“I want people to feel like they’re in another world,” says Gilbert Glaster, owner of Unique Knits.
UK50, Inzzo, Tego, Genesis, and Tubbie the Bear are all Gilbert originals. They currently appear on shirts, posters, and the word at Broadway and Houston St. is that they will debut sometime in the future in comics and as a toy line. “When people find out that the whole store aesthetically is my creation, it just takes them somewhere else,” he says. But Gilbert didn’t always make original characters.
Gilbert Glaster's original characters on display at Unique Knits. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
As a student at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, he wasn’t satisfied wearing plain T’s and basketball shorts. “Clothing has always captured my eye because it’s how someone can express themselves.” To add his personal flair, Gilbert started making shirts featuring photos of rappers and athletes that inspired him.
Other students noticed his threads and asked him where to buy them. When they found out he made them, orders began pouring in. He was completing a degree in Business Management with a Minor in Entrepreneurship, and a professor encouraged him to pursue his interest in clothing, offering him business and legal advice.
“San Antonio was the first place I wanted to open a store.” Gilbert spent his early years on the city’s Westside, often attracted to Downtown because of the lights and activity. He left the city for a time, attending college and then living all over the world as his wife Crystal, who is in the military, was deployed everywhere from South Carolina to Guam.
A Slimer on display at Unique Knits located at the 110 Broadway Building. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
While Crystal was serving in Afghanistan for a year, Gilbert moved back to their house in San Antonio with their daughter, Genesis, to open up a store Downtown. After two months in the lower level of the 110 Broadway Building, he moved to his current location at street level. “I still can’t believe I have a store Downtown,” he says of the place that served as a childhood destination.
Gilbert draws inspiration for his brands from everywhere. His daughter, Genesis, served as the basis for one character, as she had grown up with the business. “A lot of this has to do with her. During the time when I was building this all up, that whole year, it was me and her.”
Even the tiniest details give him inspiration, whether they’re in movies, TV shows, or even other lifestyle brands. “Everyone will be asleep and I’ll just start designing,” he says, “The inspiration is flowing so well that I’ll end up finishing the design. And I’ll look at the clock and it’s one or two in the morning.”
Late nights aren’t uncommon for him. Gilbert often notices groups of people staring through the window after hours. So he’ll let them in. “There’s times when customers have been in here for two hours. And the whole two hours we’re talking.” They are genuinely interested in the story behind Unique Knits.
Owner of Unique Knits Gilbert Glaster smiles as he shares his first business experiences. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
“There’s people that come in here from all over the place,” he says, “It’s cool because I get to meet all different types.” And it isn’t just a diversity of people, but a diversity of talent. This was something Gilbert spoke about at the 2017 San Antonio Fashion Awards.
He had just won Streetwear Designer of the Year. “I was shocked. I’m still in shock,” he says. On stage, with his family beside him, he encouraged the fashion community he was now a part of to keep pursuing its passion. “One of the things I said on the stage was, ‘Guys I just want to urge y’all to keep doing what you’re doing because we are all the peculiar bunch.’ It’s cool to be different.”
Gilbert Glaster has several characters on display at Unique Knits. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio
It wasn’t easy going from his college dorm room to his own store along a historic Downtown thoroughfare. Even people who were close to him didn’t quite see where Unique Knits was going.
“Whenever you’re creating people may not be able to see your vision. You have to keep going, have to keep pushing yourself even when it gets hard. Because it’s usually around the time when you feel like quitting, that’s when things just start turning around.”