Streetwear, a notorious boys’ club, is spending more time in the spotlight of mainstream fashion as heavyweight Supreme rises to billion-dollar brand status and retailers like Bergdorf Goodman carry inventory from Kith. But is women’s streetwear rising along with it? In this series, we’ll ask women inside streetwear to weigh in on the current standing and potential for their category.
You might not immediately think of decorative pins when discussing the topic of streetwear, but Brooklyn-based Pintrill has quickly endeared itself to the industry.
As co-founder of Pintrill, Doni Gitlin has helped breathe life into enamel pins by creating pop culture pieces designed to customize clothing and make a statement. Through Pintrill, a play on the streetwear brand Been Trill, pins have increasingly found a following among streetwear enthusiasts. A quick glimpse through Pintrill’s Instagram account shows pins adorned on everything from Supreme backpacks to Nike sneakers and vintage Levi’s. Since launching its online store in 2014, the company has opened a retail shop in Williamsburg and teamed with several streetwear companies on custom collections, including Cant Skate and Mr. Flawless.
Gitlin said within the boys’ club of streetwear, what sets Pintrill apart is that the product is gender neutral by design. There are no “male” or “female” pins, and one size truly fits all for the pieces, which cost between $12 to $15, on average. Instead, the pieces — which are custom designed by her fellow co-founders, her longtime friend Andrew Yung and her fiancé, Jordan Roschwalb — serve as cultural commentary on the popular zeitgeist for all. Among the slew of tongue-in-cheek emoji pins are statements like “Swipe Right” and “GOAT,” as well as vintage logos from brands including Pepsi and McDonald’s.
Pins and vintage paraphernalia at the Pintrill store in Williamsburg
Still, Gitlin said the pins can help women make a statement as the they forge a path through the world of streetwear. We talked about her experience helping to develop Pintrill as its sole female leader.
Why do you Pintrill has resonated so strongly with streetwear consumers?
Pins are a really big part of culture and have been historically. The pins we make are culturally relevant; they have certain ties to popular culture and what’s happening now. The combination of those things is good for a streetwear-focused customer and a traditional fashion customer alike. There’s a pin for everybody. The most important thing about pins is that they’re unique. Once you add a pin to something, you make it your own. Now people are really customizing and personalizing their pieces because they want things to feel like their own.
Why do you think streetwear has crossed over into luxury fashion?
The explosion of this mix of streetwear and traditional fashion is driven by the fact that luxury might seem unattainable — but when you mix the high and low, you can get the best of both worlds. It makes more people feel like they can be a part of it. With Pintrill, we see it as giving pins to the masses. For example, there’s a Louis Vuitton exhibit in the Financial District right now, and we worked with them to make pins that are being given out for free. It allows something to be luxury, while also giving everyone a piece of it.
How does this concept of having a gender-neutral company play into how you conceptualize the pins, while ensuring a women’s perspective is still heard?
Just because we make a heart pin, it doesn’t mean it’s for a girl. It represents love. Now, more than ever, it’s so important to be inclusive because of what’s happening in the world. It’s important to be accepting of everyone and allow them to enjoy what you’re putting out there. Jordan designs a lot of the pins, but every time he thinks of a new idea, I have to sign off on it, as well. With the designs, I will always have input. It’s really great to work with two people who are so close to you and totally inclusive. I’ve never been left out of anything.
That’s great. Unfortunately many women in streetwear don’t have it so lucky and have struggled with representation. Why do you think there’s still such a gender gap?
Even though brands like Supreme and Kith design mostly for men, I feel like women, in general, are wearing more oversize and men’s-style clothing. Streetwear isn’t just for men, and I don’t personally feel closed off from it. However, I do think a lot of the [male domination] is the media. When you see coverage on streetwear sites like Hypebeast, it can be really male-focused.
What do you think the streetwear industry could be doing better to include women?
Even before me, there were a lot of women coming into the streetwear space, and Kith Women and Hypebeast recently launched [its women’s vertical] Hypebae. These things are opening the doors to women. I don’t feel like it’s as exclusive as it was a couple of years ago. However, I feel it’s really important for women in the workplace to feel safe and feel heard. It’s important to have supportive partners, no matter what you’re doing.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Essentialist