#CCINDEX: ONLY NY

#CCIndex is a compendium providing the need-to-knows of the movers and shakers of street culture, regionally and internationally.

With the prominence of street-culture in fashion today, it is unsurprising to find that many street fashion labels play the capitalist game. From luxury collaborations to collections that fetch ridiculously high prices, it is increasingly difficult to make out the essence of street culture that these brands have built their foundations upon. In the heart of Lower East Side Manhattan, however, sits Only NY, a seventh-eighth generation streetwear label that seemingly exists in its own bubble, unfazed by the rat race surrounding it.

Striving to create quality goods made in the USA, Only NY produces in limited quantities and stays true to its ethos of creating something that is distinctively New York and serves as an extension of its brand owners, artist Micah Belamarich and photographer Julian Goldstein.

“It’s just us and our friends, keeping things simple and native to New York.”

Officially launched in 2006, Only NY’s inception was one without a concrete plan. At the tender age of 22 and having recently dropped out of art school, it was safe to say that neither Belamarich nor Goldstein were properly equipped to face the reality of running a  business that they’ve just invested their life savings on. Their chosen approach was surprisingly nonchalant; to not do too much too soon and focus on necessity, meeting obstacles only as they came.

Debuting their first collection – made up of just 5 t-shirts with different designs – to the Internet, Only NY first launched as an e-commerce business. They then began slowly reaching out to editors around New York City, in hopes of growing their brand organically. The features naturally came rolling in, and served as a testament to the brand’s designs, which were very much inspired by the city, nature, fishing, skateboarding, graffiti, sports, art, and photography.

Despite having a strong presence online, the next step for Only NY was to be stocked on physical shelves. Their first venture was to atmos, who gave them their first retail account based off the same first collection of 5 designs, kickstarting their journey along the Eastern hemisphere, where shops began stocking up on Only NY’s products. It was natural that business would pick up speed and that logistical issues that did not exist before became increasingly unavoidable, considering the fact that they were working from Belamarich’s parents’ apartment. 

Facing this overwhelming growth, the brand held itself to maintaining its authenticity, remaining selective with who they want to stock their wares at and by limiting their distribution. In fact, the brand kept the marketing for the brand largely incognito. Like graffiti crews tagging on trains across New York City, the gang behind Only NY took to the streets of New York City and marked it with their stickers, which also became a motif for their brand.

The brand eventually had to move its business to a brick and mortar retail space in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. While they had previously allowed private shoppers into their Harlem-based studio by appointment, they found that the time they could have spent on designing new products was increasingly spent on consulting these customers. A physical store was thus a more economically viable option for them.

Only NY continues to be an advocate for authenticity and remains unabashedly true to its core identity, whilst introducing interesting collaborations with other brands, artists, and even organisations that have helped expand the brand’s offerings. Their collaborations have featured names including New York Magazine, Vans, PRO-Keds, New York City Football Club, Jean Jullien, and New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.