the story behind Only NY, one of new york's favorite indie brands
Founder Micah Belamarich tells i-D about the opening of their Greenpoint store and shares photos of the new fall/winter collection.
Photo by Ysa Perez/
When New York native Micah Belamarich began designing graphic t-shirts as a college student, he had no idea it would eventually lead to the creation of his own brand. Only NY was launched in 2006 and is truly homegrown, effortlessly blending streetwear influences, skate culture, classic outerwear styles, and New England prep.
The city’s influence can be felt in the style, designs, and collaborations, like its ongoing partnership with New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and their in-store label Stanton Street Sports is a nod to their downtown roots. However, last July, Only NY extended its influence to another borough — opening their Brooklyn flagship in Greenpoint.
i-D caught up with Belamarich to find out a bit more about starting the brand, the opening of their new store, and their upcoming fall/winter collection which will be released today.
Could you tell us a little bit about Only NY's origin story? How did the brand come to be?
I started Only NY when I was 22 and still in school for graphic design. Ever since a young age, I was always creative and had personal projects going on. As I got older I decided I wanted to create a clothing brand. It was a culmination of all my interests and feeling that I could design something cool. It took me a few months to come up with the name, which was really exciting and a real “ah-ha” moment when I thought of “Only.” My closest friends Andrew Shear and Julian Goldstein joined as co-founders. I’ve known Andrew since the first grade and Julian since freshman year of high school. Looking back, it amazes me how much we were able to do at such a young age. As time went on Julian and I really focused on the brand and began to slowly grow it to the stage it is today.
What was the first piece that you designed?
I designed a collection of five graphic t-shirts. The year was 2007, when graphics were super loud and in your face. I decided to go more minimal with one color prints and classic print placements. Three of the graphics had a spin to them that really made people notice. One read “New Yorker Than You” combining The New Yorker font and “Thank you” repeat layout from plastic bags. One highlighted the “ew yo” in “New York” with a pigeon perched on one of the letters. Another graphic “NAHSON & SONS,” looked like a logo for a high-end hotel or brand, but subliminally meant “nah son.” Producing them was a serious challenge having been completely new to it, but it paid off, they were all a big hit.
How would you describe the Only NY aesthetic?
I would say our aesthetic is usually minimal, authentic, and eclectic, often with a vintage vibe.
In what ways has the city inspired the brand?
Having both been born and raised in the city, Julian and I really spent a lot of time getting to know the city and it’s become a huge part of us personally which is reflected into the brand. We both went to NYC public schools and that really shaped us. Outside of that, the inspiration from the city is endless.
Tell us about the new collection.
Our collections are generally inspired by a combination of styles and themes. You can always expect to see some outdoors, sportswear, streetwear, and workwear inspired pieces, as well as casual, contemporary styles. We have a lot of ongoing themes, but also like to introduce new ones each season, especially in our graphics. With each season, our creative team likes to gather inspiration collectively and bring it all together.
You've had a shop on the Lower East Side for a number of years now. What is it about Greenpoint that makes it a good fit for the Brooklyn flagship?
Much like the Lower East Side, we really like the community vibe of Greenpoint. The other shops in the area are predominantly small, independent businesses which makes for a welcoming fit. We also like that it isn’t a SoHo-type area with a million other clothing stores. We like being in our own area and have our stores as more destination locations.
How has Only NY come to be more than a streetwear brand and shop, and more of a lifestyle?
Between the different products we offer and how we have expanded the line over the last year, we have definitely grown up a bit from streetwear, although it’s still a part of the brand. We aren’t interested in “hype” which also plays a big factor. We want our product to be accessible, moderately priced, and worn by people who appreciate the brand for what it is, not because of hype. We were never into waiting in lines or fast fashion.
Is there a favorite collaboration that you've done over the years or one that you feel best speaks to the brand's ethos?
I would say my favorite collaboration has to be our ongoing partnership with the City of New York. It was completely unexpected and bigger than anything we could have envisioned. The collection has also led us to broaden our view on collaborating with other institutions, which has become a significant part and new direction of the brand. It’s nice to feel a part of the city, get to create cool clothing for New York, and to be supporting the city we grew up in.