Labelmaker: Mike Cherman of ICNY

“I feel like you learn New York better on a bike,” says Mike Cherman, designer of ICNY, a brand of reflective apparel that started off purely as a personal-safety solution. After surviving a bad cycling accident, Cherman’s mission became to create something that would help bikers stand out on the street. A self-made creative, he bounced everywhere from a brief stint at design school to a gig at the Nike Bowery Stadium bespoke shop before finding his niche at Brooklyn-based LQQK Studio, where his brand was born. Here, he discusses his line, which has become a favorite among urban adventurers and the style set alike.

What does ICNY stand for?

Eye See New York or I See New York. It’s my life in the city and my perspective as a New Yorker. We want to equip street athletes with all the survival tactics they need to function in the overcrowded cityscape.

You’ve reminded people about the allure of reflective material. what’s it like working with it?

At first, the biggest challenge was getting the reflective effect to apply to knitted socks. The innate property of reflective material is glass beads–millions of them. When adhering something as rough and rigid as reflective material onto socks, it was a big struggle to not have it crack, break, or peel. It took over three years of research and development to finally create an anti-cracking reflective application for our socks. It’s triumphs like these that set our brand apart from the rest of the market, and we will continue to push and debut further improvements.

Tell us about your collaboration with Puma.

We’ve linked up with Puma to release three capsule collections in 2015. It’s been one of the biggest thrills of my life to be able to work on footwear. As a kid, there was nothing I loved more than sneakers. Growing up, I would furiously draw sneakers in the back of my notebooks at school. It’s a huge moment for my inner child.

Where do you find inspiration? 

Riding the subway, riding my bike, riding in cabs. I constantly am inspired by people-watching. New York is the reason ICNY exists in the first place. Keeping my ear to the street is the only way for me to keep pushing the progression and continue to be inspired to build smarter and more functional products tailored to our consumer.

What makes ICNY unique?

Reflective gear has been blowing up lately, from streetwear brands all the way to the red carpet. I think that ICNY will always have an edge on the competition by continuing to focus on function, while keeping it fashionable,and not trying to go too deep into either category. It gives us the ability to dabble in both performance sportswear and menswear with an athletic touch.

What is Your best advice for young creatives looking to start a business?

I believe in one thing: hard work. Work hard and surround yourself with people who do the same. Never stop believing in your dream. There will be bad days, but don’t stop celebrating the little victories. And take it all one day at a time.

Words by Kelly Shami