Knickerbocker is a unique American manufacturing company based in New York City. The company is a collaboration of three young designers who combined their brands and expertise. Their handiwork demonstrates incredible quality and attention to detail.
The owner and creative director of Knickerbocker Mfg. Co. is 22-year-old Andrew Livingston. Born in San Diego, CA; now living in Brooklyn, NY; Andrew quit school after one year to pursue building his brand. When asked about his background in his field, Andrew said “I am self taught in pretty much everything I practice today, but have had amazing guidance and help from Friends and mentors along the way.”
Andrew gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Knickerbocker, and the lifestyle and work that he maintains.
Describe how Knickerbocker Manufacturing Company came to be.
After receiving a great partial scholarship to attend NYU, I came to New York with the intention of pursuing a degree. During my first year, October 2011, I began a brand which focused on deconstructed vintage and printed illustrations. The brand was doing well and after my first year, I decided to put school on hold and pursue the brand. After that, I discovered Watman Headwear Corp., the manufacturer and space we now operate out of. I found it in an old directory, no working phone or website or email, so I decided to just show up. I ended up being their last clients. The owner had taken the factory over from his father; because his kids didn't want to continue with it, he began pressing me to take over. Only 20 at the time, I evaluated my current business and made the decision to sell my shares and take on this new opportunity to do something greater. With the money I made from my previous business, combined with a successful Kickstarter campaign, we opened up shop.
What is the driving force behind Knickerbocker? What inspires you to create?
The inspiration to create comes from sources all over. Whether it's past or newfound inspiration I always feel bound to the idea of creating something bigger than myself; taking something that means the world to me and hopefully make something special enough that it means the world to others as well. This could be the actual goods I'm creating, the business itself or even my own story.
Is Knickerbocker a full time job for you?
With the exception of managing airbnb (which isn’t much at all) it is definitely a full time job for me. Every day of the week, at any given time, you have to be able to drop whatever it is you are doing for the sake of the business. As it turns out, I'm always working on the business so this doesn't really matter too much anyways, haha.
What kind of risks have you taken to get the brand off the ground? Has it been worth it?
Tons of risks, my education and scholarship, relationships, money and so much more. But I can tell you, the business has been my education, has provided me with friends in a more meaningful way of the word than ever before and well, lets just hope the money comes.
What does a typical day look like to you?
Up at 7:30 every morning, usually make some coffee at home and do some busy work while I wake up. Around 9:00 I head into the factory where I begin my usual day of research, design, business financials, strategies, upcoming events, press releases and all that jazz. I usually take meetings out of the office Fridays and work in between my home office and the factory office over the weekend. After work, I try to skate this DIY skate spot called the BQE, it's the only place near me that has lights and it's never crowded. On the weekends I usually skate the pool at Chelsea Piers and if things aren’t too busy, I try to grab some beers with friends in the evening.
How has New York impacted your work for Knickerbocker? Does where you live inspire you?
New York has been a huge influence behind my work, the architecture and the people make it all worthwhile for me. I’ve never been surrounded by so much good energy and positive things happening. It keeps me humble and keeps me hungry.
Who are some of your idols or mentors? Is there any specific people who have impacted the way you work or even just your overall outlook and approach on life?
I'd say my two good buds Sebi Becerra and Daniel Rickard Guy. Two friends who at low points in my life have always been there, known what I needed as a friend and inspired me to be a better person. I've never wanted to be someone else, or emulate anyone else. I've always wanted to stand out on my own, but I also know there is no way my work is truly original. I've been inspired by so many creatives of the past whether it's Dieter Rams, Henry Ford, Robert Frank or even just the style icons like JFK, Steve McQueen and so many others.
I know you love to collaborate with other brands / artists. What has your favorite collaboration project been so far?
Collaborations have played an integral part in the growth of our business and always make a good time. So far my favorite collaboration would have to be with 3Sixteen, in which we took World War Coveralls and deconstructed them to make hats. They came out with blood stains, repairs and all that good stuff. The 3Sixteen dudes have always been great to us and great to work with.
Do you have any specific goals you are striving for with Knickerbocker? What are some of your greatest achievements so far with the brand?
The greatest achievement so far has been being able to transition from being a manufacturer for others to becoming a manufacturer of our own. Because we did not start out with much money, I wanted to focus on being selective with our clientele and marketing the manufacturing we were doing for them. Our message and the clientele we chose to work with became an identity for Knickerbocker Mfg. Co. It raised the question of when we were going to put out product ourselves, so the moment we turned around and did it, people were interested. The strategy was to build the backbone of the brand off of someone else's dollar and market it. It worked and we have been able to progress ever since.
What do you think sets Knickerbocker apart from the other brands out there today?
We still work with other artisans and another factory from time to time, but the fact that we are the only ones touching the goods through every part of the process, sets us apart in the market from, I’d say, 99% of our competition. “Made By Us, In New York” will always be our mantra and goal. To make something special you have to understand everything about it, and that's what we're doing here.
What's on the horizon for Knickerbocker? Where do you see the brand in a few years?
Not going to say much here as we have some big plans, but I will say, keep your eyes peeled, because we're going to make the most of it. In the short time, I've been pretty excited about the expansion of the line as well as the opportunity to delve into wares and other knick knacks by creating exclusives with many of our fellow makers.
Do you have any advice for other creatives and entrepreneurs looking to start their own brands?
Just be ready to give up everything and don't give up hope. When you give up a lot to start something, it sometimes feels overwhelming and daunting as if the best way out is back, but the best way out is always through. Keep learning, keep working hard and trust yourself.
Images and Interview courtesy of Andrew J. Livingston. Owner & Creative Director, Knickerbocker Mfg. Co.
Made by Us, In New York | C: 858.337.4863
To learn more about Knickerbocker Mfg. Co. and purchase products, visit knickerbockermfg.co