The Hottest New Streetwear Brand Is Actually a Restaurant


It’s a balmy day in early October, and the crowd of 20-somethings dressed in their best logo-clad T-shirts and sweatshirts is taking up space on Noho’s Lafayette Street. A new limited-edition Nike collaboration had been announced on Instagram the day before, and these hypebeasts are lined up to get a piece of it.

“I AM THIRSTING AT THESE SNACKS,” commented one enthusiastic follower on the post.

“Dying!! NEED immediately!!!”

“How I do get a pair? I don’t live in NYC.”

The item they’re there to claim? A pair of Air Force 1 sneakers done up in the signature pink-and-green color scheme and cursive logo of…a matcha tea shop.

Since Cha Cha Matcha opened its first location in New York three years ago, the Japanese-inspired tea shop has attracted a loyal customer base of models, influencers, and fashion designers with its $5 lattes and millennial-pink cups. It was one of those frequent customers, designer Virgil Abloh of streetwear brand Off-White, who orchestrated the Nike collaboration last fall. The move was so successful that the shop followed up with limited-edition T-shirts and hoodies designed by Abloh himself, timed to the launch of its Los Angeles shop in December.

“I’ve never wanted merch this bad in my life tbh,” wrote a follower on the exclusive drop.

It’s been cool to wear restaurant merchandise since the Hard Rock Cafe’s heyday, but this marriage of streetwear and food is new. In the last year alone, KFC launched a collaboration with Nigo, the legendary Japanese streetwear designer; Mission Chinese tapped a Yeezy designer (Lauren Devine) for its casual skate-inspired merch; Los Angeles’ Sqirl, famed for its thick-cut ricotta toast, teamed up with small skate brand Brain Dead on a jar of jam. Dover Street Market sold the fruit spread next to a T-shirt with a bagel for a logo from Palace, a British skate brand.

As fashion weeks unfold around the globe this month, luxury fashion houses will be showcasing their big bets on the next trends from London to Paris. But for a certain crowd Stateside, white lace-up Vans made in collaboration with Los Angeles hot spot Jon and Vinny’s carry more cache than any chunky Balenciaga sneaker.

So, how did we get here?

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Photo by Chelsie Craig

From the Kith x Sadelle’s capsule collection.

“We have a lot of people from the fashion industry that come to the restaurant, and that we are friendly with,” says Sant Ambroeus creative director Alireza Niroomand. Not only has he had a hand in turning the restaurant into the go-to spot for fashion-related meetings in New York, but Niroomand was also one of the first to see collaborations with trending brands like Superga, Oliver Peoples, and Italian windbreaker company K-Way as a natural “organic” fit.

“I never sit at my desk and think, Oh, we should collaborate with these people,” Niroomand says. “It’s never forced.” Neighbors and regulars of the Lafayette Street location come to eat, they get to chatting, and boom, skateboarder Mark Gonzales has his own Sant Ambroeus x Supreme deck. Morgan Collett, cofounder of vibey skate-surf brand Saturday’s NYC, swings by for an espresso, and bada bing! a $125 limited-edition pink crewneck sweatshirt is born.

For the restaurant, this isn’t about diversifying its revenue stream. “It’s definitely not a monetary thing,” Niroomand says. Rather, the association with the right and relevant fashion labels “elevates the restaurant’s brand in the world that we live in right now, especially with the downtown crowd. It gives it a ‘cool factor.’”

And it’s not just upscale restaurants that are tapping into the moment. The tactic has worked just as well for larger mass-market food brands like White Castle (Telfar Clemens) and Coca-Cola (Bathing Ape). Buzzy salad chain Sweetgreen, meanwhile, has been using merch designed by labels like Cult Gaia and Deerdana to make its fast-casual veg-forward meals more fashionable. It started with T-shirts and tote bags featuring punny phrases like “Beets don’t kale my vibe”—a reference to a more explicit lyric from rapper Kendrick Lamar. Then last October, Sweetgreen dropped “Burrata 2020” merch, which was a spoof of Balenciaga’s own Bernie Sanders’ campaign spoof.

