Chinatown Market is a streetwear brand born from the mind of Mike Cherman. A long story, made up of mistakes and rebirths. But above all of freedom.
Mike Cherman, 28, has already lived a streetwear life. What we are witnessing now, named Chinatown Market, is the rebirth after the failure of the first time. What then to speak of failure could be an exaggeration. He was 24 when he launched ICNY. He began as urban legends begin, or by selling T-shirts from a small shop located in the trunk of his car. The name, the hype and the first awards. At the end of 2014 he earned a place in the HYPEBEAST 100. He was already the essence of what he would become: the free soul of New York .
Fashion is a family affair
The relationship between Cherman and fashion goes back a long time, however, even before the ICNY experience. Little Mike grows up in the Jewish Quarter of New York, both parents linked with a red thread to the world of fashion. The mother a designer, the father a salesman, a family business. Then suddenly the move from New York to California, precisely to San Diego. Geography always says United States, reality speaks of two sidereal cities in their cultural distance.
Cherman's home beginnings
It is in California that the young Cherman begins to look at fashion with different eyes. San Diego is teeming with skate brands, skinny jeans and streetwear shops. Creativity takes hold of Mike and the boy starts a fun DIY job. Homemade prints armed with an iron while the parents are at work. All in total autonomy, no graphic title or particular expertise. Initially he splits his free time between basketball and press, then a broken hand makes him abandon the basket in favor of t-shirts. This is the turning point.
The return to New York
With the first shirts he replicates the style of the brands he is most passionate about: Estevan Oriol, Mister Cartoon and Rob Dobi. The first brand is called Newcastle Clothing, but only later does he realize that it is the same name as a famous beer in those parts. Mike closes his eyes and continues with the project. Some problems with school administrations, given its direct sales activity within campuses. For friends it becomes Mickey Merchandise, a name that says it all. His program. Because Cherman doesn't stop at the trunk of his car. He finished high school and went to the Parsons Academy in New York, one of the most important design institutes in the world. A return to the hometown which is the first step towards success.
From Nike to… ICNY
In the years of his return to New York he worked as a child in some fashion houses and learned the techniques of laser printing. Soon after he got a job at Nike, in a customization shop called "255" in the Soho neighborhood. Here the great stars of basketball, musical celebrities and the best of influencers pass by. Cherman studies and dissects the streetwear environment until the store closes. Golden opportunity: Mike buys the "255" machinery cheaply and at nothing and establishes ICNY. The experience starts with a bang, but it implodes due to those bogus investors.
The last, desperate, attempt
At that point, the future founder of Chinatown Market falls back into discomfort. Parents warn him: either he gets a scholarship to support himself or he gets back on the road to California. But what is genius? It is imagination, intuition, decision and speed of execution. My friends docet. And the genius is revealed when in desperation Cherman is walking in front of Reed Space, the shop owned by Staple Design, the New York giant of visual communication. Its owner is called Jeff Staple (the creator of one of the most expensive sneakers on StockX) and Mike decides that to continue his adventure he has to impress him. As? Design a poster in her honor and start a Guerrilla Marketing campaign covering the cities where Staple grew up and worked.
The birth of Chinatown Market
Are you waiting for the happy ending? We block you immediately. Cherman spends a couple of days in jail, Staple doesn't want to know about him even as a joke, but the environment begins to talk about Mike Cherman. And as Oscar Wilde teaches, “for better or for worse, as long as we talk about it”. From this situation he emerges reinvigorated, definitively abandons the ICNY project and is full of positivity. Chinatown Market was born with a smile as a travel companion. It is the logo, but perhaps something more. It is an instinctive reaction to the scent of freedom.
Today Chinatown Market is based in Los Angeles and has become a staple of streetwear. In the shop work dreamers, madmen and visionaries. The important thing is that they live with the same spirit of the smiley faces they print on t-shirts. The brand launches jerseys, pants, tracksuits, sweatshirts, jackets and a myriad of accessories (footballs and basketballs like smileys are the best).
His collections are full of references to the city of New York and bootlegs, that is, prints and graphics that make fun of some symbols of pop culture, thus giving it a new meaning.