HANON Meets: Chinatown Market

Chinatown Market is the DIY brand making waves in the industry. It was established by New York bred designer Mike Cherman. After moving to LA, Chinatown Market was born, inspired by Mike’s youth amongst New York’s Canal Street - a hubspot for the most creative merchandise. More recently, Chinatown Market has formed a partnership with PUMA who’s collaborative efforts have seen the release of a number of customised products. The brand’s “do it yourself” ethos focuses on not only the product but the overall experience, resulting in a unique offering for streetwear and sneaker enthusiasts worldwide. 
Q: We were lucky enough to catch the Chinatown Market SOLE Talks out in Dubai at Sole DXB last year, following your ongoing collaboration with PUMA. Can you tell us a bit more about CTMU??
A: We have worked with PUMA for over a year. We are focused on great product as well as great experience.The experience side for us has run through a programme called Chinatown University (CTMU) which launched at the opening of the New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue. It’s all around not just buying products but making products and being a part of the process. We’re a DIY brand for people to feel like they’re really part of it and not just buying something and walking away. The Dubai Sole DXB experience was an extension of that and something we’re super proud of and excited about. It’s something that we will continue to do with PUMA as we have done with the New York flagship opening, ComplexCon in Long Beach, Hong Kong and all around the world.

Q: From Frank Ocean tees at ComplexCon, to a pair of Converse with a Swoosh and Lebron wearing them, is it tough striking the balance between doing off the cuff bootleg products and core products?
A: For us, those products that are off the cuff are really about energy. Sometimes you post something on Instagram that is the most important thing you’ve done that year, then sometimes you post something that’s just for fun -  that you made in the back of your house and want to show to your friends. We want to show a wide range of those two things and working with PUMA is about mixing those two art forms - The DIY comes together and be part of the process and the polished finished product that you can buy online or in the store. We don’t really view it as being hard to do one or the other. It’s the same as anyone having an Instagram account. Sometimes it’s really professional and sometimes it’s DIY. That’s the balance we like to strike.
Q: Given that being able to react quickly to overnight trends and everything else that the internet offers up has played such a big part in the brand, how important is it for Chinatown Market to have full control of the production process in-house from start to finish?
A: We have a mix. The same way as some of our product is planned a year in advance, some of the product is off the cuff and we can make it and that helps to have our quick strike abilities. It’s just a balance, we like to control everything and are able to make quick products and turn things around. We have a lab in-house but we also plan ahead and have facilities and partners that we work with to make sure that we’re shipping to hundreds of stores around the world. It’s a balance between quick and long-term.
Q: 2019 saw Chinatown Market and PUMA come together to work on a number of projects, and we got to experience the CTMU setup at Sole DXB and put our own stamp on your Future Rider. How does it feel to be partnering with PUMA again for another project and being able to bring the customisation element to it?
A: It feels great, PUMA has been an amazing partner who really lets us be free with the customisation parts of the process. The way that we bring our shoe to life, it’s really important for us to contextualise it and to tell a story around it. So, the DIY elements, the events, the CTMU, the way we work with PUMA is all how a partner should work together. We’ve been excited to bring it around the world and have people experience it. This ultimately gives context to the product which is not an easy thing to do with such short attention spans.
Q: Now that you’ve worked with PUMA on a number of projects, is it challenging to come up with new ideas/themes? What’s your thought process when it comes to creating collaborative efforts?
A: PUMA’s such a global brand that we’re able to be creative with not only different regions but different products. What allows us to continue to work with PUMA is the breadth of the brand worldwide, as well as the breadth of the product that is available. We have an unlimited canvas to work with because what works in Long Beach, both from a product and customisation perspective might not work in Sole DXB or Hong Kong. We’ve been excited to work with PUMA in their global efforts and really introduce our brand to the world, creating unique things as we go along.
Q: Moving cross-country from New York to California must have been tough. Combining your tourist head with that local knowledge, If we had one day in LA, how should we spend our time?
A: In the morning we would wake up and go to Malibu and take a dip in the ocean, then go get lunch at this place called Broad City Oysters - an amazing fish and oyster restaurant in Malibu. Next, we would work our way East on the way back to Chinatown Market’s headquarters. We would go to the LACMA, enjoy an amazing museum and really experience culture and art in LA. Then, we would hit some of the stores around La Brea, Fairfax and the shopping area. Then, we would play basketball at the LA Athletic Club which is downtown. Later we’d get dinner at Bavel which is this really amazing restaurant near our office. Finally, we would end up at Chinatown to make some cool clothes and then go to bed.
Q: Short and sweet this one, sum up the latest collaboration in three words?
A: Futuristic, classic, sporty. 
Q: The classic to finish this off, what can we expect next from Chinatown Market?
A: We will continue to blend, cut and sew and do more advanced pieces, t-shirt graphics and the things that people know us best for. Everyone loves the smiley but we will introduce new icons, new motifs, logos and brand identity. We will also continue to plan technology - we love the idea of people being able to interact with their pieces. So, inside it’s a plain white jacket, outside it’s blue and polka dot. We feel that plays into why someone buys something in 2020. We looked at 2019 as a year to experiment and just see what people are reacting to and engaging with. 2020 will really be about diving in to those things that we saw has tested well.
The upcoming PUMA x Chinatown Market collaboration will be launching by way of online raffles via our HANON Launches site. Access the site through the button below!
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