NEW YORK’S BIG APPEAL
THEY DON’T NECESSARILY MAKE IT THERE, BUT THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS IS MAKING AN IMPRESSION ON THE T-SHIRTS AND JEANS OF MANY VENDORS.
Byline: David Grant Caplan
NEW YORK — Style-savvy Gothamites and their out-of-town counterparts, in search of a T-shirt emblazoned with the city’s skyline, no longer need to head to the fashion-deficient vendors that dot tourist-congested Times Square and SoHo.
The spring, summer and fall collections of many vendors — from streetwear to designer — such as Dolce & Gabbana’s D&G line, DKNY Jeans, Levi Strauss & Co. and 33 Degrees, include New York-themed T-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans.
Most executives said such pieces are in demand by locals and out-of-towners, whether purchased during a visit to New York or in another city. They said people outside the city purchase New York-themed items either because they aspire to visit it or because of its status as a cultural capital.
New Yorkers, they said, wear such items as a display of civic pride. Since many New Yorkers are discerning fashionistas, only designer labels — not run-of-the-mill tacky T-shirts — will suffice, however.
DKNY Jeans president Susan Davidson said Gotham-themed apparel “appeals to everyone because New York is cool.”
“New Yorkers live here for that reason and, to non-New Yorkers, the city is looked upon as a mecca for trendsetters,” she said.
DKNY Jeans’ fall collection includes a pair of flare jeans with a skyline scene hand-painted on the legs, a cotton long-sleeve T-shirt with a similar cityscape image and a cotton halter-top with a gold foil image of the city’s skyline. Davidson said New York is an integral part of the DKNY “sensibility.”
“We always try to focus on New York — in our creative, our advertising, our design details, even our showroom,” she said. “It is who we are, so the brand is synonymous with this city.”
New York’s dramatic landscape lends itself well to pictorial displays on clothing, said Valerie Steele, fashion historian and chief curator of the museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan.
“New York appeals to designers because there are certain visual themes, like the Empire State Building, that are immediately recognizable, and those things have associations which are positive for a wide audience,” she said. “New York has for quite a long time epitomized the idea of the big city and big-city excitement and in other parts of the world it symbolizes the USA.”
Streetwear brand 33 Degrees, produced by City of Industry, Calif.-based John Finch International, also features scenes of New York’s cityscape on some of its pieces.
For spring, 33 Degrees is offering a short-sleeve polyester shirt with a photo collage of bicycle messengers speeding through Manhattan streets. Last fall, it showed a similar shirt, but with images of graffiti-stained subway cars and buildings. For fall, it will offer simpler New York-themed prints on pieces, such as “New York 2001,” said president John Finch.
Like DKNY Jeans’ Davidson, Finch said the appeal of New York-themed merchandise is far-reaching.
“Everyone is attracted to New York, regardless if you’ve been there or if you haven’t,” he said. “We’ve done other images and it doesn’t matter if we’re selling to Iowa or California — New York always seems to outperform any other territory.”
Melissa Zech, senior merchandiser for junior’s wear at Levi’s, said the company launched a T-shirt for spring with “New York” emblazoned on the chest, after young women in focus groups expressed an interest in travelling, particularly to New York.
“New York is definitely a cultural mecca, as well as a fashion mecca, and a lot of girls we talked to really want to go to New York,” she said. “We found that the girls don’t want a T-shirt that says ‘My Mom went to New York and all she got me was this dumb T-shirt.”‘
Zech added, “If a girl who lives in New York bought a New York T-shirt, it was more that she is proud of where she lives.”
The New York shirt is part of a city-themed collection that includes San Francisco, Bangkok and Marrakesh.
A spokeswoman for D&G, which for spring offers a short-sleeve cotton and spandex T-shirt featuring an image of the Statue of Liberty and the words “New York” outlined in red studs, also maintained that the desire to travel influences sales of its New York-themed pieces.
She said D&G “is very international and targets a young audience who aspire to travel the world and have fun — if they can’t do that right now, at least they can dream through their clothes.”
Canadian retailer Le Chateau offers a hooded sweatshirt and T-shirt with the words “New York” and “Brooklyn” for spring. The items, which are slated to be offered through the fall, are available at the chain’s five U.S. stores — all of which are in the New York metropolitan area — and its 157 stores in Canada.
Franco Rocchi, vice president of sales and marketing, said he is unsure whether the tops are more sought after by locals or out-of-towners at the New York stores.
New York-based streetwear firm Burkina Wear has also jumped on the New York-themed apparel bandwagon.
At its store, Burkina, located on Houston Street on the Lower East Side, it sells a series of T-shirts it produces with slogans printed on the chest, such as “212: The Manhattan Classic Code” and “Brooklyn: There is no place like Brooklyn.”
President Ahmed Sankara, whose five-year-old store also carries Ecko and Rocawear, said, “In hip-hop culture, people like to wear shirts of where they are from,” so his firm’s shirts have a loyal following.
The New York-themed items from San Francisco-based Blue Marlin Corp. also have a solid hip-hop devotee customer base, said president Erik Stuebe.
“We realize that there is an appeal to the urban and street markets for New York- and Brooklyn-themed merchandise, since they are centers for music, hip-hop and culture,” he said.
The company offers sweatshirts and T-shirts year-round with “New York,” “Bronx” and “Gotham” printed on the chest.