Downtown Style Moves Upstate
Newburgh’s up-and-coming fashion designers
Photograph by Merle Becker
Newburgh is well-known for its historical value and popular riverfront dining. But most people are probably not aware of the city’s budding fashion industry. In April, five Newburgh-based designers showcased their clothing lines at the Tee Party Fashion Show held in the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum on Broadway. Here, we shine the spotlight on these talented local trendsetters — and on the funky boutique called Mrs. Max, which sells a number of these fashion-forward duds.
Mrs. Max Boutique
“We are a mecca for handmade,” claims Leetha Berchielli, owner of this downtown-Newburgh boutique. The shop opened 27 years ago, and originally sold dancewear and health care uniforms (which it still offers); it has now evolved to include clothes and accessories from local artisans.
“There’s all the Newburgh-based clothing designers, then a friend who makes candles, a local jeweler. At least once a week I have people come and ask me ‘Can I bring in my stuff to show you?’ ” Berchielli says with a smile. “I tell them I can’t guarantee we’ll use them, but I’m happy to give people a spot to sell their items.”
Because so many locals sell their wares at Mrs. Max, the shop has morphed into a sort of melting pot of cultures, styles, and personalities. “We have something that represents every flavor in Newburgh: pretty clothes, edgy clothes, guys’ and girls’ accessories — there’s so many different people with so many great ideas,” Berchielli says, adding that she sees the potential for Newburgh to grow as a community “as long as people who want to change things keep sticking to it.”
101 Liberty, Newburgh. 845-561-3351
Line: Outsider Threads • Description: Punk-rock meets pinup glam • Available at: Mrs. Max
Holly Berchielli, owner of Outsider Threads, began making clothes several years ago to support Outsider Magazine, her local-music “fanzine.” She sold hoodies, buttons, and tees at concerts hosted by the magazine, but it wasn’t long before musicians asked her to make merchandise for them. “I wanted to help, so I would sketch out the designs, and my mother would help cut and sew them.” Eventually, she decided to start her own fashion label.
“Music is a major influence on my designs,” she says. This is easy to see: Her current line — which features knee-length skirts in delicate prints as well as punk-rock tees — resembles an imaginary closet shared by the Andrews Sisters, Cyndi Lauper, and Joey Ramone.
Berchielli creates most of these looks using swatches of vintage fabrics that have been donated or found at estate sales, sometimes giving items a new life entirely. “We’ll turn a regular tee shirt into a dress, or take a men’s shirt and transform it into a purse,” she says.
As of now, she hasn’t put too much thought into marketing her clothes at major retailers, preferring to keep selling within the Valley. “I still love supporting our local scene,” she says.
Photographs by Merle Becker (left), Dan Keator
Line: Business As Usual 21 • Description: Sporty designs for the urban-culture and action-sports crowd • Available at: Mrs. Max, Mixture (in Beacon)
“I want to send a positive message through my brand,” says Andy Driscoll, designer of Business As Usual 21. “That means no skulls, snakes, guns; I want it positive and bright.”
Driscoll says he’s always been into cars and urban action sports — such as skateboarding, motocross, drag racing, and drifting — and wanted to focus his brand around that culture. For women’s designs he generally uses bright pinks and purples, and menswear is usually done in cool-toned blues and grays; all with a variety of logo designs in script or grafitti text.
“It all started when I saw a sticker with a design that would make a cool tee shirt,” he explained. “So I thought up my own designs, made shirts, and started selling them out of my trunk. I really liked the creative side of it, so I decided to make a line and sell it in stores.”
As he gains more recognition, he hopes to sponsor young skateboarders or motocross athletes. “I want to help catapult their success,” he says. “A kid might have passion, but not know how to get to the next level. I can help. Everybody’s chasing dreams.”
Photograph by Merle Becker
Line: Truburgh • Description: Homegrown chic • Available at: Mrs. Max and www.truburgh.com
“I can definitely see an artistic movement starting in the city of Newburgh,” admits Vinny Colandrea, who describes his clothing line, Truburgh, as “artistic urban.” “Not just with fashion; there’s a growing appreciation of the arts in general.”
In each of his designs, Colandrea tries to incorporate urban style with some sort of art element, such as a paint stroke, spray-paint design, or pop-culture reference (the “NBNY” design at left, for instance, resembles the Nike swoosh symbol). Truburgh represents the hometown pride that many residents of Newburgh feel — as proof, the NBNY-designed tee is a popular seller in the area — and the brand’s philosophy is “Where you’re from, wherever you’re from.”
Some of Colandrea’s designs include shirts that read “Break free of the TV” and “845,” and handbags that have a spray-paint design. These tees, sweatshirts, and accessories, Colandrea says, promote more than just his brand name — they give others a glimpse into the culture that influences his designs.
Line: New Blak • Description: Eco-friendly, futuristic, urban-hipster chic • Available at: Mrs. Max, www.newblak.com
The green movement is beginning to dawn on the fashion world, and Newburgh designer Eddie Robinson wants to help lead the way. His line of casual-cool tee shirts, called New Blak, features phrases and logos on organic American Apparel shirts, with eco-friendly ink (made by Newburgh-based American Icon Screen Printing) that won’t harm skin or contaminate water when washed.
“My line is high-quality, but also affordable,” Robinson says. “There are a lot of organic clothing lines out there that are way overpriced. When the average person is making $30,000 a year, they can’t afford it.” By keeping prices to a minimum, he hopes to help a broader range of people be green while still looking chic and trendy.
New Blak tees are laid-back and sometimes make a statement — one design features a peace sign within a grenade — and can easily be accessorized for both daytime and evening looks. (At a recent runway show, Robinson added a touch of glam-punk to a striped V-neck tee and black skirt by including fingerless gloves bedecked with pieces of broken mirrors and Swarovski crystals.) “You just have to put it out there, and hope people take to it,” he says. “If there’s negative feedback, I’ll handle it. I have a thick skin. You have to in this industry.”
Photograph by Merle Becker
Line: Starrs Coll!de • Description: Casual, preppy weekend wear • Available at: Mrs. Max
After years of studying fashion and graphic design, Deshon Jackson started his Starrs Coll!de clothing line last September. But already outfits bearing his logo — a sheep wearing sunglasses — are popping up around the Valley. “The sheep in shades represents individuality,” he says, “It means be different, don’t follow the herd.”
From loose, preppy, Lacoste-style polos to fitted vee-necks and leggings, this brand’s look is comfy-casual. “My current line is colorful and brings out a youthfulness in people,” he says. “I call it urban-pop.”
Jackson says his designs are inspired by music — the brand name is derived from a song by acoustic-pop musician Never Shout Never — and one of his personal inspirations is fellow designer Mark Capicotto of Beacon, whose Glamour Kills line has skyrocketed into the mainstream. “I went to school with him,” Jackson notes, “and seeing his success really motivated me to push my own brand.”
Jackson admits that with the multitude of up-and-coming designers from Newburgh, he thinks the city could become a sort of hub for fashion. “It’s not just shirts,” he says. “We’re serious. I can see Newburgh really stepping it up in fashion.”