At this point, there’ve been hundreds of takes on the “Make America Great Again” hat—my favorite being the “Make Youth Sonic Again” hat that recently got a shoutout from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. But the simplest one might just be the best one.
Make America Great Again?
“NO.” So says the red hat currently on sale at The Canvas, a new sustainable fashion shop in Williamsburg. The $40 hats were made in the USA— “unlike the other red hats we’ve seen too many of,” says their New York-based designer, Slow Factory.
The hat’s message is clear to anyone who sets eyes on it. “We’ve definitely heard quite a few reactions,” says Devin James Gilmartin. The 21-year-old NYU student is a co-founder Querencia Studio, the fashion brand that opened The Canvas in January. “The smirks and the grins are the ones that say the most.”
The “NO” hat is typical of Slow Factory, which counts Harper Reed, CTO for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, as an advisor. In 2017 they released a collection that took “a direct shot at Donald Trump’s Muslim ban,” according to creative director Celine Semaan, who is credited with coining the term “fashion activism.”
An item from that collection, a golden “We the People” necklace, is also available at The Canvas. The store, in a former warehouse space at 132 Bedford Avenue, showcases some 35 designers that are dedicated to the UN’s sustainable development goals and the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). Among its “ethical” products: jewelry made from recycled tire inner tubes. Customers can donate to Goodwill and trade in their used clothing for shopping points, thanks to an in-house “Swap Shop” launched with Global Fashion Exchange.
What’s more, the pop-up is experimenting with a retail model that gives 30 percent of revenue to its landlord in lieu of rent. “As opposed to having the space vacant, it gives us a chance to build our business while they have some sort of revenue,” says Gilmartin.
It remains to be seen how long The Canvas will stay in the space, which has been marketed for nearly $100,000 per month. But as Mayor de Blasio pushes for a vacancy tax on empty storefronts, Gilmartin believes the revenue-sharing arrangement will become more attractive to landlords.
As for the “NO” hat, Gilmartin clearly agrees with its message. Which isn’t surprising, given Querencia Studio’s focus on sustainability. “Nobody wants to speak up,” says Gilmartin, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency’s deferential attitude toward Trump. “And when you have people in powerful places not wanting to speak up, you have to remove them from those places.”