“We don’t have shorts.”
Respectfully signed off with the brand’s signature “EE” logo, the lighthearted yet to-the-point message has been plastered on the front window of Eric Emanuel’s New York flagship store at 91 Greene St. since July 9. For anyone who knows about Eric Emanuel, that seems like a bit of an issue. The sportswear-inspired streetwear label is known for its infinite takes on mesh basketball shorts that arrive in styles ranging from solid orange to psychedelic floral prints every Friday afternoon. They promptly sell out the same day.
Eric Emanuel has only been open for business at the location since April 15, but has been bringing out hopeful customers in droves since. A stroll down the block, especially on Fridays, will put you face to face with a line of eager customers wrapping around the corner and plenty more successful store patrons toting their pink “EE”-branded bags. On some days, the commotion has even resulted in the store having to shut down early.
“It’s an amazing feeling [to see all of the shoppers coming to the store], but it’s a double-edged sword because it’s so great to see all of this support, but there’s no way to make all of these people happy. We want to make as many people happy as we can,” says Emanuel, who admits he expected customers, but the excessive turnout has been unexpected. “We wanted to figure out a way to provide people with the experience that I had visiting 91 Greene St. as a kid.”
This level of popularity coupled with the blistering temperatures that have hit the tri-state area in recent weeks have made Emanuel’s stylish mesh shorts the latest item to become a key piece of the NYC uniform. Given their current status in streetwear, the demand is obviously high. As you’d expect, not everyone lining up at 91 Greene St. is walking away with a new pair of mesh shorts in hand. Which brings us back to the message on the window. “We don’t have shorts.” In an effort to better accommodate its growing customer base and even the playing field a bit, Emanuel has implemented a new reservation system that will be used to handle in-store drops of his new shorts moving forward.
“There’s enough shorts for everyone who gets a reservation,” Emanuel tells Complex. “So we’re just setting it up so that everyone can have a nice experience.”
The reservation process launched at 7 p.m. on July 14 via a special website fittingly titled 91GreeneSt.com. Upon entering the site, customers will fill out some general information (name, address, and email) before submitting their form. Winning entries (one per customer) will be selected at random from the pool of total submissions. Then, winners are e-mailed a time slot at which they will be allowed to shop the store’s inventory on Friday. Don’t worry if you have a later time. Only one pair of shorts per customer. A valid ID matching the name and address filled out on the website will need to be shown as well. Some of the hot ticket items this week include a fluorescent orange pair of shorts in collaboration with Emanuel’s good friends New York Sunshine, a Yankees fitted done up in traditional Mets colors, and a trio of options sporting a multicolored wave pattern by the leg openings.
“Success would be an understatement; the demand was as we expected, however the thoroughness and accuracy of the site is more than I could’ve expected,” says Emanuel regarding the first online registration procedure. He notes that there were over 8,000 sign-ups during the three-hour window vying for the 300 available shopping slots. Moving forward, the site indicates that booking will take place Monday through Wednesday. “[The reservation site] took a month to build, but a month well worth it.”
To better accommodate the local customers, the reservation system is currently only eligible in a handful of East Coast states at the moment (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia). This isn’t the only way to get a pair of shorts in-store now though. Throughout the rest of the week, the shop will operate regularly, and there will still be canceled bot orders from the web store or backstock that will still trickle onto the shelves occasionally.
While Emanuel hopes the new system will ease the short-buying process in person, he says that it will not apply to his online store for the time being. That has its own set of barriers in place to try and provide the fairest buying experience. Certain drops in the past have required shoppers to answer a special question, for instance, to successfully add an item to their cart.
Despite the hiccups that have resulted from some of the large lineups, Emanuel says having a brick-and-mortar location has been a great experience thus far. It’s also brought energy to the block that has been missing since the Bape store that once occupied the same address was holding live concerts in the street. Emanuel says having a store has made him realize how receptive people are to the brand’s other products, too, such as three-packs of white T-shirts, home goods items like leather coasters, and sweatsuits, to name a few.
“The most beautiful thing I’ve realized through having this store is that people are there for more than just the shorts. The T-shirts have been a hit, the track pants, even the home accessories,” says Emanuel. “Everything is selling well. I get that shorts are the main attraction, but there’s so much more, and I’m happy to see that people are actually gravitating towards it.”
While he says he has increased production numbers to help meet the escalating desire for his shorts, Emanuel has no plans of outsourcing his production in the future. One of the things that he prides himself on is the fact that his items are currently all produced in New York’s Garment District. “I just love New York,” he says. “The team I work with [in the Garment District] is like family. I wouldn’t take production elsewhere.” He doesn’t have any plans to wholesale the brand either. Instead, he has used collaborations that align with the brand’s sportswear ethos to get his brand in more doors across the country. Work with Adidas in April inspired by the McDonald’s All-American Game, an annual high school basketball showcase, is a recent example. Next month, he will roll out his latest MLB x New Era collection. He’s also been teasing a collection of New Era fitteds in all colors of the rainbow lately on social media. A project with Adidas focused on NCAA basketball is on the horizon for this fall. Emanuel is keeping busy.
The designer’s mesh shorts are certainly having a moment to say the least. As with many popular items, the success of the EE-branded shorts has brought about a handful of other brands making their own similar variations now. The designer says he understands that it’s all part of the game. He just hopes it will result in some unique competition moving forward.
“As with any great product that sees success, people will jump in to try and get their piece of the pie. I’m not mad at it. Mesh shorts were around long before me. However, maybe try to execute it a bit differently? Some people come awfully close; using the same exact skyline or paisley; but they’re missing two letters, EE,” says Emanuel. “Aside from the logo, we pride ourselves on being a product made in New York that provides jobs in the city I love.”
If anything, the imitators will fuel Emanuel’s drive moving forward.
“Competition is fun and necessary, so I look forward to seeing unique takes on mesh shorts. That’s what will keep me pushing along.”