Stepping into the market in 2016, spearheaded by streetwear veteran and former ICNY chief Mike Cherman, Chinatown Market is a fast-streetwear brand that produces on-demand merchandise and products inspired by trending topics, popular cultural nuances and user-generated content spreading across social media. Dan Altmann: The shows we create are very much a reaction to things that happen virally. They turned these things into clothing the same way we turned them into animations. As we evolve as a company to develop shows that are going to be able to live on other networks and platforms, you can always be inspired by cultural moments happening in real-time. We’re carving out a new lane and business model that’s designed for the future of social media and social commerce. The same way Mike has developed the Chinatown Instagram to make people think about lifestyle and content as extensions of the brand, we need to make people think about merchandise and products as part of our brand. I think the brands that will win as this industry keeps changing won’t be media or content brands content brands. So for us, we started with content, but as we move along we must focus on how we become a wholistically successful brand. As Chinatown Market, we’ve already become our own little media company. I think WeBuyGold is trying to do that by studying the culture, partnering with different creative artists and rappers to develop show ideas, and do more than just sell simple animated series.
The best brands in the world are revered for dictating trends and influencing the diverse lifestyles that reflect a generation.
For years, this authoritative position was held by mainstream media powers, consumer product giants and thriving lifestyle brands seated comfortably atop the economic hierarchy of pop culture. These companies confidently poured massive budgets into elaborate ad campaigns and catchy slogans intended to not only solidify relevance, but ultimately drive conversions that add significant dollars to their bottom-line. Established as an adoptable framework for success, the working relationship between culture and commerce symbolized a top-down pipeline rather than a collaborative ecosystem.
Yet, the evident emergence of social media coupled with the rise of e-commerce and mobile platforms drastically disrupted this traditional model. This paradigm shift caused a transfer of power across industries that turned consumers into the creators, marketers and tastemakers defining how billion-dollar corporations tell stories, design products and conduct business. Beyond shattering existing business models, this role reversal paved the way for a new category of social commerce fueled by user-generated brands, viral trends and memorable cultural moments.
Noticing an untapped opportunity within the changing landscape, two forward-thinking founders joined forces to design a blueprint for monetizing these viral moments, turning them into shareable content, on-demand merchandise and dynamic social experiences.
Founded in 2017 by Dan Altmann and partner Eric Posen, WeBuyGold is a social-video network specializing in crafting short-form series for Instagram. Launching partnerships with a growing roster of rap stars such as DJ Khaled, 21 Savage and 2 Chainz, WeBuyGold has quickly become the go-to company for creating, developing and distributing animated social programming with top Hip Hop artists.
Stepping into the market in 2016, spearheaded by streetwear veteran and former ICNY chief Mike Cherman, Chinatown Market is a fast-streetwear brand that produces on-demand merchandise and products inspired by trending topics, popular cultural nuances and user-generated content spreading across social media. The idea was initially birthed as a fun, witty and clever way to pay homage to the spirit of New York’s famed Canal Street. Sparking intrigue and selling out of their first release at ComplexCon, the company has since evolved to become a celebrated brand worn by stars like LeBron James, Big Sean and Justin Beiber. In addition to being championed by celebs and streetwear enthusiasts alike, Chinatown Market has been enlisted to collaborate with a growing number of fashion brands, including designing the apparel for the launch of Puma Basketball.
In June, WeBuyGold and Chinatown Market teamed up to drop a first-of-its-kind Turbo collaboration with 23-year-old rapper Chief Keef. The concept stemmed from the young rapper famously making headlines after getting pulled over speeding, in which he notoriously told officers “It’s a fast car, that’s why I bought it.” The capsule collection, amply reminiscent of Speed Racer, included a line of custom merchandise and an animated content series reenacting the incident with Chief Keef narrating the story through his lens. Seeing the notable success of their first release, Altmann and Cherman are poised to redefined the rules of e-commerce in the social age.
I spoke with Dan Altmann and Mike Cherman about the vision behind their partnership, building reactionary enterprises and their plans to rewrite the rules of social commerce.
Describe the initial inspiration behind Chinatown Market and what was the turning point at which you realized this idea would have such success?
Mike Cherman: Chinatown Market playfully started out as an idea between me and a friend of mine. We wanted to make clothes that paid tribute to the spirit of Canal Street. We started imagining what it would be like to flip different images, symbols and nuances we noticed a put them on t-shirts. We created our first line of shirts and took boxes to ComplexCon. That’s where it all really started. We went to ComplexCon, dropped a product, it all sold out and we literally had empty boxes when we left. I had recently moved to Los Angeles in $20,000 worth of debt. I had just lost my last brand, ICNY, and I needed something new because I really had nothing. Fast forward a year and a half, Chinatown Market has grown from zero followers to where we are today.
Your brand is very reactionary and largely driven by real-time cultural moments — How would you describe this business model and approach to streetwear?
Mike Cherman: It’s what I like to call ‘fast streetwear’. We play to the pulse of what’s happening, we’re very reactionary and very on top of what’s happening daily within the industry. For example, we made a custom set of shoes for LeBron James during the NBA Finals and he wore them. It was funny because when the finals ended, we went to release a shirt in celebration of the Warriors beating the Cavs. People were calling us out, saying how could you be so disloyal by making shirts for the Warriors after giving LeBron a shoe? The answer is simple: Because that’s who we are. We’re not a brand that looks to fit within the standard rules of what a brand is suppose to be. Chinatown Market here to change the trajectory of what streetwear and fashion are doing on daily basis. We see every day how much we…