Andrea Fjeld
Andrea Fjeld
Associate Editor

A Brooklyn State of Mind Invasion

I ♥ NY? More like I ♥ BK! Over the past twenty-plus years, The Island has been ceding its monopoly on cool as the southeastern borough gains popularity. Brooklyn has long been defined by experimentation and innovation, and today it draws creative minds from around the world to its pleasant brownstones and industrial lofts. And of course, businesses are eager to capitalize on Brooklyn’s cutting-edge appeal, with a growing number of Brooklyn-branded goods popping up in New York and internationally. What happens when a borough becomes more than just a borough? We examine the complexities of the Brooklyn brand after the jump.

Brooklyn’s come to stand for an alternative to Manhattan, the “downtown cool” of which has been irreparably tarnished by Wall Street greed and dirty politics. Everyone wants a taste of BK flavor. Smaller, local establishments, like Brooklyn Brewery, Breuckelen Distilling, Brooklyn Brine, and Gorilla Coffee, provide artisanal drinks, fare, and wares. Last year, a jazz bar called Brooklyn Parlor opened in Tokyo; over the summer Absolut launched a national line of Brooklyn vodka; and Brooklyn Industries now reaches Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Portland.

This demand suggests that the backlash against mass-produced, big-box America created a niche market for more exclusive, handcrafted products — a niche Brooklyn’s hip reputation can easily accommodate. There could be consequences to its newly found popularity, however. The mass appeal will undoubtedly diminish its authenticity, or at least its perceived authenticity. Companies scrambling to distinguish themselves from the rest could undermine the name’s credibility and cause the very foundation that makes it cool to collapse.

Styles shift, trends come and go, and consumers are quick to hop on the next cool thing. To maintain its authority as it becomes an internationally recognized brand, Brooklyn must stick to what it knows and does best — focusing on locally operated and owned organizations that revolve around the diverse communities thriving within its boundaries. Or else, who knows? Staten Island could be next on your radar…

(via Crain’s)

PHOTO CREDIT: Cameron Russell /flickr.com

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  • Anonymous

    Styles and trends do come and go, but no matter the economy or location; limited, boutiquey and in style products will always be sought after by certain people. Take Johnny Cupcakes (Out of Boston) for instance. The guy starts selling tee shirts out of the trunk of his car. (All handmade, in limited quantities) a few years later the guy is making millions, still using the same concept. (Minus the car trunks) I think the key for these brands (Brooklyn) who are gaining international recognition and could risk becoming tarnished due to overexposure is to remain true to what they do and where they came from no matter how large the scale. Same goes for music, you can still “sell out” and making a living at what you do, just remember what you did to get there in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    Styles and trends do come and go, but no matter the economy or location; limited, boutiquey and in style products will always be sought after by certain people. Take Johnny Cupcakes (Out of Boston) for instance. The guy starts selling tee shirts out of the trunk of his car. (All handmade, in limited quantities) a few years later the guy is making millions, still using the same concept. (Minus the car trunks) I think the key for these brands (Brooklyn) who are gaining international recognition and could risk becoming tarnished due to overexposure is to remain true to what they do and where they came from no matter how large the scale. Same goes for music, you can still “sell out” and making a living at what you do, just remember what you did to get there in the first place.

  • http://www.presentationadvisors.com/ Jon Thomas

    I think Brooklyn is still in a rather early stage of their hype cycle, but it’s also inevitable that the borough won’t be hip forever. Brands there need to think local, but act global. It’s great to represent the area, but don’t think that local can sustain forever. Brooklyn Brewery and the Brooklyn Parlor, as Andrea mentions, are two great examples. Remember your roots but don’t be afraid to expand.

    FYI – I went into Johnny Cupcakes with my wife, thinking it was actually a cupcake shop. It’s literally a bakery, but with Tshirts instead of colon-clogging sugary goodness. We were not happy.

  • http://www.andreafjeld.com Andrea

    That’s part of what I meant about Brooklyn must focus on to maintain its authenticity. Many once unknown indie artists, bands, and designers have achieved great success, but by staying loyal to those who were fans from the beginning, they’re still exalted by the taste-makers. Brands that fail to be true to their roots risk becoming caricatures of themselves, reshaped by inflated egos and the opinions of a group that was not their original or intended audience.