Getta Clue founders got through the Great Recession and Covid. Here’s what’s next for the streetwear retailers.


imageAfter 30 years, staying open during a recession and navigating a pandemic, Getta Clue Store LLC owners [Justin Bilbao](sacramento/search/results?q=Justin Bilbao) and [Scott Gilbert](sacramento/search/results?q=Scott Gilbert) now face a different business challenge — keeping up with current trends in a fast-paced fashion landscape where the competition is the internet and direct-to-consumer brands.

Locally owned Getta Clue sells streetwear, a casual style of clothing worn by young subcultures, especially the skater and graffiti communities and in urban landscapes.

Streetwear has become mainstream, Bilbao said, so trends come and go quicker than before.And showcasing and selling from emerging local artists, a key part of Getta Clue’s culture, now starts with a social media search.

“It’s a fine dance,” Bilbao said.“For years and years and years you went to trade shows and traveled and then you were the hub that brought that back and showed everyone.”

Today’s challenges are much different from the ones the Sacramento store went through in its 30-year history.

The business began in 1992 as a project that came from the founders’ experiences in the underground streetwear culture of the ’90s.In 1996, Bilbao and Gilbert took out a Small Business Administration loan to make Getta Clue a full-time gig.With the loan, they joined the former Downtown Plaza and turned the project into a full-fledged store, Bilbao said.

Its first location was at 17th Street and Broadway, which then moved to the 700 block of K street in Downtown Sacramento.Next, the streetwear brand moved to Downtown Plaza until it was torn down for the Golden 1 Center construction.Getta Clue then moved to the MARRS building in Midtown.

In 2018, Getta Clue became one of Downtown Commons’ first tenants, occupying a 2,200-square-foot suite.

Gilbert said surviving the 2008 Great Recession and navigating the pandemic were the toughest challenges they had to endure over the past 30 years.Sales decreased significantly during both.

Like other businesses during the pandemic, Getta Clue was forced to temporarily close its brick-and-mortar store.During that time, the store pivoted to e-commerce, Bilbao said.

E-commerce worked until the physical store reopened and Getta Clue experienced inventory clashes and software issues, he said.Since then, the website has been down.Bilbao said they plan on relaunching the website this year.

Getta Clue also was approved for two Paycheck Protection Program loans of $37,080 in May 2020 and January 2021, according to public records.

The PPP was the federal government’s main initiative to help small businesses that were disrupted by the pandemic.

While e-commerce provided a temporary lifeline for the business, it does not replace the experience of going to the store and trying on shoes and clothes, Bilbao said.

“The pandemic taught everyone how to shop online if they didn’t already know,” Bilbao said.“But I think that people are still interested in the experience.”

Still, having remained open during those two challenging periods gives them confidence to keep the business running, Gilbert said.

The confidence came over time, Gilbert said, and it now translates into lessons for the up-and-coming young artists they launch.

Part of Getta Clue’s inventory is reserved for supporting young artists by selling their pieces at the store and providing mentorship.

Working with the artists is a two-way street, as they stay in tune with current industry trends, Bilbao said.

Streetwear went from underground fashion to trendy luxury with Off-White, created by its late founder Virgil Abloh, who was also the creative director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear collections.

He died in November 2021.

Off-White created streetwear pieces through collaborations with Nike and Arc’teryx and dressed celebrities such as [Kendall Jenner](sacramento/search/results?q=Kendall Jenner) and [Kanye West](sacramento/search/results?q=Kanye West) .Bilbao said Off-White and similar brands popularized streetwear and made trends move quicker within the last five years.

“Streetwear is a pretty common term these days, but back then it was kind of new, no one knew what it was,” Bilbao said.

Helping them keep up with the latest trends are also store employees, who are often young and interested in launching their own businesses.Former employee [Vanessa Lopez](sacramento/search/results?q=Vanessa Lopez) , who now owns Heart Clothing Boutique in Midtown, was one of them.She said she’s been mentored by both Bilbao and Gilbert ever since she worked there in 2001.

“They really take everyone under their wings who show interest in the industry,” Lopez said.

She said Bilbao and Gilbert helped her become a buyer, taking her to trade shows and “helping me develop myself.”

Besides relaunching the website, Bilbao and Gilbert have big plans for Getta Clue’s future.Bilbao said they want to develop their brand and sell their own products to become more than a retailer, increase their online presence and launch more exclusive collections with local artists.

“One of my favorite mottos over 30 years is we’re not solving world hunger,” Bilbao said.”We’re selling T-shirts and having fun doing it and trying to help the community and do cool stuff along the way.”

The Essentials

Education: Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco, between 1990 and 1991.

Dream job, aside from current career: Fly-fishing, but also graphic design and freelance work for other brands.

Exciting industry trends: The ability for smaller and independent brands to be able to grow without major capital because of the internet.

Education: Sierra College, between 1989 and 1991

Dream job, aside from current career: Own a small inn on the California coast and run it in retirement

Exciting industry trends: Seeing technology’s advancements applied to fashion in the past two years..

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