In the wake of the rise of irony and all that it brings, Chinatown Market is perhaps the most noticeable representative of the industry to have used the unseriousness of the style of their work as a springboard to achieving serious results.
Being quick in their responsiveness to the events of the world of fashion and show business, finely using meme culture and news from social media, being bold, having youthful energy and occasionally taking the step towards haute couture form the relevant basis for the structure of a streetwear manufacturer in the present day, also being the recipe for success of Chinatown Market. When it comes to Chinatown Market, one should also mention the yellow smiley. The popular image appeared on CTM products thanks to a license agreement with Smiley World, the London company that managed to secure the rights to the smiley face. Smiley has become a very significant part of the brand's identity.
Taking a closer look will make it apparent that Chinatown Market is not just a clothing brand, or maybe is no brand at all. In its ways this organisation is, rather, more reminiscent of an art community, its output being a series of special offers/events tailored to one idea or occasion.
Behind this project is Mike Cherman, a designer and illustrator from New York who gained experience and recognition through working with projects like KITH, ASAP Worldwide, Nike, Ronnie Fieg and ICNY as well as collaborating with Staple Design and Jason Markk. Interestingly, in 2016 Mike moved from NY to Los Angeles, and it was there that CTM was started. However, unlike most, Mike didn't transform into a follower of the Californian way of life, but instead stayed loyal to the pace and energy of his hometown. All this was reflected in the debut collection of Chinatown Market, which made its first public appearance at a ComplexCon stand, where it found success and an instantaneous sold out.
The essence of the work of CTM is in the principle that an idea must be realised as soon as possible and instantly appear online and later on sale. The most successful of such ideas are the following: a design that is an interpretation of Frank Ocean's song 'Nikes' from the album Blonde, a transformation of Kanye West's tweet about a Russian designer's (Gosha Rubchinskiy's) involvement in his neck tattoo into a T-shirt, a collaboration with Puma for a 2018 NBA draft and the unofficial crossover involving Converse Chuck Taylor and the Nike Swoosh screen print. After an aforementioned idea was realised, LeBron James wore what the idea came to be as he walked onto the court for the second game of the NBA final series in 2018.
The view of CTM founder and creative director Mike Cherman on the method of running his business deserves a special mention. He says that he does not look at what is happening in the industry [editor's note: in terms of making business decisions or never at all?] and that this is not what they are here for. Here is a quote from him: “We’re here to give homage to these large corporate monsters that essentially are luxury brands and pull that down to ground level.”