Local Brands on the Rise in the Garden State
January 14, 2021
New Jersey has been on the cutting edge of fashion for over a century. From Hoboken being named “The Embroidery Capital of the World” in the early 1900s, to Lakewood’s Marc Ecko dominating the streetwear industry with his ubiquitous Rhino logo in the 2000s, the Garden State has consistently influenced the rest of the world with clothing lines that embody Jersey’s unique heart, soul, and hustle.
Recently, a new generation of designers, artists, and entrepreneurs have made a rise, and are releasing clothing that represents all facets of New Jersey’s culture, whether it’s a night club in Jersey City, a concert in Asbury Park, a day at the beach in Seaside Heights, or a trip on a sailboat around the Barnegat Bay. Let’s take a look at some of the up-and-coming clothing lines that are currently proving there’s more to Jersey fashion than dressing like a cast member from MTV’s “Jersey Shore” or one of “The Real Housewives.”
Freshmen on Varsity
Launched in 2015 by former Seton Hall University baseball player Ryan Parker, Freshmen on Varsity debuted with a full line of t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats before quickly expanding to include tank tops, jackets, and socks. The designs are influenced by the classic look of high school varsity jackets, and nicely combine the current trends in cut/fit with a traditional, yet eye catching logo.
FOV also differentiates itself from other “t-shirt companies” by expanding their product line each season, focusing on premium materials, and releasing certain products in limited runs of 50 or 100 pieces to create an air of exclusivity around some of their higher end products. In less than two years, Freshmen on Varsity has already established itself as one of the premier streetwear brands to watch on the national scene.
Karma Cartel was founded by musician/poet Chris Rockwell in 2009, and continues to be one of the most sought after clothing lines amongst the Jersey Shore’s artistic community. KC specializes in t-shirts and hats with graffiti-inspired designs, which represent the “Tryin’ to Get It All” lifestyle. This year’s releases feature camouflage, print fabrics, and religious imagery that immediately stand out from most of what else is in stores.
The brand is available online, but really carved out a niche by establishing ties with some of NJ’s best musicians, rappers, poets, and artists, as well as making the line available at their shows. This has given the brand an undeniable “cool” factor and has taken the idea of a “merch table” to include way more than stickers and t-shirts.
Nomad rose from Asbury Park’s creative community in the last few years. The brand focuses on producing high quality t-shirts, hats, and sweatshirts that have a worn-in and vintage feel. The brand caters directly to the surf, skate, and artistic crowds that have recently found a home in Asbury Park and produces designs that are more creative, original, and authentic than anything found in a chain store.
Nomad’s products are available online and in a retail space on the Asbury Park Boardwalk, but the brand really lives its’ “Grow Wings Not Roots” mantra by also selling items out of a traveling vintage camper that it uses to traverse the country all summer long.
Since 2008, True Jersey has been selling a wide array of quality items emblazoned with symbols of state pride, including the Garden State Parkway logo, Asbury Park’s mascot Tillie, and pork roll (Jersey’s favorite processed meat) among others. The majority of the items include either the word “Jersey” or the outline of the state and somewhat humorous sayings, like “Defend Jersey” and “We Don’t Like You Either.”
With their odd sense of humor, True Jersey could have easily fallen into the category of quickly forgotten novelty t-shirt companies, but have remained relevant for close to a decade with great artwork, witty slogans, retail locations, and quality merchandise ranging from t-shirts and hoodies to candles and beach bags.
Western Sky Apparel
Started by a group of young men at the Jersey Shore, Western Sky Apparel aims to take their “Live Coastal” philosophy to customers regardless of location. The label launched in 2015 with a line of t-shirts, long sleeve T’s, and tank tops ready for the beach, the boat, or hanging out poolside. Western Sky is currently trying to expand their reach beyond the Jersey Shore with a “Campus Ambassador” program aimed at establishing nationwide brand recognition on college campuses.
The brand’s simple designs and tasteful logos are reminiscent of classic “Beach Brands” like Tommy Bahama, but are clearly updated to appeal to a younger demographic, making it perfect for people looking for something in between surfer brands, like Quiksilver or Stussy, and brands their dads would wear.
We love seeing what local brands are rolling out all over the country. The success of these brands brings hope for clothing design start-ups everywhere. Starting a clothing design brand of your own? Share some of your designs with us in the comments!
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