In a holiday version of giving the coat off your back, Adriaen Black founder Andrew Jang is designing and donating bespoke coats to 370 students at PS 154 in the Bronx.
Accustomed to suiting up NBA players for their off-court appearances, the New York designer has made a $440,000 investment to his “Made to Measure, Made to Love” program. The roster of pros he has worked with include Brooklyn Nets’ Jeremy Lin and Tyler Zeller, Philadelphia 76ers’ Trevor Booker and Joel Embiid, Tyler Zeller, Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley and Boston Red Sox’ Mookie Betts.
“I personally know what it’s like to not have much, and to have to scrounge around to get something as simple as a winter coat. But in the same breath, I also know what it feels like to have something made for you. Even though they are on polar opposites of the spectrum, I can tell you that the emotions that come from either of those things where you have nothing to having something made for you are equally powerful,” Jang said.
While driving through Memphis last year in the dead of winter after working with the Grizzlies, he saw “all these kids walking and none of them had coats,” Jang said. “I just kept thinking, ‘How are we in such a great time in our lives and kids can’t have something as modest as a jacket to keep them warm?’”
The made to measure designer initially reached out to a few of the NBA players he works with through his dealings with 20 teams. They were “totally on board” with the prospect but wondered why Jang would make coats for children in need rather than have them donated by a company, Jang said. “I just kept thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t we make them coats?’”
To get his idea off-and-running, Jang approached numerous nonprofits including the YMCA of New York City, explaining that his showroom and manufacturing are in the garment district. He suggested helping 50 students to start, but when PS 154 in the Bronx inquired about 370 coats, the designer quickly agreed. Born in South Korea, he was placed in an orphanage at the age of one, before being adopted years later by a family in Iowa. Growing up there, he learned how to farm and build trucks, school buses, tractor trailers – “you would never have thought that I would be making clothes at any point in my life,” Jang said.
The decision to self-fund the program was not a difficult one, he said. “When you get to know me, you realize that I’m an all-in type of guy. I’m very stubborn. It was a very hell or high water idea. I knew it would work and that it would do a lot of good.”
Spending two five-hour days at the school, Jang averaged measuring one student per minute. “At one point I was sweating, and I don’t really tend to sweat like that. We cranked them through. But I had to come back another day to take care of about a dozen others,” he said.
One of the more memorable exchanges was with a youngster who offered to pay for his coat even though he only had $3. “What it showed me was even among this really great group of kids some of us are born and have far less, there was still this really great character who said, ‘I can pay for this, maybe, or I can try.’”
As someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time around kids, Jang said, “I’m probably going to be in fashion for as long as I can be. You know if you’re in this industry, you work a lot. But even for a guy like me, there were a couple of times where I had to hold back some emotions. You can see a really great purity in these kids. They’re in that good state before they feel any negative emotions. It felt good to be there.”
Produced in one month, the custom monogrammed coats would retail between $1,800 and $2,000. Aiming to work with 35 NBA teams by the end of the league’s current season, Jang said, “I want to work with these same kids next year because they will grow. I want to make them a second set of coats and I hope they will donate their old ones to kids who aren’t in this program. Hopefully, they will start at a young age giving. I want to take this from 370 kids this year to 3,700 kids next year and get athletes, brands and other designers involved. I don’t care who we get involved as long as we give every child who is involved the chance to get a coat.”