What’s next for streetwear? Critics of the category say the frenzy — see ComplexCon or the crowds that form around Supreme every week — is unsustainable and unhealthy for the market. Newer brands, meanwhile, believe it’s an ideal time to expand their businesses. Here, three young streetwear brands detail how they will approach the year and what they believe is in the pipeline for the category.
Guillermo Andrade opened his Los Angeles concept store, FourTwoFour, which is located on Fairfax, in 2010. He sold pieces from Fear of God along with more established firms such as Rick Owens and Thom Browne. By 2014, Andrade started his own line, 424, that’s been picked up by retailers including Barneys New York and SSENSE.
WWD: What do you think about the current state of streetwear?
Guillermo Andrade: It seems to me that it is very positive. The amount of opportunity out there for a young brand like mine is exponential.
WWD: How do you plan on navigating the industry in 2018?
G.A.: Amongst the sea of hype and all the noise around hot brands, there is one thing that cannot be forgotten and that is product is king. I will continue to focus on the product as well as creative ways of adjusting production to have a faster turnaround time from concept to market. Creating hype and all that is cool, but you need the structure to back it up, or else Zara will come in and make all the money from your ideas.
WWD: What are your plans for wholesale?
G.A.: We open up wholesale accounts every season, but only with partners that we really see as a long-term fit. That approach will remain. The growth of our business will be at a steady incline with honest growth. I try to look at the industry as a sphere, not a point A to B approach. We have to think in every single growth possibility, tangible and intangible.
WWD: What do you think about private equity groups’ investment in streetwear? Are you open to this?
G.A.: I think it shows a tremendous amount of growth in our field and that it’s demanding real attention from big business because there is big money in it. I am, of course, open to partnership in the right spirit that is aligned with us for the type of company that I want to grow.
Chinatown Market was founded by Mike Cherman in 2016. He had previously started ICNY, a line of reflective apparel that was sold in retailers ranging from Pacific Sunwear to Colette. After a series of setbacks with the brand, including a contention of its trademark from DKNY, his investor decided to liquidate ICNY. Cherman, who designs and consults for other companies, has since moved from New York to Los Angeles and introduced Chinatown Market, a streetwear line influenced by the spirit of Canal Street, in 2016 at ComplexCon. The line is sold at retailers including Zumiez and Urban Outfitters.
WWD: How is the Chinatown Market business different from the way you operated ICNY?
Michael Cherman: After ICNY, I wanted to create something that let me get some fun ideas off. I wanted to remove the headache of running a calendar business and release things when I wanted to. I don’t have as much overhead and headache that came with ICNY and having a big wholesale business.
WWD: What are your thoughts about wholesale now?
M.C.: It’s funny. We partner with Urban Outfitters and Zumiez and I saw people in the industry tweeting about the brand being dead now because of that, but we’ve been in these retailers since the first season. I find the fashion industry game very funny. Streetwear brands are meant to grow. They aren’t meant to stay small. Some people just don’t want to accept the fact that streetwear can be a viable thing. With all the ugly s–t that’s out there, there’s also a lot of beautiful stuff happening within the category.
WWD: How are you doing financially? Are you interested in investors?
M.C.: Chinatown Market makes money. There are people who want to be really cool and people who care about the business. I care about the business. At the end of the day it’s just cotton and there’s no culture left in this industry. But I have no interest in working with investors anymore.
WWD: What’s going on for 2018?
M.C.: We got the Smiley license for 2018. For the first season we made a T-shirt with our logo, which is a Smiley face, and Urban Outfitters bought it. Smiley sent us a cease-and-desist letter. That turned into us getting the license and we are going to use that to work on collaborations with Chinatown Market and other brands. It’s a big deal because it allows me to do more global business and more authentic business. I would usually have to go more rogue.
WWD: What do you think is the shelf life for your brand and streetwear brands in general?
M.C.: That’s all up to the people who create it. I could let this thing die in a year and I could go start two or five more of these. The reality is it’s just about how you adapt. A lot of these people can’t adapt. A lot of these brands need to keep that cash flow to upkeep the business. For me it’s a one-man show and I work with a bunch of freelancers. I don’t have a lot of overhead.
WWD: What do you foresee for streetwear in 2018?
M.C.: A lot of the big players who were middle of the ground are going to have the bottom fall out. Brands like Diamond Supply Co. that have seen massively declining sales. But there is a home for a lot of those brands. They might go to the mall. In general the business is going to keep on pushing more direct-to-consumer. I did a collaboration with Pleasures on a gunshot Smiley T-shirt and a season later 10 Deep came out with the same graphic. It wasn’t that he copied us, it’s that his calendar is way longer than ours. There is no more information that’s unobtainable, but it’s about how you use it and how agile you are.
Luke Tadashi, a California native, introduced Bristol a couple of years ago. The line, which is sold at American Rag and Fred Segal, draws from NBA players’ on- and off-court style during the early Aughts. Tadashi, who won 2016’s Gen Art men’s wear designer of the year award, has shown at New York Fashion Week: Men’s for a few seasons, but he’s making some changes to the assortment for 2018.
WWD: What’s happening for 2018?
Luke Tadashi: We are restructuring the brand. There’s going to be Stud-O, which is a year-round offering of elevated basics that speaks to our sports ethos. All of those garments are going to be reversible and sold direct-to-consumer on our web site to keep the price point down. It will be slightly more affordable than Collect-On, which is the seasonal collection that will have more narrative-driven pieces that are based on a theme. The Collect-On line is also meant to sit in wholesale accounts. The goal is to speak to larger issues in society and culture.
WWD: Why are you dividing the assortment?
L.T.: Just doing a line with a sports influence felt limiting. I felt like I wanted to say more as a designer and I wanted to touch on culture in a way that extended beyond sport influence.
WWD: What do you think about the state of streetwear?
L.T.: Things have gotten kind of crazy. People aren’t buying into things because they think it’s cool. They are buying stuff because someone else said it’s cool. But I think streetwear has space to evolve with a brand like ours through distinct storytelling. I hope we can carve out a space for ourselves within the streetwear culture, but we are saying something a little bit deeper.
WWD: Do you think that’s what the consumer will want?
L.T.: That’s what I’m betting on. Absolutely. I think that authenticity is superimportant. I think telling an original narrative is superimportant. Taking a stance and standing for something is important as opposed to following the trend wave.
WWD: How are things financially? Are you looking for investors this year?
L.T.: We are starting to look for outside investors. I think that with all of the plans we have this year, financial growth is necessary.