Canadian brothers Chip & Pepper 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, Ontario, 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!” Nothing similar to Chip’s early entrepreneurial skills of selling spray painted Adidas shorts. Of all these, an earlier part of their fashion career was also labeled ‘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 Canadians had dreamed about moving to California since childhood, fleeing the subzero Canuck freeze, and eventually headed down on the waves of a multimillion dollar deal for a TV show. The blonde twins were soon idealistic surfer kids and they also licensed out their name in a US-based deal, but that ran them in to 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 re-build 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 multi-million dollar house with no lights, no electricity, no power, eating ready-toeat noodles for a year just to plan our business. Not one person helped us.”
This harsh hit forced the two to re-group by solidly joining in a 50/50 partnership, and they began by carving one area: denim. Chip was at the creative helm with tons of previous experience from working in vintage specialty stores. Pepper and Chip then opened-what is now the famous Golf Punk, a vintage specialty store 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 in a keen taste in cornichons and develop a green palate in design, but how to be valorous in a cut-throat business world.
“The integrity that my dad built in to 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
Acclaimed sales are due to their rigid quality requirements. So is the recognition. Sporstwear International named them Best Men’s Denim in the 2005 SIFA awards. And Chip and Pepper count amongst their faithful fans, celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker, The O.C. girls, and Beyonce.
Their denim is hand-crafted and individually detailed. What this also means is that the denim is manufactured from mills in the US that were originally used by Levi’s in the 1900s. This is one of the main reasons which give them that authentic vintage feel. But these young at heart brothers continue to impress.
What they noticed about vintage style clothing was that the cuts aren’t as good as nowadays. So Chip and Pepper make the cuts, and all other details are applied by hand. For instance, if you look closely at the print in the pockets, you’ll notice it’s a picture of a deer looking up at the New York city skyline That makes every pair one-of-a-kind.
Chip is the guy his brother dubs a denim “chemist” for his commitment to find new cutting edge washes and represents another core advantage 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 in to 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 as 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. They have distinct touches on their clothing, including a maple leaf in their logo, and those serial numbers that look like our $50 bill, and names that pay homage to their memorable childhood. 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 galaxy of celeb clients (who pay for their jeans and don’t get them for free, mind you), 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.”