DQM Launches New Vans Quilted MTE Collection

DQM Launches New Vans Quilted MTE Collection

As DQM launches its latest collaboration, VMAN talks to founder Chris Keeffe about why the NYC label is a must-shop for more than just skate shoes.

As DQM launches its latest collaboration, VMAN talks to founder Chris Keeffe about why the NYC label is a must-shop for more than just skate shoes.

Text: Sara Zion

Born and raised in Queens, DQM founder Chris Keeffe grew up skating every borough of the city, absorbing the ubiquitous and colorful culture of all of its neighborhoods. “Everything I’ve learnt was through my upbringing in the streets and the boroughs on the never ending quest for new spots to skate,” Keeffe explains. “I was 12 years old and taking the train into Manhattan to go skate after school without my parents knowing. I was exposed to a lot.” While fashion may not have been at the forefront of his mind while searching for a new ramp or hidden side street to shred, he admits to having subconsciously soaked in the city’s style. “You can’t help being exposed to fashion growing up in NYC in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” he says.

Keeffe eventually dropped out of school after high school to pursue a professional skateboarding career, but when he started working at the original Stussy store on Prince Street, he began to think about his goals beyond the board. “I was still skating around this time, but I wanted to make sure I had something to do when my skating career was over.” A few years later, co-worker and friend James Jebbia recruited Keeffe to manage the brick-and-mortar iteration of his new venture and soon-to-be household name: Supreme. It was there that Keeffe cut his teeth in the retail game, and in 2003 he left to open his own store on Bowery. Initially, his boutique offered a curated selection of sneakers and local apparel brands, but Keeffe knew there was potential for more when the shop tees and gear for the store itself continually sold out. DQM organically grew and now offers a full line of shirts, pants, outerwear and accessories, drawing inspiration from “monochromatic film photography, NYC neighborhoods and struggling artists,” explains Keefe.

DQM's Fall collection dropped last month, and showcases a new maturity and more global perspective than the early days of skate and street wear. “The internet has 100% changed the way we do everything,” Keefe remarks. “When we started, we didn’t have a website, we didn’t even have an electronic cash register… we just had the store. [Then] we built a website, we started selling online (to our surprise, to everywhere, Russia, Singapore, New Zealand, Denmark) and then of course everything changed again and now we have [social media] and everything is images.” This international sensibility is apparent in everything from the streamlined and clean design of the apparel, to the artwork that focuses more on visuals than phrasing and even hats with Japanese script (which reads “New York”). The graphics throughout the fall line are reminiscent of the graffiti and wheat-paste posters synonymous with New York and metropolitan life, and the photography, especially that used on several of their most recent t-shirts, pictures both iconic skylines of NYC (like the Coney, NY Tee), as well as more evasive snaps of decidedly urban settings (such as the nondescript brick wall on their Flatlands Tee, evocative of the buildings of downtown and outer-borough New York, or the Koji Yamaguchi Hydrant Tee collaboration the brand recently introduced).

Keeffe sums up the company’s growth and the shift from selling other skate and street wear companies best: “We spent a lot of time marketing for other brands that we carried in the store, and it’s exciting to be putting focus exclusively on DQM for the first time.” But even with the changes, DQM is and always will be a skate brand by a real skater who puts the wants and needs of his customers—his skate peers—first. “We have always tried to stay true to ourselves, and grow on an organic level…rather than jump on trends.”

The new Quilted MTE collaboration with Vans is a perfect example of the brand’s understanding of both what their audience needs and what they want. At first glance the shoes appear to be a classic Vans sneaker, but closer inspection reveals a heat retention layer between the sock liner and outsole to keep feet warm, and weatherproof leather uppers, proving that the brand can produce the functional items the market is missing while still maintaining their original vision and specific view. Still, Keefe and his team maintain that fashion must always be presenting a fresh perspective and innovation in a market that’s becoming increasingly oversaturated. “You need to make sure your efforts count,” he says. “You can’t confuse organic growth with complacency. Staying relevant is staying present…we keep learning and we keep pushing.”

Shop the DQM x VANS Quilted MTE Collection here: http://www.vansdqm.com/

For more from DQM, visit: https://www.dqmnewyork.com/

UP NEXT

The Best Sweaters for Everyday Wear this Fall