Chinatown Market’s Mike Cherman and Dan Altmann: an interview at Sole DXB
We caught up with Chinatown Market’s Mike Cherman and Dan Altmann on the side-lines of Sole DXB 2019. Thanks to the brand’s ongoing collaboration with sportswear giant PUMA, these legends of fast-fashion made their way to sunny Dubai.
Luckily for the city – Mike Cherman signed our one-of-a-kind “SOLEDXB Dubai” sneaker. Below is a brief (highly-edited) version of what went down.
SME: This isn’t going to be a traditional interview, this is a ******* chat!
Mike Cherman: I like a ******* chat!
SME: You’re obsessed with the ‘Smiley’ but if it wasn’t for the smiley, what would it be? Were there any other designs you were messing with?
Mike Cherman: Off course! You know man for us, it’s really about positivity more than anything. So, in a time and place in the world where there’s so many different negative things happening, we really want to be a beacon of light and a beacon positivity especially for the community of kids out there who doesn’t really believe in themselves or have anyone there who says, you can do it too.
We want to be that guiding light for them and help them understand that one day they can do this and that this thing is not unattainable, this is not impossible for you to go and do it.
So, we want to continue to change that narrative and push that forward.
SME: How did you two guys get along? How did you’ll find each other? You’ll are two worlds apart…
Dan Altmann: We were working on a project together. I had a company called Narativ where Disney was a big investor. We worked on a project together, we ended up being neighbours in LA.
Mike Cherman: Literally I was living next door to him and I didn’t realise…
Dan Altmann: We had a concept for how we wanted to grow the brand and what we can do together. We wanted it to be bigger than just a clothing brand. Mike focused on creative, I focused on partnerships. We come together and think about the way we want to do it.
SME: So, you weren’t two independent big conglomerates that had a boardroom meeting…?
Dan Altmann: No. just two people that wanted to work together and build something huge together.
Mike Cherman: This is built organically, this for me came from losing my last company, trying to figure out what I’m doing next. You know the process from doing these things, doing collaborations… there was a moment when I met dan and started meeting other people I expressed to him my situation, what I was looking for and he helped me out and tried to connect me with other people. But every time he connected me with another person, I would end up calling Dan again. It’s funny how these things work out, and it happened really naturally and organically where a lot of times things have always felt very forced.
SME: Multimedia businesses right now are trying to do what you guys are doing. Like the guys who have been there for decades and trying to do this, and you two just flipped this and hit the ground running.
Mike Cherman: Exactly. We want to change the way it’s all done. Everything for us is on Instagram. Dan can talk a lot about that and how we changed the narrative of how a brand should act.
Dan Altmann: Content to us is product and product is content. The way we build the company out will be marrying those two things. Luckily, we have a product that people want. It’s harder to do it the other way to build something that people want to actually purchase because consumption and liking and commenting is all free. So, I think if we can grow our audience to continue to be people who want to know us and learn from us and be educated – go to Chinatown Market University. The way that people engage with us and stuff like that but then also want to buy from us.
They might not like something that comes out in a month or a year but if they can continue with that journey with us and learn and meet the kids and the team and mike and everyone that’s a part of it – that’s kind of our long term customer versus just a ‘oh that’s a cool brand today’ and gone next week. And that’s why we want to transcend and grow into something much bigger than just a streetwear brand and become a media and educational brand that can teach the next generation.
SME: Since you touched on content, and almost everyone is a content creator nowadays, I have to ask, what is the strategy behind your Instagram? Tell me about the team, how many people are in your social media team?
Dan Altmann: I think like 6 people have access to the account. It’s funny because we work with the people most high up in Instagram and the people who are experts in the space and they look to us and they say how you thinking about Instagram? What are you doing in it? And its only treating it the way that a consumer treats it. It’s not being too precious about it. It’s the same thing that a really active friend would treat Instagram like that
SME: Yep, we all have that one friend…
Mike Cherman: Yeah man that’s actually where it really started. I had a friend who was posting amazing stories and I invited him to come and start contributing and all of a sudden when I invited the rest of the kids in the office to start contributing their own memes and funny pictures and ideas for content, all of these things end up representing all these different perspectives and helps to relate to different communities. So sometimes its planned, and Dan’s orchestrating this whole plan and sometimes one of our guys will be like posting a funny thing and Dan and I will be like, ‘what was this,” but it turns out to be great and it’s amazing.
SME: So, its organized chaos then…
Mike Cherman: Exactly. Definitely controlled chaos for sure.
Dan Altmann: We’re also evolving into creating more produced content. We have a show with Bleacher Report which just came out, where it’s much more produced. We want to go high and low with memes and product it’s all supposed to represent the way we look at Instagram which is just really being inspired by what happens and also hopefully inspiring others.
SME: Anyone who knows about you Mike, knows that you don’t drink, you don’t party…what do you do for fun, during your down time?
Dan Altmann: Is that out there?
SME: Actually, the question is for you Dan…
Dan Altmann: Do people know that?
Mike Cherman: Yeah, I talk about it a lot.
SME: So, what does he do for fun?
Dan Altmann: He creates…that’s what he does…
Mike Cherman: At the end of the day for me it’s like I’m around so much stimulation and people and like kids coming up to our office all the time. When I get home I just want to relax and disconnect. I need my 6 to 8 hours of just brainless time and disconnect coz I’m so on all the time, my brain’s just always going
Off the record though… you can guess what I do that’s not work…
Dan Altmann: Think California…
SME: Oh there we go…
Mike Cherman: Yes.
SME: Cool man, well that’s about it
Mike Cherman: Cool man. We’re grateful man. At the end of the day for us to be out here in Dubai, I’m excited to see all these things. Exposed to the people the community and people like yourself.