At New York-based vintage and multi-label streetwear boutique SEE/KNOW, community is the unmistakable driving force.
The night is still young in New York when Dominick Alcantara dials into our call. He doesn’t fret about giving up an hour of his Friday night, and it’s because he just wrapped up a DJ set at, of all places, SEE/KNOW, the vintage and streetwear brick-and-mortar he runs as general manager and creative director.
End-of-week soirées take place regularly at the shop, where electro-funk bops serve as the soundtrack to evenings of free booze and flowing conversations. Dominick started with the team as an intern in 2021, and the happy hour was certainly more than he envisioned.
“I remember my initial idea was just to gather people in a park [and have them show off their] best outfits wearing brands that people have never seen before, you know? That was goal number one, and I would’ve been totally happy just to do that,” he says.
Before SEE/KNOW found a home on Canal Street in Lower Manhattan, they operated purely on the web. The idea for the store came to its founder and CEO Dennis Page—publisher and founder of Slam magazine (popularly known as “the basketball bible”) and founder of hip-hop magazine XXL—during the 2020 lockdown. Inspiration struck when he found his Instagram feed inundated with ad after ad of streetwear labels he’d never heard of before. “The original idea for SEE/KNOW was to build an e-commerce portal for emerging streetwear brands,” Dennis tells Vogue Philippines.
“Community” has evolved into a buzzword in recent years. For a period of time in 2020, a slew of top fashion retailers and publications were called out by former and current staffers for discriminatory and unjust working conditions, despite the companies outwardly priding themselves in ethical and inclusive operations.
But at SEE/KNOW, the community-led approach isn’t merely a forward-facing projection, but a 360 ethos practiced from the inside out.
The in-house core team is lean with only 10 members, but counting their close friends who double as regular contributors, the team hikes up to a count of 25. The outsourced crew is happy to work together on campaigns for social media, and even assist buyers on the shop floor when they can, just because they want to.
Fittingly, SEE/KNOW’s office and studio are located in a converted warehouse that’s shared with a number of art studios helmed by established senior artists. This structure exposes the team to various creative perspectives as they work, and allows them to gather and transmit inspiration to and from one another. This camaraderie and open-mindedness permeate their internal dynamic and extend all the way to interactions with customers.
For Dennis and Eric Cano, SEE/KNOW’s president and buyer, the modern shopping experience is defined by inclusivity, which is built around community-based endeavors—whether weekly public parties or intimate, brand-specific gatherings for family and friends. The success of their initiatives motivates the pair to remain steadfast in their devotion to what Dennis dubs “experiential retail,” citing Opening Ceremony as one of their blueprints.
“People shop to learn what is happening and keep in touch with the culture and find like-minded people,” the founder and CEO muses. “We have to believe that shoppers are always looking for something different that will cater to their individuality and express themselves. The days of hanging some clothes on a rack, and hoping someone comes in to buy it, are long over.”
Eric adds that they do not market themselves as being just for men. “There are no boundaries in fashion anymore and I wanted the experience to mirror that.”
Last February, SEE/KNOW integrated Slamgoods into their assortment. Under a single roof, the boutique now carries emerging streetwear, basketball merchandise, and a variety of vintage and high-end pre-owned apparel.
Their sartorial melange fares well with diverse crowds of all ages and tastes. Once, Dominick was on shift when an aesthetically-mishmashed friend group walked through the door. That day, one of them was a ’60s punk rocker, the other a ’70s Studio 54 regular, followed by a ’90s rapper, then a Y2K pop star.
Without realizing it, they were a walking encapsulation of the eclectic haven they had just stepped into. That is, a collective untouched by transitory trends; propelled by the past, inspired by the future, and defined by the people.