When you’re not working, where can we find you?
I love to go exploring with my camera, ride my motorcycle, my bicycle, and just explore different places. I also like to keep it social, meet new people, hang out at the local spots around here in Williamsburg and just spread the word about Feltraiger. You will usually find me somewhere in Brooklyn!
If Feltraiger was not a clothing brand, what type of brand would it be?
Before Feltraiger, I was working on my own photography, and I also went to school for interior design, so I would definitely be working on both those things. These are also two things Dan and I want to incorporate in the Feltraiger brand as we continue to grow.
Why did you decide to open a brick and mortar shop rather than solely focusing on e-commerce?
When you have a space that really shows the feel of your brand, people can walk in and immediately get it—that emotional feeling cannot be beat. Having a store in New York City also gave our brand a lot of credibility right away. It’s a big deal to be able to say you have a shop—especially in New York—and aren’t just making T-shirts in your mom’s basement.
What is your ultimate vision for the Feltraiger brand?
Our 10-year plan is to have stores in Los Angeles, South Florida – where we are from – and a couple more in some off-market cities like Chicago and Austin. We’d also like to open locations internationally, including Japan where we have a large customer base, as well as London and Israel. At the same time we’d love to continue to build up our wholesale worldwide.
I know you recently opened a barbershop/speakeasy in the basement of your store, how come?
In retail nowadays, you need more than just one concept; you need a few different reasons for people to come in. We try to incorporate the things that we enjoy doing on a daily basis into the store to make it really more of a destination for our customers. Right now, our barbershop and speakeasy are more for VIP clients, and not open to the general public. In future locations we would like to split the shop into parts—like part barbershop, part clothing store that are open to everyone. We would also really like to incorporate the motorcycle garage element into shops in the future. We want to have a place where people can come hang out, have a beer, read some cool books, look at magazines, shop around, get a haircut, ask questions about their bikes—really have more of a community.
What drew you brothers to New York in the first place? It seems like your target base would be on the West Coast.
We grew up in South Florida, our father is from Brooklyn, our family emigrated to this country through Ellis Island, so we’ve always felt a connection to New York. You really can’t beat the vibe that is in Brooklyn—it’s where all the creative, young, cool, people are and where all the interesting things are happening in New York.
But you recently moved from the city (NYC) to Brooklyn, right? Why?
I love Brooklyn. The city is all right… the city is great for what it is, but it’s a little hectic, it’s a little much. There is definitely something special about Brooklyn, more new and upcoming things are happening here. It’s the best location for our store and for our brand. It seems like people out here care just a little bit more for that classic vibe, as well as the emphasis on American production. Our brand really resonates more out here than it did in the city, and we feel a lot of pride in having our home base here in Brooklyn.
What is the importance of keeping your brand and all brands carried in your store American-made? Do you think this is something that will ever change?
That is definitely the backbone of the brand—definitely not anything we would ever change. The name Feltraiger is an ode to our ancestry as it was our family’s original name. When our family came to America from Russia through Ellis Island, they changed their name from Feltraiger to Feldman to sound more Americanized. The name and logo of our brand represents our family coming to America, and making a new home here. Every piece we make has a very classic feel, with each item meant to be passed down to future generations. We believe when people know an item is made in America, it sits in their hearts a little more than something made at a sweatshop overseas. I think it is important to stay true to your brand, because as soon as you start changing things that are a core part of your brand’s identity, you will lose your main supporters.
Getting a little more personal, what is your relationship with Dan like? What is it like working with your older brother?
Ultimately, there is nothing better. I couldn’t imagine working with a random business partner or even a buddy this closely. We have a lot of the same interests, especially classic American culture. Dan and I grew up together, we always know what the other is thinking. There are definitely those times when you get on each other’s nerves a little bit, and raise your voice, but we can come back a minute or two later and get right back to business like it’s nothing. At the end of the day we are brothers and love each other, and have the shared interest in growing this brand together—it’s a beautiful thing.
What role do your other family members play in your and Dan’s life?
My parents raised us in a very inspiring, entrepreneurial environment. Our father never pushed us to go the traditional route and become a doctor or a lawyer, he always told us to go out and create something, and to never feel like we had a J-O-B. Their support and motivation definitely helped us a lot in the beginning, and even to this day.
You both are pretty young, what advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
As corny as it may sound, anything is possible. Whatever you want to do, keep pushing towards it, you never know who you may meet, who will help you get your foot in the door. If you have a dream, if there is something you want to create, don’t let go of that. Work your ass off, and get it going. Dan and I work 24 hours a day on Feltraiger—it is our life. If it is something you really believe in, put your all into it. It may take a few years, it may take less, but it will ultimately pay off.