by Stephen Garner

Through his journey as a hospitality and lifestyle entrepreneur, Jesse Baer has developed a philosophy centered around inclusivity and attainable luxury, which stems from his challenging formative years growing up in Ithaca, New York. The only son of a single mother with whom he often clashed, Baer struggled through his teens, directionless, mostly broke, and one friend’s couch away from living on the street. “My upbringing was rough,” says Baer, “but it helped me understand what it feels like when everything is so far out of your reach.”

As a young entrepreneur without inherited wealth, Baer has persevered through highs and lows. He launched his first company, a chain of gyms backed by an angel investor, at the age of 19 while attending Ithaca College. It grew to ten locations before he exited in 2015 and moved to New York City. His early years in the city, however, were darkened by bad investments and deep losses.

He found success again in 2017, co-founding Common Ground Bar in New York’s Meatpacking District. His idea for a universally welcoming and unpretentious destination in a neighborhood known for velvet ropes and bottle service proved to be an immediate success. Baer and his partner soon added a summer outpost in Montauk with more than double the capacity, which it reached nearly every night.

In addition to conceiving the look and feel of Common Ground, Baer has consulted on the interior design of bars and restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and Miami. As a guide, he looks to American designers like Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren who came from humble backgrounds, like his own, and relied on hard work and determination to build empires.

Fast forward to 2020 when Baer launched his newest project, Change Of Heart, which is driven by both his love of streetwear and his belief that modest means shouldn’t limit access to well-designed clothing produced in a non-exploitative way. Though not formally educated in fashion, he has always had an avid interest in style and all forms of design, from architecture to tattoos.

To launch the brand, Baer tapped industry heavyweights including Travis Anderson, who was instrumental in launching Justin Bieber’s Drew House line and has worked with brands such as Palace and Brain Dead, and Rumble Boxing co-founder Andy Stenzler. Change Of Heart’s first collection, which launched in December 2020, sold out in just 72 hours with $60,000+ in sales in the first 24 hours followed by a capsule collection of 800 t-shirts that sold out in under 2 minutes. 

The collections are produced in the same solar-paneled-run factories in Vietnam as many big-name luxury brands but sold for a fraction of the cost with pricing as follows – hoodies ($98), sweatpants ($98), and t-shirts ($40).

And, grassroots work that goes beyond mere philanthropy is embedded into the culture of Change Of Heart. Baer and his co-founders began by working with the Los Angeles Community Fridges, an independent network of refrigerators and pantries that provide for people experiencing food insecurity. “We are foremost a fashion company,” adds Baer, “but what we design is born in the streets, so we want to give back to these communities while also building our own Change Of Heart community that inspires others to do some good in the world.”

The brand’s newest collection, launching today, is its first Lifeline collection, which, according to Baer, blends everyday wear with the brand’s aesthetics, creating everyday luxury you can live. In addition to Change Of Heart’s Lifeline, the brand will also be launching its Mainline of luxury, statement styles next month.