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Business of HYPE: Mike Cherman

The Business of HYPE is a weekly series brought to you by HYPEBEAST Radio and hosted by jeffstaple. It’s a show about creatives, brand-builders and entrepreneurs and the realities behind the dreams they’ve built. On this week’s episode, Jeff sits down with designer and entrepreneur Mike Cherman, best-known as the founder of ICNY and Chinatown Market.

Despite his myriad contributions to streetwear, Mike’s working hand was largely invisible. Much of his work is instantly recognizable, though: he designed all of KITH’s branding from the box logo to the Just Us branding, for Ronnie Fieg. Much of the early A$AP Worldwide gear was Mike’s work, too.

While he was living and working in New York, Cherman would cycle to and from work, meaning that he was constantly getting into scrapes with cars who could not see him (Cherman often dressed in all black). After getting doored by a taxi for the last time, Cherman had an idea. He went to his shop and started cutting polka-dots out of reflective material. He heat-pressed them onto a pair of plain socks and thus ICNY was born. Utilizing 3M in novel and intriguing ways, ICNY quickly picked up a cult following in the Downtown set. [Cherman recalls a meeting wherein Ronnie Fieg asked why he was never invited in invest.] In this interview, Mike explains how he ceded a majority stake in the company and how he eventually lost control of the brand to a business partner of his.

Reeling from the loss of his first venture, Cherman returned with a vengeance with his new brand, Chinatown Market. Mike addresses the allegations of racial appropriation leveled at him and the company on Instagram and elsewhere; he also explains why he opted to remain anonymous after dropping a bootleg Frank Ocean hoodie; and why he eventually hit up Urban Outfitters.

“The reality is,” says Mike, “that many people sit out there and say your brand dies when you go to Urban. It’s like, ‘Cool. Enjoy making no money for the rest of your life. Be cool—that’s great, fuck off.’” When commenters on Instagram and HYPEBEAST say that Chinatown Market “died” when it landed on shelves in UO retailers nationwide, Cherman retorts: “I’ve been in Urban since the first collection. So if that means I’m dead, I’ve been dead since day one.”

Here are some of the brands/companies/people mentioned in this episode:  

00:12: Wexler’s Deli  

1:30: Chinatown Market  

1:40: Canal Street Market  

2:53: Mike Cherman  

4:15: eMac  

6:00: RVCA  

6:08: Univ  

6:15: BBC Ice Cream   

6:16: slvdr  

6:32: R+D Omar Quiambao  

6:40: Gourmet Blue Jordan’s   

7:05: 5 & A Dime  

7:55: Krispy Kreme  

12:02: Alphanumeric  

12:03: Alyasha Owerka-Moore  

12:04: Mirko Mangum  

14:10: F.I.T.  

14:11: Parsons School of Design  

16:15: Prohibit  

16:16: Chace Infinite   

17:50: Noah Callahan-Bever   

18:30: Reed Space  

18:33: J. Scott  

19:34: Nico from Staple  

20:05: The Tombs Jail  

20:50: Emeka Obi  

20:51: The Hundreds  

22:20: 94×50 / Game Seven  

22:30: Nike 255 Elizabeth St  

22:35: Nike Bowery Stadium  

22:40: Doubleday & Cartwright  

22:55: GoodwoodNYC  

24:55: Ronnie Fieg / Kith  

24:56: Soho House  

27:00: Carolyn Davidson Swoosh Logo  

30:47: Lqqk Studio  

31:21: ICNY  

31:40: Uniqlo   

32:15: Colette  

32:37: 40oz Van  

34:00: Sarah Andelman  

34:45: Without Walls Urban Outfitters  

36:19: IRT  

36:20: ASI Vendors  

44:43: Lane Crawford   

48:43: ICNY x Puma  

49:50: Acronym  

52:45: People Footwear  

55:20: Vlad Elkin – Pleasures   

56:06: I Love NY Shirt Shirt  

59:13: Stray Rats  

59:14: Ignored Prayers  

60:50: Supreme & Carlyle Group  

61:31: Frank Ocean Swoosh  

63:52: Greg Mishka  

68:20: Josh Vides AF1  

76:58: Th-Oughts App