When you walk down the streets of Southampton, Long Island, you expect the streets to be lined with your obligatory high-end fashion houses like Prada and Gucci for the Manhattan housewives who spend the summer, along with Polo and Brooks Brothers for their big-business husbands. But there is at least one store in the mix that’s out of place in this world of silk print blouses and bright, pleated-front chinos.
This store is called New York Sunshine and it’s a boutique that fuses the two seemingly irreconcilable worlds of surfing and basketball. We interviewed John Margaritis, the owner and creative director of New York Sunshine, in order to get down to the bottom of this surprising and exciting streetwear outpost. What we found out completely changed our understanding of what it means to be a New York surfer.
5 Minutes With … John Margaritis of New York Sunshine
SlamXHype: Where does the New York Sunshine story begin? Can you give me some background?
John Margaritis: I guess it all started when I got the nickname “Sunshine” when I was younger and it really stuck. Growing up, I worked at a local surf shop in Southampton in the summers. That surf shop started a surf school, and I started working there as well. I’ve always been into clothing and design, and in my teens I was able to start designing t-shirts, and hand-printing them at my dad’s friend’s print shop. [quote align=’right’] I feel like when brands do something involving surfing, they get stuck and labeled as “surf brands.” Being from New York, that doesn’t make sense to me. I love surfing, but I also love basketball…[/quote] I started selling them out of the back of my surf van in between lessons (and while I was supposed to be working at the surf shop).
SXH: How and when did your surf-van store turn into the actual brick and mortar shop you guys have now?
John: I got a job at Quiksilver because surfing is something that I know and am passionate about. I got in trouble while I was working there for never wearing the clothing, and realized I didn’t like anything I was supposed to be selling.
From there, I kept making shirts as just a summer-time hobby, working odd jobs to fund it. I started selling in Odin, and then owners from a store in Japan contacted me. Since I’ve always wanted to have a clothing line, getting that positive feedback helped me take a kind of leap into making a collection.
Three years ago, New York Sunshine became my full time job, and in October 2012 I took over the lease on the space we have now at 28 Nugent Street in Southampton. I spent the winter slowly renovating with my dad and a couple friends, and opened the doors Memorial Day Weekend 2013.
SXH: So, your surf influence is very evident, but basketball is clearly a big influence to New York Sunshine as well. Where does the basketball influence come from?
John: I’ve been a Knicks fan my entire life. My grandpa is a Knicks fan; my dad is a Knicks fan. They’ve been taking me to games at the [Madison Square] Garden since I was two, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.
I also grew up playing basketball whenever I could. As New York surfers, we aren’t as lucky as surfers elsewhere who have more access to consistent swell. I feel like when brands do something involving surfing, they get stuck and labeled as “surf brands.” Being from New York, that doesn’t make sense to me. I love surfing, but I also love basketball; I love walking around the galleries in Chelsea, and I love checking out super-high-end designer fashion on Madison Avenue. I love the different cultures and the melting pot that exists in New York, and checking out stores like Stussy, and Nom de Guerre (before it closed) and Supreme.
I really try to make clothing that seamlessly transitions from the streets of New York to the beaches of Long Island.
SXH: When people think about stores in the Hamptons, they think bright colors and preppy clothes. But you’ve done the opposite and completely leaned into the black-and-white aesthetic. Does that bridge the gap between the city and the Hamptons?
John: Our store definitely doesn’t fit the classic “Hamptons” mold. We really try to avoid that Vineyard Vines look. Yes, it is done to bridge the gap between the two, but it also comes from my disenchantment with the surf industry. Surf brands like to use bright, loud colors that feel too old school, and too bright and Californian for me. Black and white are also the two colors I wear myself.
SXH: New York Sunshine seems to really be your brainchild, the encapsulation of your life experience and your current taste and creativity. How has the response been? I’m guessing positive. You’ve found a Hamptons/NYC niche?
John: Yeah, that’s right. I’ve got an awesome support team of friends and family who are 100% behind me and the brand. Some are die-hard surfers who don’t want to do anything else; some are artists, some are sneakerheads, some live way Uptown, some way Downtown, and everyone has influence myself and the brand in some way. The brand does do well in Southampton and New York, along with stores throughout Japan, [quote align=’right’] We really try to avoid that Vineyard Vines look. Yes, it is to bridge the gap between the two, but it also comes from my disenchantment with the surf industry[/quote]and now colette out in Paris carries the collection also. Getting an order from colette was a goal from day one for me.
SXH: Do you have any collaborations in the works?
John: We have no collabs right now. We have some brands and artists in mind that we’d like to collab with. First on the list is a sneaker collab. We want to pair up with the right brand with shared ideas and similar interests.
SXH: If you could collaborate with one NBA star, past or present, who would it be?
John: Patrick Ewing. No question.
SXH: How about if you could collaborate with any artist – past or present – who would it be?
John: Thats a tough one … Frank Sinatra. I’d want to go back to his time and see him in his element … and get to see New York then.
SXH: If you could only shop at one other label that wasn’t your own, what label would that be?
John: Nom de Guerre, if it was still around. That was my favorite New York store. It was my favorite line. If it has to still be around, I would pick Alexander Wang.
SXH: Ok, last one: If you couldn’t work in fashion (or be a surfer or basketball player), and had to do something else – anything else – what would that be?
John: I’d be a food critic, so I could always be getting my grub on and just really let go.
Visit New York City Sunshine’s website and the label’s brick-and-mortar location:
New York Sunshine Surf Club
28 Nugent Street
Southampton, NY 11968
[Photos Courtesy of John Margaritis]