Canadian brothers, Chip and Pepper Foster are aiming for the stars.
Chip and Pepper Foster are the genetic duo behind one of the most exclusive denim labels in the world today. With innovative styles and out-of-this-world washes, the brand Chip & Pepper, which caters to Hollywood elite is another successful Canadian story at heart.
Born in Winnipeg and raised in Burlington, Chip and Pepper had distinct dreams. “I wanted to be an underwater welder,” says Pepper, “Coz I loved going underwater and I read all these articles about it!” Pepper’s dream was not at all similar to Chip’s who spent time honing his entrepreneurial skills by selling spray-painted Adidas shorts. An earlier part of their fashion career included a label called Bulldog.
Though the twins began capitalizing on their creative drive and began building a company in the 1980s, it was a hard ride with little support. “Not very many people in my hometown of Winnipeg helped us, only one person—one guy,” Pepper explains, “I don’t know if they wanted us to do well or not, but there’s a lot of jealousy and animosity.”
The Canadian twins who had dreamed about moving to California since childhood, fled the subzero Canuck freeze, and eventually rode the waves of a multimillion-dollar deal for a TV show. The blonde twins were soon idealistic surfer kids; they licensed out their name in a US-based deal, but ran into some trouble. “The licensing deal with an American company was so I could still design and pursue my passion, designdirect them there, and that never happened that way. We lost everything, and we had to rebuild and start over. We suffered pretty hard,” says Chip.
Pepper tenses when recalling the jam they faced with the deal gone bad, “I was living in the Hollywood Hills in a multimillion-dollar house with no lights, no electricity, no power, eating ready-to-eat noodles for a year just to plan our business. Not one person helped us.”
This harsh hit forced the two to regroup by creating a 50/50 partnership; they began by carving one area: denim. Chip was at the creative helm with tons of previous experience from working in vintage specialty stores. Chip and Pepper then opened what is now the famous Golf Punk, a vintage specialty store located on Melrose Place in Los Angeles.
Pepper is their business brains, “You go to Barney’s Japan, if you go to Australia, or if you go to Los Angeles we’ll be in Fred Segal, and if you go to UK I’ll be at Selfridges,” exclaims Pepper passionately. And then surfer zen takes over “Business is like big Hawaiian surf. When you don‘t have the experience, you get killed,” adds Pepper quietly.
Their father who was in the pickle business influenced them not only to appreciate the taste of a good Cornichon, but to develop a green palate in design, and to be courageous in a cut-throat business world.
“The integrity that my Dad built into his business was old school. When good people make a business, they make their business successful,” says Pepper, explaining the model to their own company, inspired by their Dad.
Chip also draws design inspiration from their Dad’s pickle factory. “Going to my Dad’s pickle factory… I love the colour of the green pickles when they’re freshly picked. That is an awesome shade of green. Horseradish is also a beautiful kind of white. I always wanted to make a shirt out of that—it’s the perfect white!” he exclaims excitedly.
WHAT SETS THEM APART
High sales are due to their rigid quality requirements and recognition. Sporstwear International named them Best Men’s Denim in the 2005 SIFA awards. Chip and Pepper count amongst their faithful fans, celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker, The O.C. girls, and Beyonce.
Their denim is handcrafted and individually detailed. The denim is manufactured at mills located in the US that were originally used by Levi’s in the 1900s. This is what gives Chip & Pepper denim that authentic vintage feel. These young at heart brothers continue to impress.
Chip and Pepper note that vintage style clothing cuts weren’t as good as they are nowadays. So Chip and Pepper make the cuts and all other details are applied by hand. For example, if you look closely at the print in the pockets, you’ll notice there’s a picture of a deer looking up at the New York City skyline, making every pair one-of-a-kind.
Chip is the guy his brother dubs a denim “chemist” due to his commitment to finding new cutting edge washes; this is another distinction the Fosters have over others in the denim game.
“One thing with Chip & Pepper is it’s pretty hard to compete against our washes, what we do. Everyone is biting off ‘em now, right now we came up with a couple of washes which we’re all beating up. We’re trying to make the best denim in the world, trying to make the best quality, and everything that goes into it. So when you buy a Chip & Pepper product you’re buying an American-made product not manufactured in China. Our denim is made here,” emphasizes Pepper. Every pant is also tagged with a serial number, making them instant collectibles.
CANUCK CAN DO
Just because they now live in sunny Cali doesn’t mean the guys have turned their backs on their Canadian heritage. There are distinct Canadian touches in their clothing: there’s a maple leaf in their logo, the serial numbers look like the Canadian fifty dollar bill, and the names of their denim pay homage to their memorable Canadian childhoods. “A lot of our product we name after Canada, like Regina, Smooth Rock. Different names come from experiences in Canada as a kid, in places like Six Mile Lake,” says Pepper.
Even with a roster of celeb clients (who pay for their jeans— they don’t get them for free), they always remember where they came from. “It’s very strong to see Hilary Duff or Dakota Fanning or any of these famous people wearing your stuff. In our eyes, the only stars are in the sky, and that’s the way we think,” says Pepper, “We’re Canadian kids, and that works to our advantage, it helps with the way we are—friendly, and it helps in business.”