New York City is home to some of the best men’s style brands in the world. Supreme’s been holding it down since ‘94. Kith and Ronnie Fieg kicked things up a notch last year. Public School just released another anticipated Jordan collaboration. Big guns like Ralph Lauren, DKNY and Calvin Klein have been here for longer than many of us have been alive. The city is home to up-and-coming labels like New Things Creative, XXB NYC, and Proper Gang, who are all definitely ones to watch in 2016. Nearly every Best Brands List Complex has ever put together has included a brand birthed right here in the Empire State.
What can we say? Homegrown menswear in NYC is here to stay and, with the introduction of New York Fashion Week: Men’s this past July, it might even be the best time ever for men's designers to make their HQ in the Big Apple. Even so, there are a few stand-out New York brands that haven’t received quite as much shine as they deserve. Maybe you’ve heard the name Greg Lauren before, or have had someone (like us) tell you about Death to Tennis, or you’ve seen pieces in stores without realizing that’s that good Siki Im. So, let us lay it down for you right here, with the 10 Most Slept On NYC Brands. Time to wake up.
Menswear fanboys may recognize Abdul Abasi, one half of the creative duo behind Abasi Rosborough, from his tenure at cult label Engineered Garments. But, the clothing he creates with his partner and co-founder Greg Rosborough deserves to have a following that reaches beyond niche status. Since 2013, the Fashion Institute of Technology alums have been churning out progressive menswear that’s all made in New York and inspired in equal parts by sports and the military. The latter is a reference point that Abasi knows well; he detailed for Complex in a 2013 interview how his stint in the military informed his design point of view.
“A lot of Americans never leave their home area, so to be thrust into international waters and doing things there, I was working with German soldiers, Polish, Italian; it just gave me a new perspective,” he said. “I kind of had the turning point when I was in Europe and I realized that my level of art and design could be fused with everyday wear.”
The Abasi Rosborough version of an everyday wardrobe skews futuristic, but doesn’t sacrifice accessibility. In other words, wearing one of the brand’s camel top coats with an asymmetrical zip closure, or sweats that feature drawstrings around the ankles, would be enough to make you stand out from the rest of the well-dressed guys on your morning commute, but won’t leave you feeling like you’re making a loud fashion statement on the A train. —Steve Dool
C’H’C’M’ exudes a quiet confidence. If you’ve ever stepped foot into the NoHo storefront or visited the online shop you know that there isn’t an extra part in the bunch. While some prefer their fashion to come with endless details and occasionally useless doo dads, owner Sweetu Patel and C’H’C’M’ prefer to stay firmly rooted in simplicity.
After six years running the shop, Patel saw an opportunity to offer something exclusive, yet totally familiar, for his loyal customer base and started his own in-house clothing collection. Named after the shop it calls home, C’H’C’M’ (which stands for Clinton Hill Classic Menswear, after the neighborhood where the shop originated), the brand’s wares fit in seamlessly with the rest of the designer threads that populate the shelves, while still offering original takes on, yup, classic menswear. But, we’re not talking about the dictionary definition of “classic.” Think of it more as understated basics—crewneck sweatshirts, subdued oxfords, thick cardigans, and cotton trousers with a single pleat represent wardrobe staples you forgot you needed. Patel describes it best, of course: “We try to offer as little as possible—around 10-12 garments that can be worn together and interchanged with each other daily. The clothes are for everyone to wear however they feel like wearing them, not necessarily to stand out, but rather enhance what you’ve already got going on as a person.” In a current climate where clothes feel like a veil for a lack of personality, these are meant for those who don’t want their outfits getting in the way. —Skylar Bergl
While studying architecture, Daniel DuGoff learned that the trade, as he told Metropolis, “wasn’t just how to design a building,” but also a full-on “design philosophy.” So, while DuGoff began designing objects and furniture before shifting gears to become a technical designer at Marc by Marc Jacobs, his experience with architecture has directly influenced his work, especially when he kicked off his own label for the Fall/Winter 2014 season.
