nick [Tershay] over at Diamond Supply Co. and hopefully keep this pop-up idea going.
Can you elaborate more on the Ubiq clothing brand?
We have a footwear brand. Everything–production, design, all that stuff is in Japan. I’m kind of the sales rep, I do what I can to move product to here in the States. People ask for it, but they don’t really know where to get it. You can get our clothing and shoes here, and we have ubiqcube.com which is directly connected to Japan.
How big is the market for Ubiq in Asia?
There are Ubiq stores in Japan and Korea. I was out there in April and I didn’t know how big out there it really was. Obviously Supreme and all the forefront brands are huge, but all the younger kids who are trying to do something different are gravitating towards Ubiq. It kind of blew my mind. They’re on some other shit over there, they’re on top of things so fast.
What’s the significance of having a company like Mitchell and Ness on the second floor?
Mitchell and Ness and Ubiq are both Philly homegrown brands. It feels really good to link up with a brand that also knows and understands that “Philly” customer. It definitely got a lot of attention. You’re going to see some real exciting stuff from them in the future. There going to revamp their section of the store and start creating products specifically tailored to our customer.
What brand do you think is really progressing at the moment?
Huf man. Keith (Hufangel) is definitely doing his thing with the clothes and the whole sock thing. It’s one brand I didn’t hear that much hype about a while ago, it was sort of just there. Now I always hear the guys working in the store like “We need more Huf, Paul.”
What’s your Favorite shoe you’ve had on stock?
It’s gotta be the Air Force 1 Questo’s. That was probably the most memorable; Quest being from Philly and it was just a really dope shoe. The name alone was amazing but the design was awesome. The line outside the shop was insane, rapping around the block, and we only received 30 or something pairs. We received awesome coverage and love from it, plus Quest came and had a DJ set- it was just a really awesome time.