“We’re a company that celebrates healthy food,” said Sweetgreen cofounder Nicolas Jammet.
“We use these fun fashion and music references to engage people even more and create that connection. It’s changing the cultural paradigm of what food is cool, and what people want to associate themselves with.”

And increasingly, what people want to associate themselves with is restaurants.

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Photo by Chelsie Craig

Pizzaslime’s Erewhon “drip.”

“If you’re aware of this great spot and you’re repping it, people give a silent nod,” said Matthew Hwang, cofounder of Pizzaslime, a creative agency that aims to make instant “micromerch” in response to trending pop culture topics. “You’re part of a smaller, niche group that knows about this food or place.”

Pizzaslime started as a music blog and eventually made a name for itself with celebrity-related products, like the “Drake Tears” mug that went viral in 2014. Now many of its best sellers revolve around food. In November, Pizzaslime collaborated with Jon and Vinny’s on a plate of fusilli T-shirt. Just this week, the creative agency made merch for an L.A. pop-up event with New York’s much-hyped slice joint Prince Street Pizza. One of its most popular items so far, though, was an unofficial sweatsuit promoting L.A.’s favorite fancy health food store, Erewhon.

In April, Kanye West tweeted the photo of someone wearing sweats (purportedly a Yeezy prototype) with the caption, “Grocery story drip Erewhon drip laundry day drip airport drip.” The timing was sweet: Pizzaslime had just dropped their own swag the month before: black and gray Champion sweatsuits with the store’s name written in big orange letters.

The sweats sold out almost instantly, with orders shipping all the way to Paris. “Do these people even know what Erewhon is?” wondered Nicholas Santiago, the agency’s other half, of his international customers. “Or is the hype that big?”

Perhaps no one understands hype better than Ronnie Fieg, founder of the popular streetwear brand Kith, who’s created limited-edition shirts and hoodies in collaboration with Major Food Group’s swanky Red Sauce restaurant Carbone and upscale Jewish deli Sadelle’s—two Manhattan spots he frequents. But he’s just as likely to tap into his own 1990s nostalgia, as he did with the California Milk Processor Board, when he put his spin on the Got Milk? milk mustaches campaign.

But in a climate where labels have to justify their brick-and-mortar existence in an increasingly digital world, he’s also figured out how to use food as a valuable, and often exclusive, IRL experience to get people in the door. Kith Treats, the brand’s in-house cereal/ice cream/milkshake bar, serves 20-something different flavors and toppings curated by everyone from LeBron James to, again, Virgil Abloh.

Sure, the sugary treats are all made up of ingredients you can get at the grocery store for half the price—a bowl of The Don, a mix of Cap’n Crunch and coconut flakes curated by streetwear designer Don C, runs you $6.50. And yet all the cool kids wearing Off-White on their backs are willing to shell out in order to spoon their snack out of a disposable Kith-branded bowl.

As Fieg well knows: “It’s all about what you’re willing to wait in line for, right?”

Emilia Petrarca is a fashion news writer at New York Magazine’s The Cut, and the proud owner of a Ferrara Bakery “Holy Cannoli” T-shirt.


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More than oilsands: Mayor has eye on new brand for Fort McMurray


The mayor of Canada’s oilsands capital says one of his priorities for 2019 is changing the way Canadians look at Fort McMurray.

In the new year, Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott has set his sights on a charm offensive with Canadians.

When people talk about Fort McMurray, Scott wants people to think beyond oilsands mines and camps, and instead imagine family-friendly communities with world-class recreational facilities surrounded by more protected forests and parks than most communities in Canada.

« They know that we are the economic engine of Canada. They’ve heard of us. Some have positive views. Some don’t, » Scott said in a year-end interview with CBC. « If people saw the reality of how great this region is, I think they would have a much easier time believing that this is a place to live and invest. »

By getting out a better brand for Fort McMurray, Scott hopes to attract more investment and convince more people to move to the community rather than flying in and out for work.

Other oil patch boosters have taken more confrontational approaches — especially when it comes to getting a pipeline built that could take Fort McMurray’s bitumen to new foreign markets.

