Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Wagon

In case you didn't know. Brooklyn is it's own planet. You know when you're in Brooklyn just by looking at the people around you. If New York City is a fashion mecca, then Brooklyn is an Imam.

I made a rare trip to Brooklyn today to get up with the team at The Wagon boutique. Before heading to the store, I of course made my gratuitous stop at Junior's Cheesecake. On a serious sugar high, I sat down to talk fashion with Skely W., Fe and Spag. They are 3 of the 4 heads that put one of the finest boutiques in NY on the map. 4th partner Ju was unavailable at the time of the interview.

I discovered The Wagon through Skely W. I met Skely a few months ago at a party for a friend visiting from Japan. We spoke briefly about the craziness that is city life and I later discovered that he's also a fashion designer. His clothing line, called Cheese Wagon, is The Wagon's house brand and if you're the fashion forward type, you need to know about it.

RF: How did the store come about? Was The Wagon established first or was Cheese Wagon?

Fe: Cheese Wagon was first. It's been around for 5 years. It was started by Skely W. and Ju. They were partners in that.
Spag: They sold throughout Brooklyn (before The Wagon) in Brooklyn Circus, Vinnie's and other boutiques out there. They started with the I Love BK shirts.
Fe: The Wagon came about 2 years ago.

RF: Yeah, when I first met Skely, he mentioned that he worked with Brooklyn Circus for a while.

Spag: Yeah, The Wagon came about because of “politics”. When you sell your stuff in other stores, you have to deal with.....let's call it “inspiration”. People were taking Cheese Wagon designs and just running with them. So we felt like we had to open our own store so we could have more control.

RF: Smart move. When you decided to open the store, how did you decide on the direction of the store? How did you determine that you weren't only going to sell Cheese Wagon clothing but also other exclusive brands?

Fe: Ju already had a blueprint for the store when he and Skely created the clothing line. So the blueprint has been around for about 4 years. I was in already in the boutique business and they (Skely and Ju) had already been friends for about 10 years. So we got together and it was only right that we use the blueprint that Ju made. They are from an era that I don't know about. They brought the nostalgic, classic style to the table and I bring the new, futuristic and innovative side. We just took that and put it together and we got The Wagon.

RF: I've noticed that with the urban community, the group effort is the best way to go for young startups. We don't necessarily have the same resources available to just up and start a business. With these group efforts, we often see personality clashes that end up tanking everything. How have you been able to overcome your differences?

Fe: I got this one! Ju is Brooklyn. Spag and Skely are closer together. They all teach me. I'm the sponge that's just soaking everything in. At the same time, I still have my own creative ideas. Do we all disagree on things? Yes. Skely is more on the “weird” side. He has is own style and that's why Cheese Wagon is a certain way, even though there's the whole urban (stereotype) of what an urban brand is supposed to be. Spag is the vintage guy and Ju is just....Brooklyn.
Spag: That's Brooklyn. (It's) a melting pot. It's so diverse, but we're a family. We may fight sometimes but at the end of the day we're family.
Fee: The chemistry is great!

RF: Based on the little bit that I know about Skely, I can see where his mind is. As far as being a man, what it means to be a modern Black man and what it means to be a fashionable man in modern times. In regards to promulgating your brand, how do you connect what you think and what you know is good for business?

Skely: I had to learn it on the fly. I, personally, have a one track mind. Not to say that the majority of people today are stupid, but I don't respect their opinions enough to let them hinder my vision.
Spag: I do all of the buying for the store, so I just think like a customer. I put myself in their shoes. I just try to bring things in that are functional. Things that you can be comfortable in at a club or just chilling in the park.

RF: Skely, how did the Cheese Wagon concept come about and how did you put it into action?

Skely: Basically, I don't support “street” wear. I wasn't (interested) in paying $140 for a sweatshirt. So I figured I'd just make my own. Cheese Wagon, the name, was just always there. I don't know where it really came from. It was something I used to write in corners or whatever. After I did the I Love BK shirts, I had nothing to call it. I just did them for myself. So I sat down with Ju and he was like, “We have to give it a name.” I said, “Cheese Wagon.” We kicked the idea around to a few people and they all thought it was weird. I was like, “I don't care. It's Cheese Wagon!”

RF: What is your ultimate vision for the Cheese Wagon brand? Are you planning to get into cut & sew and all of that?

Skely: Definitely! I have no choice but to go into that realm. I can't get as creative as I can be right now. It's stifling on (many) levels. It's not easy though. People aren't willing to give up resources. There isn't much help. In 5 years, only a month ago did we find a manufacturer that's willing to work with us without the crazy minimums and wild demands. It's an uphill battle, but I'm optimistic.

(l.) Skely W. (r.) Fe

The Wagon
1214 Union St. (between Nostrand and Rogers Avenues)
Brooklyn, NY 11225
phone: (718) 756-0009
hours: Monday - Saturday: 11 am - 7 pm Sunday: By Appointment Only


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