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Three of the hottest sneaker boutiques in the world are collaborating to release some very Philly limited-edition t-shirts this weekend.
Considered the elite of the Philly kicks game, retail shops Ubiq, Ps & Qs, and Lapstone & Hammer could be fierce competitors. At worst, they could be arch nemeses, considering they’re fighting over the same audience.
Not the case, said Ps & Qs cofounder Rick Cao. “There was no hate between any of us,” Cao told Billy Penn. “It was always a friendly competition.”
The trio of modern footwear destinations are teaming up to celebrate an anniversary. Ps & Qs has been slinging hot shoes and clothing for seven years now, and is marking the occasion by releasing a capsule collection in collaboration with its two main rivals.
The stores are all in different communities in Center City. Ps & Qs is on South Street, Ubiq is closer to Rittenhouse and Lapstone is in Market East. But “people hit up all three stores no matter what,” Cao said of the sneakerheads that shop in Philly.
Still, for the collaboration that’s been dubbed the Bermuda Triangle Project — map out the three locations and they form one — the brands played on the idea that they should be jealous of each other.
In one tongue-in-cheek promo video, Brian Nadav of Lapstone & Hammer stares somberly into the camera while he trash talks a competitor. “Ubiq is not the only shop in town,” he says. “I would never work with Ubiq.”
Another spot features Ps & Qs cofounder Ky Cao, Rick’s brother. “Some people say if Ubiq and Ps & Qs had a baby, it would be Lapstone,” he says, while standing in Lapstone’s ultra high-end back room. “I would never work with them.”
To complete the circle, Ubiq creative director Kelton Bumgarner joins in. “What’s up with all the wood in here?” he asks from inside Ps & Qs on South Street. “They hate trees or something? We would never work with Ps & Qs.”
On Saturday, the triad will drop a series of unique limited-edition t-shirts.
Each shop’s shirt will have its own look. The Ps & Qs shirt comes in yellow or white and featuring a triangle of three linking arms. In a video about the design, Cao says the logo “means our shops [are] supporting each other, supporting our city.”
Ubiq’s black or white tee features a hot pink stamp design with each of the store’s names. All proceeds from the sales of white t-shirts will benefit the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, Rick and Ky’s alma mater.
Making it in an ecommerce world
The collab is designed to highlight the shops resilience in weathering the ecommerce storm and maintaining IRL storefronts in Philadelphia.
“The last decade or so the retail landscape has changed with online being a stronghold in retail,” Rick said. “Brick and mortars and small mom and pop stores are going out of business left and right.”
Ubiq creative director Kelton Bumgarner agreed.
“It’s amazing to see somebody as independent as Ps & Qs be around,” he said. Ubiq is part of the larger locally-based athletic apparel conglomerate KicksUSA, which was recently acquired by German-based streetwear retailer SNIPES.
Philadelphia sneaker boutiques are routinely called out as some of the best in the country.
Storefronts like Ps & Qs, Lapstone and Ubiq thrive on exclusive sneaker launch events, raffles for very rare collaborations and product releases like Lapstone’s ‘Coral Studios’ Nike Air Max 95 colorway.
On Friday, Ubiq is holding its #ANightLikeAI giveaway as a promotion for the new Allen Iverson Reebok collaboration. It’s a unique business model that separates Philly’s boutiques from the bigger brands like Footlocker and other local sneaker consignments like Common Ground.
In addition to the Saturday t-shirt drop, Ps & Qs will release its fall/winter collection, featuring hoodies and crewnecks that honor Philadelphia’s urban cowboy culture and colorful button-down shirts and slacks made in Philly.
People can shop the limited-edition tees starting Saturday at midnight. Ps & Qs opens for business Saturday at noon and will host an anniversary party featuring drinks and free bubble tea starting at 6 p.m.