DuGoff creates what he calls “unbasic basics,” or clothing that guys wouldn’t be afraid to wear day-after-day. Of course, if you’re going to be designing clothes that spend more time out of the closet than in, they better come correct with the quality. DDUGOFF is chock full of impeccable fabrics—cotton from Japan, wool from Italy, oxford fabric from Portugal—put together in NYC (along with New Jersey and L.A.). DuGoff’s label may be flying a little under the radar at the moment—tucked quietly in shops like Opening Ceremony, Neighbour, and East Dane—his recent spot in the “Art & Style” section of Forbes’ annual “30 under 30” is just the latest indication that DDUGOFF is destined for big moves in 2016. —Gregory Babcock
Death to Tennis
There’s a great history of Brits coming to New York to make it big—Marcus Wainwright and David Neville of rag & bone, Vogue’s Anna Wintour and, you know, the people who named it New York in the first place. If there’s any justice, we’ll soon be able to add William Watson and Vincent Oshin to that list. The designers, who together are at the helm of the menswear label Death to Tennis, both hail from England, but met Stateside while working on other fashion projects. But, the vision for their collection is strong enough to travel beyond that well-worn Heathrow to JFK flight plan.
You may have already seen that we named Death to Tennis one of our brands to watch in 2106, and there are plenty of reasons we stand behind that claim. What might be most impressive is how well they take a minimalist, easy-to-wear approach and turn up the volume just enough to make room for some extra points of interest. Take the wool trench from their Fall 2015 collection; it’s all business in the front, like a fairly standard, straightforward coat you may already have in your closet. But, the party in the back—custom embroidery by artist Jakob Haglof—gives you something entirely new, and distinctively DTT. Not bad for a couple of expats in the big city. —Steve Dool
Greg Lauren may be the nephew of the god Ralph Lauren, but his eponymous men’s and women’s line, launched in 2011, isn’t the slightest bit similar to Ralph’s classic, all-American style. But that’s not a bad thing. Greg, an artist-cum-designer who learned how to sew in order to create his 2009 “Alteration” exhibit—which consisted of 40 sculptures of the most iconic menswear garments made out of Japanese paper—designs collection that, as he told Vogue in 2014, “have always been about a destroyed elegance.”
Over the years, he’s become known for his signature deconstructed techniques. His collections—all the way from Spring 2011 to Spring 2016, his first-ever menswear show—are inspired by military clothing and use repurposed materials such as vintage army tents, tattered linen from old duffel bags, and sailor uniforms pieced together. Even more impressive: Everything is hand-sewn by Greg himself with help from a group of artisan sewers in Los Angeles.
High-end retailers like Barneys and Dover Street Market (New York, London, and Ginza), Maxfield in L.A. have taken notice of the label, and so have celebrities like Kanye West, who wore a custom Greg Lauren velvet jacket and pants to the 2015 Grammy Awards. Now, it’s time for you to pay attention to this Lauren, too. —Karizza Sanchez
Many young brands struggle to get their gear into the right stores to get their careers moving, but Linder is a different case. The brand’s studio space at 128 Thompson in New York also functions as its own store, stocking both Linder and a handful of third party brands. It’s a bit of a challenge, as Linder co-founders Kirk Millar and Sam Linder explain, but it has helped shaped how its own clothes come together, placing them on both sides of buying and designing.
Linder’s latest collection is a departure from its previously darker palettes, with a more spring-like color scheme and draws inspiration from a photo of old-school boxer Jack Dempsey sitting ringside in a pair of shorts and a surprisingly elaborate sweater. That juxtaposition between sport and sportswear is the line Linder rides. There are those boxing-inspired shorts and the thick sweaters with the off-kilter button stance, but also washed-out denim and polo shirts with a distinct sheen, as if they were hit with gold flakes after all was said and done. It’s muted and approachable, but a little bit wacky all the same—a mix few brands are able to balance this well. —Skylar Bergl
Palmiers du Mal
Athleisure may be gripping the nation and have everyone around you wearing their favorite yoga pants while claiming they need “comfort” above everything else. But, is there anything actually as comfortable as clothes made for the resort? Fledgling label Palmiers du Mal pulls much of its inspiration from creative director Shane Fonner’s extensive travels, which have brought him to Rio de Janeiro, Marrakech, Paris and many more.
