The locality has become emblematic far beyond its own borders. Its name is inscribed on the lids of kitschy mason jars and installed in big, bold blocks upon the brick facades of a trendy gift shop in Japan. The local landmark music venue/bowling alley became so successful that Las Vegas and London now host satellite versions.
The Brooklyn brand has effused effervescently throughout the market. A myriad of consumer products now have the borough’s name printed or stitched on their surfaces, from the pita chips packaged at the Baked in Brooklyn factory to cutesy, handmade onesies by My Brooklyn Baby.
As NY1 indicates, so many of these Brooklyn-branded products are not even created in the place they seemingly portray: Brooklyn Boot Company manufactures footwear in Pennsylvania, Brooklyn Tea sells leaves packaged in Long Island, while down South, there are Brooklyn drums created by North Carolina’s Gretch.
As the Vice President of Global Merchandising for the Brooklyn Nets Tyrel Kirkham told NY1 reporters, “It’s so cool to be associated with Brooklyn, and often times, that’s why you’ll see [a] product that only features the Brooklyn logo, the Brooklyn word mark because Brooklyn resonates globally.”
Moreover, it’s not only the greater borough that has become a name beyond its expanse; its neighborhoods have become legends in their own regard. I’ve walked past a Red Hook cafe in Michigan, which proudly sources its Stumptown Coffee from the Brooklyn neighborhood’s roasters (even though the beans’ brand name is Portland, Oregon’s nickname). I’ve read about recruits for Russian “troll farm” quarters arriving clad in “very hip clothing, very hip tattoos, like they’re from Williamsburg”–though their job is to log online and sabotage the American culture their style resembles.
The explosion of Brooklyn branding isn’t only evident in what consumers can wear, eat, and drink, or where they are entertained. The epicenter’s real-estate market also capitalizes on coolness. For instance, One Pierrepont Plaza, an office building located in Brooklyn Heights, promotes its appeal as being “Modern Offices. Brooklyn Cool.” (Fun fact: It’s where Hillary Clinton is basing her campaign headquarters.)
Over in Bushwick, the new residential condo 1209 DeKalb (formerly Colony 1209) tries to manifest the spirit of the “Bushwick Lifestyle,” towering over a neighborhood that’s “home to one of the city’s best art scenes, cutting-edge eateries, historic mansions, yoga studios, parks and more.” The presence of the controversial building, which is equipped with luxurious work-out stations, a screening room, and pool tables, has received some backlash from long-established local residents, over 100 of whom protested the tax abatement program earlier this year.
Existing Brooklyn neighborhoods are subject to becoming the next hot spot for hungry real estate investors or buyers, ones who wonder whether Bed-Stuy or Crown Heights should be the best frontier upon which to embark. Others stand back and speculate as to whether the so-called “Brooklyn real estate bubble” is destined to burst.
On an external level, individuals who’ve lived in Brooklyn seem to employ some of the borough’s branding themselves. Some New York Times real estate journalists report on the migration of Brooklynites into non-Brooklyn areas, such as becoming suburbanites in Westchester County, NY, but keeping their “718” area code, or finding “The Last Stop on the L Train” out in Detroit, MI. A couple former Brooklyn residents attested to holding “some reservations about the Q word” before deciding to move up to Queens.
But is there actually any substance behind all the branding or is it just a load of superficial hype?
Arguably, it goes both ways. There are still many traits of coolness thriving in Brooklyn, which hosts a landscape of outlandish art galleries, indie music halls, museums of oddities, and so forth. Nevertheless, it’s no secret that the cost of living there continues to skyrocket.
Gauging what’s cool or what’s hip is subjective by nature. A shopper might interpret a carefully curated vintage boutique on Wiliamsburg’s Bedford Avenue as rad, while a different passerby may argue the shop represents yet another yuppie lure installed on the strip; skilled musicians may congregate in a Bushwick warehouse to spontaneously spawn a raw garage rock song, but a neighboring listener might find their sounds to be too derivative of bygone eras.
There are certain symbols of when coolness comes to a dead end in Brooklyn, such as the construction of a sterile high-rise condo in a neighborhood–especially in replacement of iconic structures like the Domino’s Sugar Factory structure on the East River banks. I’ve heard countless Brooklyn residents curse about the openings of corporate coffee franchises like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts in Williamsburg. When bros or tourists enter the fabric of a Brooklyn neighborhood scene, their influence may disturb the dynamics that had previously been dominated by artists and artisans.
Can creativity and coolness keep their integral forces strong when faced with being over-exposed, exploited, and branded? How will Brooklyn’s internal ecosystem and external lore subsist into the future? While these questions may be complicated to answer, I think it’s safe to say that the trend of Brooklyn commercial branding is far from over.
Feature photo courtesy of LWYang.