ewish kid on the block, MA®KET Streetwear, has been making some waves on the fashion scene. While OG brands like Supreme, Palace and Off-White paved the way, this Los Angeles-based apparel brand pushes how individuality is used in streetwear.
The brand’s unique combination of edgy, street-style designs, and wearable, high-quality materials, has set the label apart. However, MA®KET’s unorthodox start and unique community-centric approach has also helped them carve out a distinctive identity in the streetwear scene.
The Unorthodox Start to a Streetwear Lightning Rod
Michael Cherman founded MA®KET Streetwear (which was originally known as “Chinatown Market” – but more on that later) in 2016 after being inspired by the spirit of New York City’s Canal Street bootleg culture, where he spent a lot of time as a kid with his dad.
Cherman acutally hit the ground running in his early days, dropping out of NYC’s Parsons School of Design, because he scored a job at Nike’s customization store. He then got his start with bootleg shirts that he displayed in a booth during ComplexCon’s trade show. The most notable shirt among the bunch was a Frank Ocean/Nike Swoosh mash-up tee (based on Ocean’s song, “Nikes”).
That Ocean shirt alone sold $45,000 in merchandise in less than 24 hours, but eventually Cherman got sued by Ocean for trademark infringement, and couldn’t keep the money from those sales.
However, that moment would change his life forever, because it was the catalyst for his idea to create a label that could sell this kind of work legally, based on a reactionary DIY culture that elevates smaller creators.
After that life-changing moment, Cherman enjoyed rapid-fire successes with drops like his bootleg Chucks that had a Nike swoosh on them. He’d actually end up giving these to LeBron James, who wore them before the NBA finals, and were later worn by Nigo and Erykah Badu.
He also scored a licensing deal with The Smiley Co. that allowed him to create Smiley face tees, basketballs, ping pong paddles and more – making that grin almost synonymous with the brand.
Cherman soon forged collaborative relationships with Nike, Converse, Vans, Puma, The Rolling Stones, Havianas, George Clinton (see how much the music legend loves the MA®KET team) and many more, adding to the brand’s reach.
A Brand Name Change to Better Serve the Community
Cherman originally founded MA®KET Streetwear under the name “Chinatown Market.” However in 2021, the company made a decision to change its name due to the increasing number of targeted attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
A Change.org petition also asked the streetwear label to rebrand, saying, ”the concept of Chinatown is not for sale, especially not by a white person, who only uses the word Chinatown as a synonym for bootleging. It is an act of cultural theft for a white person to profit off of people like Lebron James, Alicia Keys and many others wearing Chinatown clothing.”
In March 2021, the brand posted on Instagram to recognize the criticism and announce its forthcoming name change saying:
“The Asian American community is rightfully demanding all of us think and act more. We should have done this sooner, but it is never too late to do the right thing. Today, we are announcing that we are changing our name. We are working with our partners and retailers to donate the proceeds from existing products and work to fund non-profits working with the AAPI community.”
Once MA®KET Streetwear finalized its name change, the brand took to Instagram again to announce the change.
Seriously Daring Design
MA®KET is best known for its bold, whimsical and instantly recognizable designs that push traditional streetwear boundaries – as well as radiate positivity and create a sense of community among fans. Eye-catching graphics, vibrant colors, and use of unconventional materials like reflective fabrics and iridescent prints are hallmarks of the brand’s collections.
The brand turns out a range of head-turning, head-to-toe apparel items, from graphic tees and hoodies covered in huge appliques, to cargo pants covered in hand drawings and denim jackets, along with hats, socks and bags popping with that Smiley face.
What sets MA®KET apart even more? First, Cherman relies on in-house designers to develop pieces and collections based on their aesthetics and unique points of view, rather than simply tapping into wider fashion trends to create their next line.
This effort makes its employees a vital part of MA®KET’s non-replacatable identity. Plus, the label’s conception-to-launch process is insanely fast. A designer might come up with a new idea at 7 am, by lunch the product’s available online, produced by the end of that same day – and ready to ship the next morning.
All About a Hyper-Interactive Community
MA®KET is all about creating an inclusive community and boosting its members. Using social media platforms including Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and TikTok, the brand has ignited a community of engaged fans of the brand, who directly communicate with them.
“We’re going to double down with how we are as a brand, continuing to put forth our communities, showcasing our employees, and giving them opportunities to have platforms that showcase who they are,” Cherman told Highsnobiety.com. “There are so many kids in my office who have their own little projects, brands, and little things.”
MA®KET creates a unique regular video segment called Design Freestyle, which highlights a spectrum of famous (and not-as-famous) people’s creativity by mixing up what fonts, prints and designs they place on different pieces.
In this popular series, the company invites a diverse mix of guests, from comedians to rappers, as well as its own employees, to come to the Random Workshop studio in their warehouse, so they can collaborate or explain parts of the decorating process.
Some recent Design Freestyle videos include comedians Jae Richards and Trey Richards, who share stories about working with Drake – and then experiment with all types of appliques like full color transfers, iridescent appliqué and patches.
Rappers Flatbush Zombies also popped up to play with appliques like 3M appliques and vintage patches. Cherman even took over the Random Workshop to reminisce about his days of screen printing and breaking rules – and also teaches a lesson on screen printing!
If you’ve hung around MA®KET’s social channels at all, you’d also notice that the brand features a lot of its employees in raw, real videos that show off their individual personalities and the label’s mash-up vibe. Some of the most recent posts include MA®KETer Mascot Walid Mohammad scouting around and buying up a bunch of apparel at ComplexCon as well as vlogging from the office, while hanging with rapper 24kGoldn.
A Desire to be Responsible
In a commitment to sustainability, MA®KET uses premium fabrics made from soft, durable organic cotton and recycled polyester. Even cooler, you can check out their videos about cutting up apparel and repurposing those pieces to create upcycled garments that get auctioned off.
Check out how MA®KET sent Cho to ThriftCon to search out funky vintage items that he upcycled (and you can enter to win the items). In the brand’s The Blueprint video series, you can learn how to fix jeans and sew t-shirts, how to hem pants and more.
Continuing to Break the Mold
MA®KET Streetwear has made a name for itself in the streetwear scene, with its unique design and community-centric approach. Despite its unorthodox start, the brand has thrived and created collaborative relationships with major players in the fashion marketsphere.
The recent name change to "MA®KET" also shows the brand’s dedication to supporting the AAPI community. With its bold and whimsical designs, use of unconventional materials, and fast design-to-launch process, we’re sure MA®KET will continue making waves in the streetwear scene for years to come.