by Stephen Garner

Iconix Brand Group is tapping the founders of Zoo York, one of the East Coast’s first true street culture-inspired lifestyle brands, to help reinvigorate the brand. As part of the new partnership, Zoo York’s founders, Rodney Smith, Eli Morgan Gesner, and Adam Schatz, are returning to Zoo York as creative directors to provide strategic creative, design, marketing, and industry insight. Iconix acquired Zoo York in 2011 and it’s currently one of almost 30 brands in Iconix’s portfolio.

Zoo York was created in 1993 and the founders will help bring the brand back to its street culture roots through a disruptive “Under Old Management” marketing campaign that started on Instagram when Zoo York started teasing the return of the founders. To kick off their comeback, Smith, Gesner, and Schatz are creating a Zoo York x Founders line of limited-edition product drops that will be shoppable only through Zoo York’s Instagram channel and ZooYork.com, with the first capsule launching on September 10th.

The first Zoo York x Founders drop is inspired by milestones in Zoo York’s history and includes updated versions of iconic items from the brand’s archives. Standout pieces include a dad hat and t-shirt inspired by the infamous “Zoo York Mixtape,” from 1997 and a t-shirt similar to what was worn by the skaters in the cult classic film “Kids.” Another key design element is the original Zoo York graffiti tag created by Gesner, featured on a long-sleeve t-shirt as well as a skate deck, which will be hand spray painted and signed by Gesner. The first drop also includes a replica of the coveted Zoo York hoodie from the 1990s. Only 93 pieces of each item will be created, to pay homage to the year Zoo York was founded, 1993.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to do many extraordinary things in my career,” said Gesner. “But coming home to Zoo York is, at once, the most exciting and, at the same time, the most comforting. I am home.”

Smith noted: “To do things differently in times like these can render success with the right components, intentions, and attitudes.”

“This partnership really highlights the importance of authenticity over hype when committing to the long-term health of a brand,” commented Schatz.

In addition to creating limited-edition product drops, Smith, Gesner and Schatz also will provide on-going design direction to licensees and partners around the world, starting with a re-branding that will take Zoo York back to its original logo, featuring a font the founders first saw during a meeting in the Empire State Building, a nod to the brand’s New York City roots. The trio will also collaborate with Zoo York on brand storytelling as well as content creation by tapping into their network, including renowned skate photographer Giovanni Reda.  Through the lens of the brand’s founders, Zoo York’s new direction will pay tribute to all of New York City’s street culture, beyond just skateboarding.

“Partnering with the creators of Zoo York will help us reconnect to the brand’s origins in New York City street culture and regain credibility,” added Bob Galvin, chief executive officer and president at Iconix Brand Group. “With the convergence of growing global interest in skateboarding and ongoing ‘90s nostalgia, there’s a great opportunity for Zoo York.”