A lil’ background for those that aren’t familiar with Noah. Noah was founded by Brendon Babenzien and wife, Estelle Bailey-Babenzien. Brendon made his name in the streetwear world by working at Supreme since the mid 90s and 15 odd years of them as the design director for the streetwear giant.
There are definitely some parallels between Noah and Supreme, after being with a company for so long, it’s going to be impossible not to have any crossover. Noah has implemented the rolling release schedule of Supreme. This model is becoming more and more popular in the industry. No longer are we seeing the big seasonal drops, now we have products dropping weekly. By incorporating this rolling release schedule, Noah (and Supreme) tap into the see-now-buy-now mindset of luxury shoppers. In terms of product, I’m sure some of the factories are the same but visually the brands are often different. Supreme is your traditional skatewear. They have been the cool kids for 30 odd years now and are clearly on to a billion-dollar formula. Noah is the preppy version yet the street and punk rock influences remain. Think oversized European-made trench coats with graphic tees underneath.
Patagonia is the gold standard for how to run an ethical and sustainable apparel business. As a brand Noah is probably the closest thing we have in the street scene to Patagonia. Noah is brutally honest and not only cares about humans but the environment as well.
Noah operates and creates a product with four main principles:
Noah is certainly not easy on the skyrocket (pocket) but after listening to season two of Maddy Russell-Shapiro’s, Relentless podcast, you’ll know why the prices are the way they are. Brandon claims multiple times, for a product to be properly made with quality fabrics and by people who are getting paid fairly, it’s simply going to cost you. Brendon argues the price would actually be a lot more if they had more of a wholesale business structure.
Noah knows price can be an issue and they keep this in mind when designing. Collections are not designed with the intention of having people buy everything. They want customers to buy smarter but invest in the right products that will last you longer. Noah as a team are constantly trying to educate consumers of the true cost of fashion and how us buyers can have a positive impact. On Black Friday, they closed the store and told customers to shop at Patagonia (https://www.instagram.com/p/BNMsuyTgMyk). This in itself says a lot about the brand.
I’ve visited the Noah flagship store on Mulberry St and was extremely impressed. The laid-back atmosphere and high-quality product is something you notice straight away. The interior of the shops is where Estelle shines. You can tell she’s spent many years honing her craft as an interior designer. Estelle has thought about every element in the shop, so you get a home-like feeling upon walking in.
I live and breathe this industry, I even became a creative so that I could work in this industry. My one issue with the streetwear scene is this ‘hype’ mentality that often brings an air of superiority. (I could go off on a tangent here about why somebody would want to buy a pair of Jordan 6s with a pocket on the side, but I won’t…) Walking into certain ‘cool’ shops is not something I enjoy, I know I’m being judged and it takes away from the experience. The person working in these kinds of stores can sport the aforementioned air of superiority and getting an acknowledgment out of them is often dependent on what you are wearing. What these stores are yet to realise is that your outfit doesn’t make you cool. Noah are different because they know this. To me, this is where their brand values really separates them. Noah values its customers and treats them as they would treat their friends. This was my experience in their flagship store. I am yet to experience a more human approach in a high-end streetwear store and this adds to why I am a big fan of theirs.
Although many when mentioning Noah, refer to them as a sustainable brand. They are quick to point out that technically they are not. “Although we’re very flattered that the press and our supporters frequently complement our engagement on environmental issues, the way we operate isn’t even close to sustainable. There’s really no such thing as a sustainable clothing company.” (https://noahny.com/blogs/news/we-are-not-a-sustainable-company)
How many brands would go to the effort of correcting the press and correcting the positive publicity they are getting? Only brands who truly care about the cause that they are trying to help.
My favourite part of the Relentless podcast is when they are talking about the shipping bags of Noah. You hear an insight into Brendon and his team talking about the plastic shipping bags and how customers who are spending $900 on a jacket weren’t happy with the packaging, thinking it was simply an afterthought. The unboxing experience is a real thing but after the video gets uploaded to flex on social media, what really happens to the packaging? If the packaging is not recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable, it’s no good. I believe the brand selfishly cares more about trying to get a repeat customer than the planet. Brendon refused to create a package that would tick the customer satisfaction box instead he stuck to his brand principles. There is no point in having brand principles if, when push comes to shove because your customers disagree, you turn your back on the principles. Like my man, Dominic Toretto says ‘every man(brand) has got to have a code’, don’t turn your back on your code.
Although my wardrobe is yet to own any pieces from Noah, it’s nice to know that when I finally do pull the trigger, it will be a product that has been made to withstand the daily pressures of life. It will be produced using some of the worlds best fabrics and it will have been made by people who are getting treated ethically. Most brands are lucky to tick one of these three boxes, Noah comfortably ticks them all.
Thanks for reading and happy shopping with Noah.
Details on the podcast I mentioned above: The Relentless Podcast by Maddy Russell-Shapiro. “Relentless is a documentary podcast about the pursuit of far-fetched ideas and unusual aspirations. In other words: tenacity. How do people set their sights on a hard-to-reach goal? In what ways do they change course once they get started? What keeps them going? What is more satisfying, the pursuit or the result?” Season two is about Noah and I couldn’t recommend it anymore. Maddy got detailed interviews with Brendon, Estelle, their team and also NY city shoppers. They opened the doors for Maddy and she is even in on some design meetings.
Noah Moodboard Monday: https://www.haydenczwarno.com/moodboards/2021/5/3/moodboard-51-noah-ny
Relentless Podcast: https://www.therelentless.org/
Noah Website: https://noahny.com/
Founders letter: https://www.vogue.com/article/noah-brendon-babenzien-estelle-bailey-babenzien-coronavirus-commerce
To read more of my Brand Focuses: https://www.haydenczwarno.com/blog