Political figures such as former Fort McMurray MLA and opposition leader Brian Jean recently called for a boycott of Quebec-made products after Premier François Legault said there was « no social acceptability » in his province for a « dirty energy » pipeline from Alberta.

WATCH former Fort McMurray MLA and opposition leader Brian Jean call for a boycott of Quebec products.

Earlier in 2018, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley issued an outright ban on British Columbia wine and passed the so-called « turn off the taps » legislation that would allow the province to cut off energy shipments to B.C.

Notley’s actions were sparked after B.C.’s made further attempts to block the Trans Mountain pipeline, arguing it posed environmental risks for the province.

Scott did not mention the tactics of others, but said he will be using a softer public approach in the hopes of changing hearts and minds

Meanwhile, he says he’s still working all political back channels, including meetings in 2018 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Notley.

« I think the advocacy by Albertans has really worked. When I travel and I talk to other Canadians they are much more familiar with the challenge right now, » Scott said. « And they are much more supportive of pipelines. I feel like we are heading in the right direction. »

Promoting the Fort McMurray brand will happen, in part, through the newly created Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation, which recently appointed Kevin Weidlich as the new CEO.

More goals for Mayor Don Scott in 2019

Connect with David Thurton, CBC’s Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at 


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Burning of the Brand kicks off Canada’s largest livestock show in Regina – Regina


The 48th annual Canadian Western Agribition has officially kicked off in Regina, a show that draws thousands of people from across the globe.

Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame 2018 inductee Gerry Ritz officially kicked off Agribition with this year’s Burning of the Brand, which took place Monday morning.

The Burning of the Brand came with an announcement from the government of Saskatchewan that Canadian Western Agribition will receive up to $500,000 to put towards its work with international buyers and developing markets.

“Our government is committed to investing in essential market growth programs, like the Canadian Western Agribition’s market development program, that helps farmers promote Canadian beef around the world,” said Lawrence MacAulay, federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister.

Preparation ramps up ahead of Agribition kickoff

“This program will help with beef and livestock market expansion and attract international business, which are both vitally important to the continued growth and prosperity of the Canadian agricultural sector.”

The agreement will see up to $100,000 distributed over five years, beginning in 2018.

Visitors to the Canadian Western Agribition can look forward to a number of events including auctions, workshops, live music and food, all taking place at Evraz Place.

The Agribition show also highlights some of the world’s best beef cattle, horses and sheep.

“We are the best beef show and I’m pretty proud of that. What makes us different is that all the cattle of all the breeds are here at once,” said Bruce Holmquist, Canadian Western Agribition president.

Record-setting year for Canadian Western Agribition

“There are other shows that might be a touch bigger in the U.S., but they don’t have all the cattle there at once. When you come here you see everything that Agribition has to offer.”

One of the biggest draws to the Canadian Western Agribition is the rodeos, and the Agribition High School Rodeo will get things rolling and is taking place at the Brandt Centre all day Monday.

“When I was little I would always come and watch the rodeo and when I started competing I would wait all year for it,” said Brandy Fettes, Saskatchewan High School Rodeo Association vice-president and a competitor.

“You feel like you’re a professional. You’re competing indoors and the atmosphere is great. It’s really cool.”

Canadian Western Agribition wraps up in Regina, more than 120,000 in attendance

As for how she is feeling, Fettes says she puts a lot of work into preparing and is looking forward to the challenge.

“Saskatchewan has really tough competition, but I normally just try to stay focused and picture my runs. You always want to have the “perfect run” so I just try to beat my times and don’t think about anybody else’s run,” Fettes said.

Canadian Western Agribition runs until Nov. 24. For a complete schedule of events visit

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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The Runaway Experience: How Moving to Jamaica Helped This Entrepreneur Launch Her Travel Brand | Healthyish


In Entrepreneurs Run the World, Ali Francis gets advice and insight from game-changing entrepreneurs with big ideas. This week we talked to Kalisa Martin, co-founder of The Runaway Experience, a travel service that really gets us.

