IDYSM: Hey Mike, set the scene for us – where are you right now?
Mike: In my print studio – 1:00pm on a Sunday. Working and experimenting with the new FW15 collection.
IDYSM: So, tell us about ICNY. What is it, and how did the idea for it come about?
Mike: ICNY all came to be when I was still working for Nike. I was hit by a car on my commute home from work and realized I needed something to keep myself safe while riding and running at night. Everything I found already on the market was so heavily focused on safety and left fashion in the back of their minds. My goal when starting ICNY was to make something fashionably cool that truly held function and purpose. Everyday we are working to uphold that value.
IDYSM: I think I and many others out there will have nothing but respect for you in setting up your own company after failing to enjoy life as a freelancer. Tell us about your previous career as a Designer, your disillusionment, and what drove you to start ICNY?
Mike: I dropped out of Parsons: The New School for Design during my freshman year of school with a goal in my head of becoming a designer without much focused goal in mind. I had started in High School by making t-shirts out of my garage and starting small clothing companies where I would sell shirts after school or online. I was inspired by a designer named Rob Dobi, he is an amazing designer who runs a t-shirt brand called Full Bleed. In middle school he was definitely one of the reasons I really started to pursue design and apparel. My parents both worked in the fashion industry and I always dreamed of just making products, clothes / shoes / accessories, I just knew I wanted to create. So fast forward to the summer after I had dropped out of school – I knew I needed a job. I did a poster campaign across the lower east side from where Jeff Staple lived to where he worked. The posters covered with the statement “Hi Jeff Staple, My Name is Mike – I want to work for you.” It had my google voice number, contact and a small bio about me on the poster. These were massive posters that ended up getting me enough attention to get arrested while on my way home and put in what they call “the tombs” in NYC for a night. After I got out of Jail I had a number of emails of people who had heard about the incident. 2 weeks later, I was sitting in an office interviewing for my job working in customization at the Nike 255 Studio. Fast forward again 3 years later the shop closed and I bought some of the machines we used to produce clothing with and moved into LQQK Studio, based in Brooklyn NY. With this whole new space I started the brand humbly – I was using all my freelance design money to pay for reflective materials and apparel. I wasn’t totally happy with everything I was doing on a freelance side. The idea I was creating designs and products for other people, on their deadlines and never really had the opportunity to instill my own vision into the work I needed something more. Starting ICNY was my outlet for everything, my need to create and my desire to one day truly have my own brand under my vision. I had always done it in high school but it was never real, I was building up to today.
IDYSM: Do you think you would have had the freedom to do something as bold and innovative as ICNY if you were working for someone else?
Mike: Never. One thing that really stuck with me when I spoke to Jeff Staple recently was him saying “If I had hired you that day you did the poster campaign and were sitting in my office, you would not be sitting here with me today.” It was not that if I worked with him I would never have a chance to be on the same level but what he meant and what I took away the most was that I took the beaten path that allowed me the opportunity. Being 23 and getting the chance to create something so meaningful is a dream for me everyday and I couldn’t have done this if I was working for someone else – its not their dream to make my stuff.
IDYSM: You only have a small team and are still pretty hands on – what’s an average day for you?
Mike: In the office by 9 – my work day everyday is working on our collaborations, future seasons and constant product development. We have slowly been building the team. We recently made our first hire which was a true accomplishment for us. It feels good to have some support. With such a small team, everyone does a little of everything.
IDYSM: How much are you able to mould ICNY product out of the needs and demands of your own everyday life? How much of you is in the product?
Mike: I am still in every product – each and every product is designed solely by myself. We of course do special projects and collaborations, that is where we like to work with brands who do things we do not. Pushing the boundaries of what we can do with our partners and with different reflective applications. Of course we want to make product that can be widely accepted but we believe the overall goal of this brand is to survive the needs of someone who inhabits the urban jungle. Its easy to break a sweat out here, we want to be there to help you stay dry and safe while looking good doing it.
IDYSM: It’s a simple question but one that always fascinates me with the responses it throws up; what inspires you? Where inspires you? How do you get inspiration?
Mike: My everyday commute, the grind, the bike rides, the subways rides, the late nights, the early mornings, the people places and things that surround me everyday.
IDYSM: And from your own ideas and needs the brand has BLOWN UP in a huge way around the world with ICNY now stocked at the likes of Colette, and worn by countless celebs. How hard has it been to get to this stage, and how do you cope with that level of demand?
Mike: I’m in my own little bubble, I try not to let myself see the growth – keep myself grounded and focused on making this a truly successful business. I am learning more each and everyday and its a gift to be able to have an opportunity to learn on the fly, learn from my mistakes and get better everyday. As per the celebs + athletes, its pretty cool to see it. Especially when they find the brand on their own. I guess for me I just can’t wait to travel to another country and see people wearing my apparel in the streets, that would be really cool to me. To see an idea that was so pure and real to me reach people across the globe, thats the dream.
IDYSM: What does the future hold for ICNY?
Mike: Innovation, Progression, Further Attention to Detail. Oh – and *COUGH* a huge 2015 sneaker collab * COUGH* thats all I can say for now.
IDYSM: And here it is, the final question I end all In Their Shoes interviews with…(drumroll please)…what’s on your feet right now?
Mike: Heather Grey ICNY 3M Reflective Gradient Socks + PUMA x KITH x DSM XT-2 All Whites.
For more info on ICNY click here.
Images courtesy of Ja Tecson and Thomas Welch and special thanks to Above The Clouds.