When Liz Eswein and Quincy Moore launched New York or Nowhere (NYON) in 2020, they were intentional about focusing on community first, then a product after. NYON, birthed from Eswein’s @newyorkcity Instagram account (currently at 1.5 million followers), first hit the scene with digital downloads such as phone backgrounds and a coloring book. Now, the 3-year-old company has become best known for its apparel and art prints featuring its brand name.
Since its inception, NYON has entered physical retail, opening its first flagship store in NYC’s Nolita neighborhood in October 2022. The brand has also forayed into product collaborations, including with the New York Knicks, Rimowa and American Express.
“We’re thoughtful and careful with who we collaborate with. Our biggest and most ongoing partnership is with the Knicks, and it’s hard to get bigger than that, especially for a New York brand,” Moore said on the latest episode of The Glossy Podcast. “Slowly but surely, we will continue to do smaller collaborations as a customer acquisition tactic. We don’t have massive budgets for marketing, but it does work to align yourself with like-minded entities and feed off of each other’s audience.”
As the brand expands, exploring new categories is at the top of the priority list. NYON launched its first knit crewneck over the holiday, which performed extremely well, according to Eswein. At the end of last year, the brand also expanded into more home goods products and released a candle and a blanket. Above all, Moore and Eswein said they are now focused on ensuring that all future products and assortment are a “level up” from previous items by producing them with high-quality materials.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Launching a brand with little to no investment
Eswein: “I’ve done some angel investing, and so has Quincy, and we have a lot of friends that have raised outside capital [for their businesses]. There’s nothing against it, and we may [accepting funding] in the future. For us, though, we want to maintain as much control as possible. We’ve done this through testing and learning. Over the past three years, we’ve seen more evolution in the commerce world than we have probably in the last 10 years, just in terms of consumer behavior and how that shifted from being at home to now being out in the real world again. We have to turn on a dime and be flexible and nimble. We’ve grown by keeping all that in mind and moving slowly and strategically. We have this built-in audience that we’ve successfully been able to tap into, and that’s been hugely beneficial to us. We’re always observing, we’re always learning, and we’re always shifting.”
Collaborations‘ impact on distribution strategy
Moore: “New York or Nowhere is entirely direct-to-consumer through our own channels, except for at Madison Square Garden. We’ve been selling at MSG for a couple of years and, at times, we’ve been the second-best-selling brand of Knicks merchandise after Nike at the Garden, which is kind of insane. Every time I go to a game, my head is on a swivel seeing people wearing the brand, which is cool. I don’t [think our collaboration with the New York Knicks] has changed our distribution strategy. We want to continue to have as much control over how our product is merchandised and displayed in retail environments as possible, which is challenging when you’re working with wholesale partners. Time will tell, but we’re pretty happy with where we’re at.”