New York City sure loves its niche fashion communities. Known for conjuring up micro-trends just as quickly as it is for outgrowing them and moving on to the next "cool" thing moments after, the Big Apple is, for many creative youths, a permanent sabbat where avant-minded folk are able to link up and share their ideas, styles, and cultures free from judgement or ostracism.
But while the influx of forward-thinking energy remains steady (for now), it's become increasingly threatened by the lack of creative communal spaces as gentrification continues to jack up living and real estates costs at exorbitant rates.
Homies Wonderland, abbreviated as HSWLD, serves as one of the city's few brick and mortar spots where designers, musicians and artists of tomorrow can simply hang out, smoke a blunt, and soak up each other's weirdness for hours on end, be it day or night.
Launched in 2009 by OG NYC skaters Michal and Frantisek "Frank" Kunert, the brand-turned-store, like many cult labels, started as a living room operation where the two handed out screen-printed tees to whoever they thought looked legit enough to wear them. After accruing a sizable following with NYC's thriving underground, HSWLD set up a flagship space in the heart of the Lower East Side.
Yet despite its clout in the "realm" and a commercial success that would garner not one, but two retail locations – the brothers later opened a second shop in their native Krakow – HSWLD is still one of New York's best kept secrets; a brand that you've probably seen on some downtown cool kid's Instagram or at a Fashion Week party, but have no idea what it actually is.
The lack of wide-scale notoriety, however, doesn't seem to bother HSWLD's community; for its die-hard crew, HSWLD is much more than just dope streetwear. "We're all talented artists of many different mediums and share a likeness," says brand ambassador Derek Drummond (aka @posterboy). "Such a safe space is key to keep the community growing. It promotes youth culture to an extent where age gaps are blurred."
We recently paid HSWLD a visit to shoot its interior space and meet the offbeat group of kids that comprise the brand's devoted cult following. See what all the buzz is about by flipping through the galleries above.
Homies Wonderland HSWLD 15 Essex St., New York, NY 10002
Thirsting for more underground streetwear? Check out New Orleans-based label k2o's FW16 lookbook.