After a start in NY at Recon and then a series of clothing lines and I:M branded Japanese retail outlets, the Invisible:Man, Andrew Lee, moved his version of streetwear to the U.S. and opened two Commissary stores in Costa Mesa and in San Diego. Lee's Cali outposts of awesomeness carry the hard-to-get New York staples from Supreme and DQM and the even harder to get stuff from Japanese lines like Original Fake, Bounty Hunter, Neighborhood and his own lines, Invisible:Man and Bastard Squad.
Tonight, as Lee officially opens his NYC space, he won't be competing with the New York brands but it will instead mark the first time that a lot of rare Japanese product will make it to the Big Apple, as well as the first series of Invisible:Man product created completely in the United States. Read on to learn more about the store you can't miss when visiting NYC, and also to get Lee's thoughts on the current status of streetwear...
Interview by Bradley Carbone
Complex: Where is the new Invisible:Man store, what's the idea, what are you selling, and why now?
Andrew Lee: 436 East 9th Street. 9th street is popping, and I'm stocking Invisible Man, Bounty Hunter, Medicom Toys, Claw Money, T19, Bastard Squad and some Commissary tees. I wanted to create a space selling things I make, as well as some of my friends' brands.
Complex: Why Now?
Andrew Lee: For the same reasons I started Invisible:Man, I'm just bored with everything.
Complex: What kind of company is I:M? What do you make under the label, and how is the brand evolving?
Andrew Lee: I was making 30+pieces of cut and sew 3x a year. Tees, bikes, fucking everything, then the bottom fell out of streetwear, and I kept quiet for a few years, started the Commissary thing, the Bastard Squad stuff, and waited in the grass till the gayness of streetwear died. I'm doing small runs of tees and accessories, and soon some denim and smaller runs of cut & sew items. Now is NOT the time for full lines of anything. As far as the future? I'm not going anywhere.
Complex: What is your relationship with Bastard Squad, Bounty Hunter, T-19, Medicom and all of these Japanese brands? How is it that you're the only guy who gets everything? Are you the sole retailer for this product in New York?
Andrew Lee: The Bastard Squad brand is me. The rest are brands I've been friends with or have done graphics for through the years. People I have relationships with, that I do business with, collabs, drunken insane nights, whatever, just family I guess. Why am i the only one? I guess I've just always been myself, and never faked the funk, and I suppose that is a respectable personality trait.
Complex: Moving back to NY is a return home of sorts for you. What other retail spots do you have ties to in the city?
Andrew Lee: Supreme, DQM, Union. I sell Supreme and DQM in my Commissary stores in California, and have been a customer at Union forever.
Complex: You have been successful in clothing and in retail in one of the shittiest times ever. How?
Andrew Lee: I don't waste money on dumb shit and always reinvest in myself.
Complex: What is happening to streetwear?
Andrew Lee: Well, the salad days were over years ago. These corny lego brands of today are just tasting the tail end of all the good life. There has always been a "street" consumer, this is nothing new, but the "streetwear" that you've seen in the last 5 years has been a fluke. Cats need to prepare for the long cold winters ahead. (hint: get a resume together)
Complex: Did you think that sneakers and T-shirts would become such a big thing?
Andrew Lee: Fuck yeah, but I also knew it would be over just as fast.
Complex: Is paying $60 for a T-shirt going to become cool again?
Andrew Lee: Well, it's never cool, but if it's impossible to get, and you really dig it, yeah. It's like getting a signed copy of a Syd Barret record. Like, I'll pay whatever, it all depends on the fan, and the item. Like the $400 sneakers you're wearing as we speak.
Complex: [laughs] What projects should people be on the lookout for, and what stuff should they be buying from you in the new shop?
Andrew Lee: Buy what you really like, not what blogs and whoever tells you to. Bounty Hunter is some pretty sick shit, I suggest if you see it in your size, grab it. The Invisible Man stuff, I only make about 60 of each shirt, so you're hopefully not going to see yourself coming and going. I try to offer people some new and different stuff, and will continue to until I've just had it.
Complex: For people who don't know you or know who you are, what should we tell them?
Andrew Lee: I'm trying to be honest with myself and what I make. I try to pay homage to all the things I'm interested in. All my phases and trips and interests, if you dig it, sick, if not, move on. I've been here for a long time and have always remained consistent to what I stand for. Lead, follow or get the fuck out of my way. And buy the upcoming Slayer record. Period.