Getting a fashion label to reach the ultimate success in NYC is a tough job. Considering the city resides as the “fashion capital,” many flagship locations are based in New York making it a very competitive market for up-and-coming designers. Despite the challenges the city may bring, it doesn’t stop young creatives from starting companies – even against having a large financial backing.
Fresh off celebrating a five year anniversary, Tier NYC is a Brooklyn-based streetwear brand that has been worn by celebrities like Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, and Rick Ross. The label has created a chic streetwear aesthetic that includes well-crafted threads and updated designs. Through its 5 year run, the brand has not only managed to grasp the attention of industry heavy hitters but has also had the pleasure of collaborating with Adidas.
ESSENCE got a chance to chat with the founders of Tier NYC; Nigeria Ealey, Esaïe Jean-Simon, and Victor James about their 5-year run, and what’s next for the brand.
ESSENCE: How was Tier created?
Nigeria Ealey: Vic, Esaie & I created Tier in 2014 while I was still an undergrad at LIU Brooklyn. They had graduated from Brooklyn College in 2012 but were both still heavily involved with collegiate life due to being on the step team at their school. We’d meet up often and a good majority of our conversations lead to us talking about art, style, and fashion. The day we actually decided we were going to create our own brand, we were sitting in Vic’s basement. We named our brand “Tier” which stemmed from the words “upper tier”. We always knew we wanted our brand to keep elevating and stay structured throughout the years. Our goal was and still is to properly express art and personal/cultural moments through our garments.
ESSENCE: What would you say is the biggest challenge about being a young designer?
Nigeria Ealey: One of the biggest challenges of being a young designer is being taken seriously. As young African Americans, we already have so many stereotypes stacked against us (even though we don’t let this define us). We make it a mission to go in overtime just to show why we’re here—that our purpose is intentional, we are eager, and we aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
ESSENCE: What are your thoughts about the contributions black culture has made in fashion?
Victor James: It’s about time. Growing up during the early 2000s, I often felt like Black culture, or stereotypically, “the ghetto” infiltrated the fashion world. Now that I’m older and wiser, it’s evident that black culture has been the influence and the go-to for fashion design inspiration. All in all, its a truly amazing time to be a young black designer.
ESSENCE: I can’t stop wearing the hoodie you all gave me, the fabric feels really good. How important is it to you to create quality pieces?
Victor James: Creating quality pieces is our main priority. I believe it’s a key factor to a brand’s longevity. Our goal is to always provide something functionally and fashionably sound. It keeps our supporters loyal. Especially as an emerging brand, first impression is key and we want the customer to walk away feeling satisfied and impressed with the execution of our product.
“One of the biggest challenges of being a young designer is being taken seriously.” – Nigeria Ealey
ESSENCE: How do you differentiate yourselves from other brands out there?
Esaïe Jean-Simon: We differentiate ourselves by creating quality products that are clean, simple and timeless. Above all, we take pride in the fact that we are three Black self-taught young men from Brooklyn, NY. A major aspect of Tier NYC’s brand identity is a sense of community. We wouldn’t be as big as we are now without everyone that supported us. We give back to the community through our annual Artrepreneur festival. For us, it’s deeper than the clothes
ESSENCE: What’s next for tier?
Esaïe Jean-Simon: We’re opening a showroom in the near future for special client visits, and to work out of. We are currently finalizing cities we want to host our pop ups tour around the US. This is all in the midst of planning our 2020 Artrepreneur Festival (June 13th). We also have a few collaborations in the works and have finally started building our team