Exploding From The Beach To The City: New York Sunshine

by Ryan Babikian

Forget college. Forget the cubicle. Forget climbing the ladder in the fashion industry. That is the mindset of the NYC entrepreneur duo Henry and John "Sunshine" Margaritis who are disrupting the status quo through their hampton-chic clothing brand: New York Sunshine. 

Elite Daily had the chance to sit down with these pioneers to talk about entrepreneurship, ambition, and their up-and-coming company that is taking the East Coast by storm. Without further adieu, here is our interview with the Margaritis brothers, founders of New York Sunshine:

What drew you guys to entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship runs in our family. Our grandfather was a furrier, our father was a cabinetmaker, our aunt owns a bakery and our uncles own restaurants. Growing up, my brother Henry and I spent a lot of time after school, weekends, and summers sweeping sawdust off our father’s wood workshop floor, working the counter in our aunt’s bakery, and bussing tables and taking coat checks in our uncle’s restaurants. By the time we were older, we really wanted to do something on our own terms and not climb the ladder in already existing family businesses. Henry and I were both drawn to clothing, fashion, and design. I worked in film production for a while doing set design. But it was a desire to be my own boss that brought me to start a business. I think it’s safe to say we are style conscious without being slaves to fashion. It was only natural that my brother and I would express our freedom by developing  and producing our own clothing line.

How did New York Sunshine as a t-shirt line come about?

T-shirts were accessible – not incredibly expensive to produce and something our friends wore day and night. We grew up in the city and on the East End of Long Island. New York Sunshine shirts began life in a limited edition print shop on the outskirts of New York City. We just experimented with designs we liked and found someone who could put them on shirts we bought in bulk. …For a long time before they were in numerous stores and before I had an e-commerce website, I was selling them out of the back of my surf van and in my parents’ garage. The first run of hand screen shirts was an instant hit, and was traded like currency on beaches and rooftops. For a while, it was kind of like dealing drugs. People would call and come over with $25 bucks in cash and leave with a new shirt.  Guys would meet me in the back of my surf van and hand me cash. Friends of friends started getting our number. Then their friends would call to meet me at the van or the garage, some I didn’t even know how they got my number would come over.

What were some of your initial failures?

Like so many stories, it all began with a girl.  I knew this hot chick in Hawaii and I sent her a box of shirts.  I also had a friend in Colorado who was in snowboard videos all the time, so then I sent a bunch to him. I had a friend who ran a surf school in Mexico.  He got a box. I had all these people wearing them, but I forgot it was a business, because I was so excited that hot chicks were getting photographed wearing them on the beach as was my friend was snowboarding off cliffs in the Colorado back country. But then my Amex bill arrived and I had to start running a business like a business.

What does New York Sunshine offer that other clothing/fashion startups do not?

Authenticity. We really believe in our shirts and everything we make, we wear our own out all the time. They are very versatile in urban and beach settings. We wear them with board shorts on the beach and we wear them out at night probably to some places we shouldn’t, places where we “should” be wearing button downs or polos. We haven’t had time to make those yet, but we will.

What is it like having your brother as a business partner?

They say you should never mix family and business, and on some days I really believe this. But almost all of the time we make a really good team. Hank is way more outgoing than I am, and is way better with the ladies and thinks he’s much better looking, or so he’ll tell you. He has no problem walking up to anybody and saying, ‘this is my brother’s and my clothing line, and we’d really like you to have it’.  The other day, we were dropping off shirts at Blue and Cream in East Hampton, and Russell Simmons was sitting on the bench outside in front of the store. If it was just me, I probably would have gone straight back to the truck. But Hank - without any hesitation - went right up to him, and talked to him and made him laugh and handed both Russell and his friend a shirt.

Define your own sense of style:

It’s easier to say what we are not about. We are not fashion slaves.  We really like mixing elements of super high-end fashion with more casual styling. First quality material, hand made limited edition garments brought down to earth by a life style that moves easily between Avenue A in the city and Road D, our favorite beach in Long Island. I think that style is sort of doing what you like, it’s all about your attitude and how you wear things.  This is a tough question for us because we don’t think of ourselves as fashion people, we are more of a life style brand. We don’t really follow trends, nor do we try to start them. One of our logos says, “live that life” which is a slogan for doing what you like in life the way you want to do it and never letting all the other bullshit get in the way.

What is your advice to any young entrepreneur in the pursuit of success?

No days off…unless its five foot and off shore.

Do you have plans for any other ventures or projects?

We want to open a brick oven pizza joint in the West Village with our uncles. We also we have an idea for an app that cannot yet be disclosed for legal reasons…but it will hopefully blow your mind and make us some extra cash.