Homies Wonderland (HSWLD) is that rare sort of brand that’s underground enough to maintain notoriety yet successful enough to have a flagship on the Lower East Side. If you aren’t specifically familiar with the brand, you’ve probably “seen it around” on some cool kid’s Instagram or at a party at China Chalet. I even found one of their t-shirts in my actual closet. I still have no idea how it got there.
But HSWLD is more than just clothes, and not in the usual way brands say they’re more than just clothes but in the end, they’re really just clothes. The basement of the Essex storefront functions as a clubhouse, where a gang of young creatives gather to take pictures, come up with slogans that would go nicely on a hoodie, scribble rap lyrics in notebooks or just talk shit and smoke weed. Tune into the livestreams on their Facebook page and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The whole operation seems organic, fast and loose, and in many ways it is. However, there is a man (or men) in charge, just don’t try to find their names on the Internet. HSWLD started seven years ago as brothers Michal and Frantisek Kunert (Frank for short), two OG New York skaters, giving t-shirts they screen-printed in their living room to anyone they thought looked legit. Though their business has become more formalized (the brothers now have a second flagship in their native Krakow and the clothes are created in collaboration with various specialized garment manufacturers), that casual of camaraderie remains.
At the end of the day, the brand’s success comes from the family who reps it. They’re the sort of crew you’d want to kick it in a basement with. “It’s really become something special,” says photographer Tory Van Thompson, who’s been tied to brand in one way or another for about eight years. “Beyond people being able to recognize it, people are really starting to fuck with it and see themselves in it.”
Tory was proven right as he was shooting the below portraits of some of the brand’s key players. A kid eating a doughnut – he was probably 10 or 11 – walked up to our shoot, pondered the scene for a minute then declared, “That shirt is fire! That’s homies wonderland.”
So, without further ado, meet the homies of HSWLD.
Poster Boy, 21
Occupation: Rapper/Model/Brand Ambassador
Describe your sense of style: “Clean and swanky”
Describe your sense of style: “I wear my friend’s clothes”
Occupation: Confused artist
Describe your sense of style: “My mood”
Jarz Jay Flashy, 24
Describe your sense of style: “The coziest and the flashiest”
Miachen Wong, 20
Occupation: Fashion student
Describe your sense of style: “I don’t dress for boys”
Zeraj Retalso, 21
Occupation: Lost creative
Describe your sense of style: “Darkness, baby”