What Ever Happen To Mishka NYC: Rise and Fall Of Streetwear Brands

Remember Mishka? Born in Brooklyn, raised in Hell in 2003? Mishka came along during the golden age of streetwear, a pioneer of sorts. Founded by Mikhail Bortnik and Greg Rivera, the company started as basically a t shirt company that blossomed into a staple of streetwear culture of the day.

They were undeniably hot for years, with blood shot eyes all over the place. Get it lol. Then suddenly one day, seems like they had been forgotten, completely. So what happened? How did a brand with so much hype and preceved respectability go the way of the Nintendo? And how could brands of today avoid a similar fate?

The brand can trace its roots back to New York City’s “fertile crescent” of Hip-Hop, Street-art, and Punk. The “do it yourself” ethics of 1980s New York City is what both inspired and powered the brand to the top of the heap.

They offered a range of edgy and creative original art, mixed with tongue-in-cheek takes on established logos and imagery. Once they began to pick up steam they branched out and broadened there scoop.

offering Cut and Sew lines that boasted slim fits and custom sizing. The cuts of garments ranged from traditional silhouettes to unexpected—and strangely sophisticated—pieces that pushed the limits of what was considered "normal."

Mishka with it's images of bloodshot eyes, references to punk songs, and nods to cult classic sci-fi and horror films, but Music was woven into the fabric of Mishka's history: Co-owner and creative director Mikhail Bortnik had been interested in graphic t-shirts since he found an interest in skate graphics and band shirts as a kid.

"There's something about a t-shirt as this blank canvas that kind of conforms to the individual wearer," Bortnik says. "Something about the aesthetic that appeals to me." In 2003, Bortnik took around $20,000 of his own money to start a clothing company focused on making t-shirts.

At it's height, their website averaged 7,000 or more visits a day, and music has played a key role in the success.

Bortnik and company have been integrating music into the promotional wing of Mishka since early on. Compines would team up with DJs to make mixes, and the folks at Mishka would post those collections online and press up a few hundred physical copies to pass out at parties and trade shows.

On Sept. 1, 2007, Mishka launched its blog, know as "The Bloglin," a home for posts about fashion and music that tastemakers check up on regularly. Nearly two years later Mishka released its first proper mixtape, a collection of songs by a personal fave of mine, rap act Ninjasonik called Darth Baño.

Insanely I had actually forgot about these guys cause I haven't heard from them lately but back then I really fucked with there stuff. In 2010 the clothing company began hosting its slew of mixtapes on Bandcamp.

"It's great publicity for us and the artists," Bortnik says. "The way things are right now, if they try to sell this material most people won't listen to it." But Mishka's mixtapes clue many people into artists that might not have been able to get by on their own, essentially getting them to the next step in their careers while giving the company a little boost.

Bortnik had always expressed an interest in the brand and its music wing, but real tipping point came in March 2010: That's when Mishka (along with Greedhead Entertainment) released Das Racist's first mixtape, Shut Up, Dude, an effort that helped transform the NYC hip-hop trio from humorous meme into an underground sensation.

This was huge for Mishka, and Bortnik says the company began receiving a flood of e-mails from dance to hip-hop to indie-rock acts hoping to release their music through the brand. Mishka was never a really a full fledged record company though, they couldn't offer musicians the financial backing of a conventional label. But in lieu of, say, paying to record a mixtape, Mishka gave all its artist free gear each new season and acted as a PR rep for its musicians.

So you may ask, if Bortnik was so innovative and Mishka was so popular, what caused the downfall? And you would be surprised to know that the very same popularity in a way began to work against the brand. Suddenly Mishka was ever