The resulting look definitely hits on a resort-like feel. Knits (cashmere most of the time) are luxuriously soft, shirts are airy and lightweight, and pants often come with dropped crotches and the sort of pattern that gives off vibes of the furthest away, most exotic location you can imagine. The pieces aren’t radical, but take more than a bit of gumption to pull off. With a looser silhouette, Palmiers du Mal lends itself not just to men, but anyone looking to stay cozy while also draping themselves in luxurious, expertly crafted fabrics. Fonner says, “I like to think of my clothing as something that attempts to transcend time and place, and as such, gender. I don't like being defined as a 'unisex' brand though. I try to create cool pieces, and if women dig it—and they do—then that's excellent.”
As long as you’re daring enough to wear it. —Skylar Bergl
If you live in NYC or L.A., Richardson is your favorite cool guy’s favorite brand. Tied to the cult erotic art magazine founded by Andrew Richardson, it's a streetwear label—but only in its casual designs. Incorporating Richardson’s own history as a stylist and editor, the brand began as an afterthought, coming into existence only after Supreme’s James Jebbia convinced Richardson to start making clothing. Eventually, the line became a separate entity still closely tied to the publication, working in tandem with the magazine by featuring the showcased artists and photographers on T-shirts and other merch. While the brand began relatively under-the-radar, it’s emerged on the backs of celebrities like Rihanna and on the racks of stores like Dover Street Market.
Those might be reasons to prove how the brand is anything but low-key, but we have to ask, if you don’t live in the aforementioned cities on either coast, how often are you really seeing, hearing, or talking about Richardson? While the brand’s occasionally explicit imagery isn’t going to endear everyone, there’s plenty of wit and clean design that’s associated with the Richardson “R.” The classics include the label’s badger-branded wrestling gear and the references to a fake Richardson hardware store in NYC’s Chinatown. But more than just tees and hoodies, the label is host to a swell of gear, including velvet-detailed denim jackets and cozy car coats. New York and Los Angeles may have kept this gem on the down low, but it’s time you joined the team. —Gregory Babcock
s.k. manor hill
If you’re catching Engineered Garments-tinged feelings when running through an s.k. manor hill lookbook, then you’re on the right track—designer Dominic Sondag worked with the production and design teams over at Daiki Suzuki’s NYC-based label. Under Suzuki at Engineered Garments, Sondag was able to develop a renewed appreciation for vintage clothing and craftsmanship. It’s a methodology that’s translated directly into his first collection, combining global travel with a formal-meets-casual versatility. But, it’s not just a shared philosophy that s.k. manor hill has in common with Engineered Garments; Sondag also produces his collection in the city’s storied Garment District, resulting in a level of quality that’s associated with top-notch New York production.
As one of the younger brands on this list (the brand is making its debut for the Spring/Summer 2016 season), s.k. manor hill is definitely on the smaller scale and still hard to find. But don’t let a lack of information and social media presence fool you: This is a brand that will have reformed streetwear fiends and menswear nostalgists alike chomping at the bit for more in the years to come. —Gregory Babcock
With a resume that includes time as senior designer under Karl Lagerfeld and modern-day menswear icon Helmut Lang, Siki Im was poised for success before even launching his own label. Founded in 2009 with a Spring/Summer 2010 debut, the eponymous collection from the German-born and -raised designer wowed with an initial asortment inspired by the classic novel The Lord of the Flies. Since then, Siki Im’s dark aesthetic has proven to be simultaneously architectural and athletic—in a way, an embodiment of New York itself. And that isn't just a coincidence; the designer cut his teeth as an architect before stepping into the world of fashion, and he told Barneys New York that his mood board consists of "mostly buildings or objects, but never other designers.” His work ultimately earned him the Ecco Domani award for Best Men’s Wear in 2010, and the Samsung Design & Fashion Fund in 2011.
But for all of the accolades, it seems Siki Im is relatively overlooked when it comes to runway-centric menswear labels from the Big Apple. Though he might not be the first name on your lips when discussing NYC fashion designers, he’s come to be one of the more established names on the recently established New York Fashion Week: Men’s roster. In 2016, Siki Im already traveled to Florence, Italy, representing the U.S. in the hunt for the International Woolmark Prize. It’s clear that the future for this dark label is exceedingly bright. —Gregory Babcock