THEY New York: Shop The Look
“We were sitting on the floor of our hallway in our New York apartment, surrounded by cardboard boxes that contained a reality that was once just a concept… that is when we decided that we are going to make our dream a reality and share this journey with people around us.”
A little over a year ago, sibling founders— Angela and Jack Lin, set out to continue their family’s legacy of Japanese shoe manufacturing. However, they didn’t want to manufacture shoes for greedy corporations that mass produced products with little meaning, other than an increase in revenue. They wanted to build a brand that was defined by its design. This time, they wanted to be in the driver’s seat.
White sneakers have flooded the market, becoming a timeless staple found in many wardrobes. Chances are, you see them everywhere. While walking the streets, riding public transit; hell, you may even be wearing a pair right now. Adidas, Nike and even fast fashion companies have flooded the market— making the challenge of building a sneaker brand an uphill battle.
We sat down with Jack and Angela to discover the challenges they faced, their inspiration and what it’s like working with family.
Why did you decide to start your brand?
THEY was conceived when we saw an abundance of white or minimal sneakers, but they were all fairly similar but just from different brands. Finding a pair of sneakers with a simple yet striking design that defined the brand was difficult to find. That was the challenge we gave ourselves.
Also, my sister and I wanted to continue with our family business of manufacturing for the Japanese shoe industry. We just added a special twist to the conventional business model of pure manufacturing; we started a brand that is truly our own.
What is the inspiration behind the name?
The name “THEY New York” has gone through quite a lot of thought and discussion. We wanted our name to engage our customer in a kind of conversation between the self and the other.
Essentially, that is the reason why we decided on the name “THEY” as it is the common term when referring to something, and it engages our audience in the discussion of questioning just who “they” are, and what are “those”.
We wanted to create that conversation and relationship with our customers, to reach those who share the same appreciation for similar aesthetic and style.
The footwear market is extremely saturated. Are there any specific challenges you have faced when standing out from the competition?
We knew what we wanted this brand’s aesthetic to feel like. So the question we asked ourselves was: how can we design a pair of sneakers that embraced our passion for minimalism and could stand out from other white sneakers [in the market].
In addition to that, our production team had to rethink the construction of our soles in order to achieve the seamless design and concept of what we had in mind. We ended up developing a meticulous method for hand aligning the shoe’s upper half with a custom-made bi-color rubber sole to ensure the fluidity of our geometric shapes embedded within the shoe’s silhouette.
What Bauhaus designers and works are you most influenced by?
I really like László Moholy-Nagy’s abstract paintings of geometric shapes and lines along with simple colors to create structure and space. For me, his work brings out the power and beauty of geometric shapes and the timelessness of the works from The Bauhaus.
In regards to aesthetics and branding, I studied a lot of the works of Kenya Hara, creative director of MUJI, and the architecture works of Tadao Ando.
You’ve had press coverage on Who What Wear, Nylon, and Refinery29. How did you initiate your PR process? Did you see any results from your coverage?
After we had launched our webstore, we reached out to a handful of media outlets, with Refinery29 being one of the first to publish an article on us. Then a few other media outlets found us through them, and the rest followed.
We certainly saw a lot of results as it quickly drove traffic and followers to our social media. My sister is responsible for communicating with media, press, and managing PR. With continuous coverage since our release, we have managed to stir up interest and worked on features or interviews with other publications, as well.
Our coverage has definitely brought in a lot of international attention and we are now in the process of working with retailers to reach a larger audience.
What’s it like working with your sibling?
It has been a remarkable journey, and especially since it’s working with family. It’s also a huge bonus that our skillsets complement each other, with me handling the creative and my sister handling our PR/communication. She studies Media and Communications at NYU, and our fields of concentration are certainly helpful in our partnership.
Since we are only one year apart, we were pretty close growing up and even chose to study in the same city. It is always nice to be able to work with family, and we know each other is just as committed to the business.