Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Cherman.
Michael, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started off at a young age making t-shirts out of my parent’s garage, soon after slinging those t-shirts on campus of my high school out of the trunk of my car. I ended up getting into parsons school of design and from there was immersed in the world of New York City. I found myself a job working for a company called GoodWood NYC who made laser engraved wooden jewelry and was off to the races. I ended up meeting Chace Infinite at the time, former Manager of A$AP Rocky who helped take him career big and at the time Chace had me in an environment that at the time I did not realize how important to my later years it would be. Many of the people I was around then led to be my friends and co-workers as years progressed. From there, I knew I wanted to stay in New York and at the time I was interning and needed to find work. I did a poster campaign covering the streets from where this person I wanted to work for lived and worked with posters that said “Hi, My Name is Mike and I want to work for you” with a google voice number, etc. I ended up getting arrested that evening for “grafittii & wheat-pasting” and spent the night in the “Tombs” which is central bookings in downtown NYC.
I subsequently got out the next day, there were articles written about my approach to shameless self-promotion and the idea that I was willing to put myself out there in a very unique way to gain the attention of the person I wanted to work for. While at the time I definitely wasn’t this savvy I’ll take the credit hah. Getting arrested ended up getting the attention of some people who ran an Agency that was managing a Nike Customization Store in Downtown, NY. I landed the job because of my laser machine expertise and I was off to the races. Everyday I was coming home with 10-20 t-shirts I customized in the space and my brain was going wild. All the while, I was commuting to work and ended up getting hit by a car on my ride. This whole experience brought a lot of trauma to my life and in turn, I learned a lot and worked to try to apply this tragedy into something positive.
At work, we had rolls of 3M Reflective Vinyl & I had a bunch of Uniqlo socks that I had just purchased. My whole first business was built off the idea of functional safety wear, far before Levi’s did “Levi’s Commuter” and there were functional lifestyle brands that understood safety with style. I had the classic story of building this brand, signing with an investor who I signed away my rights to the company with and in three short years, I found myself in quite a situation. The same investor who “believed” in me had terminated me from my own company and I was left with nothing. He took all my possessions including the computer I owned and more.
While scarring and damaging, this whole experience led me to move to California for a fresh start. I ended up living out of my friend’s 2nd bedroom and designing for his company Pleasures. During this whole process, I was offered a free booth at Complex Con, a consumer tradeshow that was debuting that year. I showed up with five t-shirts and five hat designs, one of which was a bootleg shirt that said “FRANK OCEAN” with the Nike “Swoosh”. I saw the popularity of this shirt at the show and immediately put up a website to sell the shirts. I woke up to my phone just continuously vibrating and I figured my phone was broken. In less than 24 hours we did over 50k in sales without any promotion and I was freaking out.
Only a few hours later, Frank’s team hit me with the trademark infringement and I had to subsequently return all of the money I had just made. But with that experience led me to where I am today in understanding how to tap into things happening in pop culture and how to rework them into concepts that tap into what’s happening everyday in the world through the lens of product.
We now have a team of 16 based out of our office in DTLA and continuing to grow and look for ways now to weather this coronavirus storm.
Chinatown Market – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I think what makes Chinatown Market so special is its true ability to adapt and be unique. I built the whole business on the idea that I could have an idea at 7:00a, put it online by 12:00p noon and be shipping it by the next morning. We strive to shake up what the common notion of what a “streetwear brand” really is and work to change the trajectory of fashion as a whole.
We run our own warehouse, shoot out own photoshoots, create our own content and produce our own product. There are not too many brands out there able to say that they truly do every step of the process and we really pride ourselves on the vertical operation we’re built to this day.
Outside of all of this – our biggest focus is social media and how we interact with our consumer base in the form of engaging content and strategic promotion. We understand consumers don’t just want to watch, they also dream of playing and having the chance to do it themselves. We work everyday to involve our consumers into the process and separate ourselves from the brands that just simply sell you stuff.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moment of my career so far has truly been watching the team around me change and grow. Seeing kids that I saw come in as an intern now running Marketing and really building a true family around me through the business has been the proudest thing I can say is that I really do look at our team as a real unit.
- $40 T-Shirts
- Website: thechinatownmarket.com
- Instagram: @chinatownmarket
- Facebook: facebook.com/chinatownmarket
- Twitter: @chinatownmarket