New York's influence on fashion is one that needs no explanation. Just ask the founder's of Tier, a Brooklyn-born fashion brand created by three friends whose love for art and culture has developed into a nationwide favorite for men's and women's loungewear. Driven by authenticity and unstifled artistry, the brand, which launched in 2014, is now expanding its range and designs in a way that's organic, awe-inspiring, and rooted in uplifting the culture to which its founders belong.
"I remember being in college and wanting to start a clothing brand," Nigeria Ealey, one-third of Tier says. "I think Vic [James, co-founder] was actually one of the first people that I spoke to about starting a line and once we started talking [about] the state of clothing brands, fashion, and art, we realized that our passions were similar. So of course, those discussions continued to grow." Then came the missing piece to the puzzle, a third addition, Esaïe Jean-Simon, another longtime friend, who completed the well-rounded trio. "We would meet at my house, we'd meet at Esaïe's house, we'd meet at Nigeria's house," says co-founder Victor James. "Wherever we could work, draw, brainstorm, and do research, we'd do it."
That work has paid off in ways unimaginable, and now, on the heels of 2020 — the brands most successful year to date thanks to a long-awaited expansion — Tier is ready for even more success. The first step is a collection highlighting the resiliency in Black culture.
Tier: On Growth In 2020
Six years in, Tier, whose name, according to Jean-Simon is double entendre on a tear and growth, has trailblazed a clothing category of its own, marked by high-fashion, streetwear innovation, and authenticity. The recipe has resulted in exponential growth, particularly in 2020. "Throughout 2020, Tier was able to grow our brand over 400%," Jean Simon shares, explaining that it was due to both increased exposure and expansion of styles offered. "We were able to have our first real fashion show, (a virtual experience in a New York City park) and were able to venture into more than just sweatsuits." The sweatsuits Jean-Simon references are the best-selling french terry cloth sets, masterfully colored with eco-friendly dyes in pantone hues. "2020 was definitely a year that we were able to adapt and thank God we did. 2021 will be a year that we will continue to adapt and grow, because we've proven we can."
Tier: On Channeling Inspiration
The trio all admit that when it comes to personal style, they couldn't be more different. James describes his everyday look as "unpredictable," Jean-Simon says he's a "mix of vintage and modern," and Ealey's wardrobe is marked by "comfort." Somehow, however, they've figured out how to make it work cohesively. Pulling inspiration from friends, family, their native Brooklyn, and surprisingly, anime, there's nothing off-limits from which Tier finds influence. "I like to people watch and see what they have on," Jean-Simon says. "I see what they have on and think upon how I can improve it. That gets my juices flowing and puts me in a creative space."
Tier: On Project 3: Joy To The World
Their latest, launching Jan. 29, further displays the versatility of Tier, and is a celebration of Blackness in collaboration with Brooklyn artist Pierre Jean-Baptiste. "We already had a bond with Pierre so it came naturally," James says. "That connection and that bond is what makes it so special." Jean-Baptiste says he and Tier share almost identical intentions with their art. "My art is the Black experience from my eyes," he says. That experience is one particularly wrought with pain in 2020. "After Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, I was in a space where I was confused, super hurt, and just felt the need to do something," Ealey says. "So I hit up Pierre and we shared images of the protests. We decided that could be reflected through art together."
The result was the fully-collaborative TIER's Project 3: Joy to the World, an experience that includes all new art from Jean-Baptiste. "It was a little difficult at times," Jean-Baptiste says about working with another brand. "But I take criticism really well so I was fine with starting all over again if we needed." After several drafts, a selection of outerwear, women's dresses, and of course, sweats adorned in images portraying Black joy, pain, and dollars was created. "We wanted to highlight the power of the Black dollar in particular," Ealey says. "That's why the hands reaching for it are different colors. We wanted to display the way that we impact culture. Nothing progresses without our creativity.
Tier wants this to be a celebration rather than a reminder of pain. "I want people to relate to it," James says. "I want people to have conversations about it around it. And I want people to remember this moment in time and how we spun it into art." Jean-Simon agrees. "I think Joy To The World is a celebration of what we've been through as a people and how we've come out of it. Even through this, we find joy."
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