New York magazine rolls out apparel line

New York magazine is trying its hand at merchandise with the help of lifestyle and streetwear brand, Only NY.

In honor of the publication’s 50th anniversary, New York magazine launched a five-piece apparel collection on Thursday, available exclusively on Only NY’s website and its Lower East Side store. Within just a few hours of launching the line, two of the shirts within the collection (which also includes a sweatshirt, hat and tote) sold out. New York magazine and Only NY will share proceeds from the year-long collaboration, which is expected to also feature a forthcoming spring line.

David Haskell, New York magazine’s editor for business and strategy, said while anniversary merchandise had long been in the works, the publication was particularly inspired to team with Only NY after its partnership with the City of New York. In both 2015 and 2016, Only NY designed an apparel line that incorporated imagery from the city’s parks and recreation, transportation and sanitation departments. (It didn’t hurt that several New York magazine employees had purchased products from the line previously.)

Haskell said the intention was to give Only NY creative reign, so the team was invited to browse the archives and select images and pieces of inspiration, which includes a cartoon called “The Gossip Monster,” created by graphic designer Milton Glaser and an image from a 1971 subscription advertisement.

“We referenced [Only NY and the City of New York] as an ideal tone, point of view and execution of a collaboration we might want ourselves,” Haskell said. “We thought what would be most interesting would be to invite them in the office, show them the research we did for our [50th anniversary] book — which includes has hundreds of images — and then leave it to them to go through the archives.”

The “Gossip Monster” shirt designed by Only NY for New York magazine

While other brands were considered, Haskell said Only NY had the added benefit of operating on a smaller scale that can eschew red tape that may hinder the creative process.

“The larger brands were enthusiastic but somewhat daunted about how to make it through their own bureaucracy — it seemed to me worth keeping the idea very pure and working with a smaller brand that could collaborate with us quickly and creatively first, which is something that gets watered down,” he said.

Lukas Witek, designer at Only NY, said the company’s intrinsic connection to the city is in large part what led New York magazine to tap the brand to design the publication’s first apparel line.

“The owners and myself, we all grew up in New York City. We’ve never really lived anywhere else, and that’s the inspiration behind a lot that we do. It’s natural that the company would take the same route. Our upbringing involved a lot of New York street culture,” Witek said.

Originally started by Upper West Side natives Michah Belamarich and Julian Goldstein, Only NY began as an e-commerce site in 2007 before opening its brick-and-mortar shop in Lower Manhattan in 2012. Today, the brand has a nimble team of 13 people that work from an office in Harlem.

Now in its tenth year, Witek said Only NY has been strategic about seeking out opportunities for growth while staying true to its identity. In the first few years, Only NY avoided partnerships as the team sought to find its niche. Now it’s teamed with the likes of major brands like Vans and Keds leading into the New York magazine partnership.

“In the beginning, we steered away from doing any collaborative projects,” he said. “We wanted to build the brand name organically, and build a steady fan base and customer base. When New York magazine contacted us, we thought it was the perfect thing — it’s so iconic, the logo and the magazine, and everything.”

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