Whether I’m surfing in Barbados (while renewing my visa), smearing cream cheese on a St-Viateur bagel in Montreal, tipsy from mulled wine and pierogies in Krakow’s Old Town, or slurping a bowl of Hanoi’s finest phở at 8 a.m., I can’t help but return to the same question: “Could I live here?” And then, more practically: “What would I do?”

For The Runaway founders and soon-to-be married couple, Kalisa Martin and Jeff Belizaire, answers to both these questions came while they were on a last-minute getaway to Jamaica in 2014. “We were both at a place in our careers where we were ready for a change and burnt out from our daily grinds,” Martin, a former brand director at Tasting Table, explains. “The location was the perfect place to incubate our idea, and, by the time we left, we were at the beginning of an awesome adventure.”

The pair ran a Kickstarter campaign for the first-ever successfully funded B&B, with backers donating almost $47,000 toward the Jamaican island pad. The Runaway concept soon grew into a larger lifestyle agency, offering boutique travel packages around the world. Want to glamp your way around Morocco, learning to make Berber tea and tagine, sampling street foods, and shopping for spices in local souks? How about seven days of self care, sisterhood, and writing? The Runaway’s got you.

With her degrees in food science and nutrition from Cornell University, and chef training from the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, Martin knew that food would be an important pillar of The Runaway brand. “Our goal is always to take guests on a culinary adventure that is at the same time exciting, unexpected, and delicious,” Martin says. “To us, food is a major part of a travel experience, and we never want any guest to have a single bad meal.”

Part of Martin’s mission involves using food as a vessel to open people’s minds beyond cultural stereotypes. For example, in Jamaica, she cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner for her B&B guests using fresh ingredients from local farms. Likewise, in Cuba, Martin walked the entire island in search of destinations that would shatter rumors of “lackluster food.” “During our research, we ate high and low, chatting with locals about their favorite places,” she said.

We talked with Martin about monetizing a passion project, staying sane in startup mode, leaving time for self-love, and the morning routine she’ll never give up.

I’m always so fascinated by the moment people make the jump and start their own businesses. It’s hard! What was that journey like for you?

Exciting, energizing, and a complete leap of faith! Because of our unique approach and perspective on travel, there was no roadmap, no instruction manual, and no success stories we could directly emulate. Fortunately we had a ton of experience with startups and building companies from scratch. So while it was a new industry, we were able to apply the skills we already had to bring our vision to life.

How did startup culture prepare you for The Runaway?

Instead of being plugged in to a fully formed operation, we were part of teams that created the processes and the foundation that the business needed to run. We saw what worked, what didn’t, and were encouraged to optimize and evolve. We also felt the pressures of answering directly to investors, advertisers, and customers.

How do you and Jeff divide and conquer work?

I like to say that Jeff is the “What” and I am the “How.” Simply put, he’s more of a big picture creative and I am more of a detail-oriented project manager. While he’s identifying our brand positioning, strategizing on our marketing, and projecting our five-year plan, I’m calculating trip budgets, building research spreadsheets, and coordinating logistics with guests.

What’s it like working with your fiancé?

Starting a business with my significant other was like bootcamp for our relationship. We have very different working styles, and while couples usually smooth out their communication differences over time, we had to learn very quickly how to give each other space to run with our angles of the business while also collaborating effectively.

Real talk: How did you keep paying your bills while starting The Runaway?

We both had savings, plus, Jeff took on marketing projects as necessary to keep the lights on as we were building the brand.

How did you actually figure out how to start planning trips? Were you calling airlines, etc?

I’m a project manager at heart and each trip is essentially a major project, with multiple elements that needs to be planned. We research each market extensively. First remotely, connecting with partners and identifying trip elements, then we spend physical time in the city, walking the streets, meeting with people, eating everywhere, and literally testing out every experience we’re considering including in the itinerary.

What is your best marketing asset? In other words, how did people start hearing about you and caring about The Runaway?

Social media, press, influencer collaborations, brand partnerships, and definitely word of mouth! Not only do we have great repeat travellers but they also tell their friends.

