Happier Than A Pig in Chelsea

Nasty Pig owners David Lauterstein and Fred Kearney open a new store on 19th Street—four doors down from their old space.
February 13, 2014

Employee Rowan O’Garvey and David Lauterstein in the new location

Twenty years ago, life and business partners David Lauterstein and Fred Kearney started Nasty Pig, essentially building the brand on the floor of the original Soundfactory on 27th Street. The pair, who met a year prior to Nasty Pig’s founding over $1 Margaritas at the Break on Eighth Avenue, started out making their light refracting “re:vision” goggles. Tweaked out club kids ate them up.

“When Fred and I started the company, we just wanted to start a company,” Lauterstein recalls. “We’re both artists, so we never had a clear vision, but I was a cocky little kid who was raised on hip-hop and I kind of always wanted to take on the world “

This weekend is a momentous one for the brand. “We started in 1994 in a 72 square foot, closet-sized store on 22nd Street,” Lauterstein recalls. On February 14, they’re opening their newest flagship store, bigger and better than all of their previous brick-and-mortar locations, at 259 W 19th Street. Sure, it’s just four doors down from their previous spot, but there are some serious advantages to the new locale.

“Basically, the new space is a new experience for our customers,” Lauterstein says. Designed to show off the merchandise, Lauterstein and Kearney also wanted to make sure that the new store is a place where their customers—many of whom are practically like family—can come to feel comfortable. They wanted it to be a place to hang out.

“There will be less stock on the floor, and more stock in the basement. More room to sit, more room to hang,” Lauterstein explains. “And we’re building a 12 foot by 20 foot deck on the back so that customers can shop and then [enjoy themselves] on nice days.” They’ve even added a club-quality sound system, compete with two DJ setups for when they throw parties. “We really want to take what we love about New York and further infuse it into our shopping experience.” 

The neighborhood may be changing, but retail, Lauterstein says, especially gay retail, has a home in Chelsea still. Eight months after he and Kearney signed the lease on the new space, Barney’s announced they’d be reopening a retail store right around the corner. “It was kind of a nice confirmation,” he says.

Nasty Pig is an especially unique brand, not just in that Lauterstein and Kearney have found success in a niche market, but also because they are two fashion people who set out to create a line of their own, and then boldly ignored the fashion industry. “For a long time a lot of people in the fashion industry told us to change our name,” Lauterstein admits. “But our name is really what defines us.” It is catchy. “We knew that there would come a time where gay culture would be so accepted that as long as we did our jobs right, our name would suddenly not matter any more and that moment is now.”

Despite their success, Lauterstein says that because of the brand’s unique placement in the New York market, there are a lot of misconceptions about what Nasty Pig is. “I think the biggest misconception is that we’re a fetish brand, that we’re an underwear brand. What people don’t realize is that we’re a New York brand,” Lauterstein, who was raised on Staten Island, says. “[We] live, eat, breathe New York. We’re inherently a hip-hop and a street brand.”

Lauterstein and Kearney have seen their brand grow, as they’ve seen acceptance of gay culture continue to increase. “We’ve been in GQ. We’ve been in the New York Times. We’ve been in Interview Magazine,” he says. “It’s become sort of a wink and a nod within the community.”

And their dedication to authenticity is a big part of what Lauterstein says has made Nasty Pig work. “It’s brilliant because [people] walk into our store and we are unafraid to be queens,” Lauterstein says with a smile. “It went from something that would deter people, to something that lets them know that we’re real.” Nasty Pig is growing, but they’ll never forget who has stood by them all these years. “We want to make our clothing for our core audience, for the gay boys,” Lauterstein insists.

Ultimately, what has made Nasty Pig work as well as it has, is the clothing. Lauterstein wanted to make something fun and unique and sell it to the people who got his brand. “It’s an old fashioned formula, but it focuses on the relationship between the designer and the customer and you worry less about impressing everyone else,” he says. “It’s worked for us.”