Interview with ICNY
This article is taken from ISSUE 02 of our print edition, see more from it and go grab onehere.
Michael Cherman is a 23 year old Brooklyn based designer, founder and creative director of ICNY, a performance based reflective wear brand merging the lines between form and function. For our second printed issue, we interviewed him about DIY, New York and selling t-shirts out of the back of your car.
Grape: Over the past 5 years, the whole street wear market has become pretty diluted with bedroom brands printing t-shirts that don’t last longer than a season. Was identifying ICNY as a sportswear brand set out from the start for differentiation?
Mike: The reason I started ICNY was purely out of necessity. I was riding my bike everyday to and from work and I had gotten hit by a car a few weeks prior and truly needed something to keep myself safe in the streets of NY at night. I was working for Nike at the time and I began experimenting with products, applying reflective applications to the garments and essentially creating my own personal wardrobe. The clothing went from something I made for myself to something I quickly realized could be a strong product in the marketplace.
ICNY has an interesting balance of form and function; did either of these lead to the initial design? Was there a specific inspiration?
Since I was making everything for myself, I was purely designing and producing products that I believed in and for the first time I didn’t have a team of people critiquing everything I did and was able to feel free about my design. The specific inspiration was just simplicity through design. The polka dot is one of the most recognizable patterns in the world and I figured why not take something that is so well known and loved and utilize it to my advantage.
Your work has such close ties to New York, how important has the city been to yourself and developing the brand?
New York makes and breaks you. There are nights you don’t ever want to come back and other times you feel like it’s the greatest place on earth. I have some really great friends out here and a network of young designers and creators who I really believe in. It’s a special place here in New York. Though I will say I wouldn’t mind getting out to LA sometime soon.
You’ve a long list of established collabs, which has been your favourite? Anyone in particular you’d like to collab with? Dead or alive…
My favorite collab so far was the Colette Collaborative t-shirt we did. If I could collab with anyone, it would be Stone Island – it’d be fucking out of this world if I had a chance to work with them.
ICNY recently had a trip to Seoul, what was going on over there? Any other cities you’d like to visit with your work?
Production production production. Trying to perfect our socks for the consumer and make the best product possible. I’ve traveled around the US for work, definitely not as much internationally as I would like.
You run everything from your studio ‘LQQK’ in Brooklyn; is it purely for your own endeavours or is it home to more creativity? What goes on there?
LQQK‘s a co-op creative studio that I share with 4 of my friends. It all started there and we still today do all of our sampling and test production out of our Brooklyn based studio. The guys at LQQK work on projects with some major clients ranging from Patrick Ervel, The Lincoln Center, MoMA, Rachel Comey, Opening Ceremony, Robertas Pizza, etc.
I’ve always seen screen-printing as strong part of the DIY and punk aesthetic; did you have a similar introduction?
I was introduced heavily to screen printing in high school when I began designing and selling t-shirts out of the back of my car. I used to take what little money I had and would put together a small 2-4 t-shirt capsule and essentially go sell it out of the back of my car, anywhere people would buy them! Haha I was all about it in High School. I had discovered graphic design in 8th grade and I had moved from NY to San Diego, CA my freshman year of high school and essentially was separated from all my friends and I began spending copious amounts of time on my computer designing. I know I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if I didn’t have that time in my life where I spent endless hours trying to learn the Adobe Suite. It was a beautiful time in my life, no fucking responsibility!
What’s next for ICNY?
Big projects, Fall 2014 and just trying to get ICNY out to the world!
Interview by Ralph Sheridan