When was your “Oh boy, this is totally a viable thing” moment?

Kickstarter was a great way for us to validate the brand from the very beginning. We’ve received such amazing support that we never doubted the concept. The challenge for us was narrowing down all of our “That’s cool!” ideas and focusing on a sustainable, scalable business plan.

The first iteration of The Runaway was a bed and breakfast in Jamaica. What was that move like from New York?

We’d both been in NYC for several years—and loved it—but we were ready, and honestly thrilled, by the change. In Jamaica, we lived on a hill with views of the mountains and the ocean, walked ten minutes to the beach, and bought our food directly from farmers. Not to mention it was 85 and sunny year-round! When we decided to move back to the U.S. to facilitate research and expansion to new markets, we chose Philadelphia instead of going back to the hustle and bustle of NYC.

Can you share any memorable advice you’ve received as an entrepreneur?

“There are a lot of good things you shouldn’t do.” My mom, a medical doctor with her own practice, actually said that to me when I was in college. I was super active in student organizations, sports, and community activities. That was my first major lesson in prioritization. There’s simply not enough time in the day to do everything, even if it’s a GOOD thing to do. This motto, as simple as it is, helps keep us on track as we operate our business.

What are the top three foods we’ll always see in your kitchen?

Since we work from home, I cook most of our meals, and the most exciting thing in the fridge is our weekly farm share. Matcha is a must. I switched from coffee two years ago and ceremonial matcha for home and instant matcha for the road have been essential ever since. [Martin loves The Republic of Tea.] And plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. Top it with some fresh fruit, chopped nuts, seeds, and a drizzle of raw honey—that is my kind of sundae.

Best meal you’ve ever eaten on a Runaway Experience trip?

Dinner at my absolute favorite restaurant in Cuba: El Partenon. This paladar, or private restaurant, is literally a house in a completely residential neighborhood 20 minutes outside of Old Havana. There’s no menu. They just tell you what’s available and it’s all served in multiple courses, family style. We start with fried yucca that’s been smothered in freshly grated garlic; tostones rellenos stuffed with ropa vieja (shredded beef); fish or shrimp ceviche; and, my favorite, grilled octopus with an insane pesto. Then the mains, desert, and digestifs! Not to mention the BEST frozen mojitos on the island.

Do you have any habits that keep you grounded and on track?

My morning routine. I keep my water bottle next to my bed so when I first wake up I drink a ton. Next, I make my morning shake or smoothie and hit the gym, if it’s a gym day. I also tidy up the kitchen so that each day feels like a fresh start. Before diving into work, I make my matcha latte and do my daily devotions.

Where and when do you do your best work?

When I’m fully rested! I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need 8 hours of sleep. Period. The “where” is usually the office in our apartment. I have my standing desk, a second screen I hook up to my laptop, and a big window to look out of. Since I work from home, it’s important to me that I have a designated work space that’s different from our living space. I try to keep those separate and sacred.

What’s one thing you wish you knew before starting The Runaway Experience?

If you told us where we’d be in 2018 back in 2014 I’m not sure we could’ve fully processed that at the time (laughs). That said, I do think some tailored financial advice would’ve been helpful early on. Tips and tricks on how the money we were already spending could do more for us. For example, how to maximize airline points and the right credit cards to get for our specific kind of business.

If you could pick one person’s brain about The Runaway Experience over lunch, who would that be?

Anthony Bourdain. I’ve always looked up to him as a pillar in the food, travel, and content space. He had a very clear point of view and never buckled under pressure to stick to the status quo or do what was expected of him.

What constitutes a perfect day off for you?

Jeff and I do a thing we call “Saturdates” almost every weekend. It’s basically a whole day date that involves doing all of our favorite things: a hike in the park next door to our apartment, picking up our farmshare, exploring a cool neighborhood by foot in our new hometown of Philly, and eating out at a few places along the way. We love Zahav (absolutely worth the wait to get a reservation), Double Knot, which is a secret izakaya in the basement with amazing cocktails, and Reading Terminal Market, the 125 year old indoor market with over 80 restaurants and merchants.


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