Texas loves claiming everything is bigger there. Maybe they're right. The Cowboys stadium sure is quite a sight I suppose, even if it's unused right after whenever the playoffs start. If we are solely working off of unofficial slogans, I would like to suggest one to counter the Lone Star state's offering.
Everything feels bigger in New York City.
From the lights of Broadway to Lady Liberty, there's nothing like it. The austere grandeur of massive skyscrapers that craft wind tunnels feel massive. Hell, name a more larger than life tandem then Sinatra & Biggie. Trump is covered in all perpetuity by the Voldemort policy. No one say that name no mo' you heard?
The Boogie Down Bronx, a mecca for Dominican immigrants, is truly it's own world and ecosystem uptown.
The point is that the Apple creates what the world consumes. More so than any other city, originality lives here. That energy you can't bottle lives here, rising from the concrete like the steam from the subways through the grates on the streets.
The entire city moves in this truly vivacious, unapologetic sashay. A movement that exists to represent the fact that we're bigger, louder and more creative than whatever city your from. Also, it is a given. They're only really in competition with the ascended master across Central Park. Apologies, b.
In addition to creating it here, we also do a hell of a lot of recreation. The Brooklyn Pizza Wars will tell you that. One guy, Gennaro Lombardi, invented it, and then Lucali, Dom DeMarco and Pasty Grimaldi made it it world class. Our noisy neighbors up I-95 in New Haven have a claim to chime in on that as well, but even they invented it and then perfected it. Kudos to the whole region then, I say. We're made different, so what we make, henceforth, is different. That seems to be the cycle, and to be fair, it's happened here more times than one can recall.
Enter Noel Veloz, a well mannered, humbly-spoken Dominican cat from the Castle Hill Projects in the Bronx. His parents immigrated here. He, like fellow Souler designer Hommy Diaz, is a product of an immigrant, and a creative one at that.
Veloz has spent his entire life building Hemincuff he just didn't know it at the time. Those moments became little footnotes at the bottom of his forthcoming autobiography. Whether he knew it or not, this was always what his destiny was. As a man who is NOT Noel Veloz, I felt that just by having a slightly different vantage point. I am not his story. I'm just writing it. At best I am peripheral, a fly on the wall with good enough taste to narrate the "book on tape" version.
Veloz was the only minority in the world of Manhattan luxury retail, working at Diesel, Dior and various other flagships across the city and the boroughs. He bounced from job to job, always excelling but always feeling unfulfilled. In his mind, he was still that same PJ kid from the Bronx, sketching his ideas for fashion, while his old man sewed in the living room. It was their thing.
Noel Veloz's father, the man who inspired the son, and the product & vision that would later become Hemincuff.
Veloz Sr. was the Bronx go-to maker. If you couldn't afford the shit from Saks and Bloomingdales, Veloz the elder would make you something custom with all the same technical details and craftsman quality.
Veloz Jr. then started making just a duffle bag in 2014, inspired by his old man's work. The samples were all fucked up. The logo was tilted. He had spent his savings on trying to get his samples done, so this, as one may assume, was not a welcome or acceptable situation for himself. He had worked in luxury retail for years now, grinding it out in management positions running ragged for the opportunity to see his vision, which doubles as a love letter to his pops, come to life. That's what devastation feels like. You can bottle that moment and sell it as a cologne for the heartbroken.
The original duffle bag collection that almost made Veloz quit on his passion- circa 2014/15 in Manhattan.
One night, Veloz was leaving his SoHo place when designer Rebecca Minkoff asked him why he looked so sad. They spoke, as Veloz admired her and her work, he opened up to her. She assured him he would get through this. She shared a personal story about her eviction with him years prior, and suggested he use this as a lesson in perseverance, and a referendum on conviction.
He kept walking and bumped into Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, who he just asked for advice as a young, emerging designer. They more or less said the same thing. Young Veloz listened to God and the universe speak thru these three apex creators.
How did Drake say it again? "Nothing was the same."
Veloz poses candidly in Midtown Manhattan with one of his early sample bags.
Fast forward to 2021. Noel Veloz has one of the hottest accessories lines in fashion. His bags are all over the likes of fashion's it-boys, Luka Sabbat, Kyle Kuzma, and rap legends like Fabolous. He's grown from his anxiety, in many ways its that anxiety that pushed him through the fear that comes before the proverbial dawn.
The LA Lakers star baller Kyle Kuzma, one of the NBA's most fashionable influencers off the hardwood is a massive supporter of Hemincuff, instantly making Veloz's line a must-have accessory this season.
Noel Veloz's Hemincuff is a revamped, remixed dream of a previous one cut well short. It started with a skilled immigrant craftsman from the DR who started a new chapters for his surname by moving thousands of miles away from the isla he called home and settled Uptown in the city that never slept once. Veloz Sr. hand made 13 bags a month for a private client list, which was done to ensure that each piece came with the utmost attention to detail and craftsmanship. Sadly, Veloz the elder lost everything and he was unable to sustain his budding passion project.
The quality, Noel was taught, "lives between the hem and the cuff." Decades have passed but that authentic approach never left the rafters of the locker room. It's a generational mantra that is literally in Noel's veins as he carries his family upward and onwards.
We caught up with Veloz in Manhattan this week to discuss the real stories within the story, and what we captured was a honest, humble and earnest man at the top of his craft that the world is really starting to not only notice, but applaud.
Here's the transcript of that chat. Veloz is thoughtful, humble & wise beyond his years. It's feels slightly appropriate that on the day there was a monumental changing of the guard for American culture, a good dude, and an immigrant, has finally won.
AX: My man Noel. Pleasure to finally officially chop up. I absolutely love Hemincuff and have been kinda following your trajectory for the last year or two. Where did the idea of Hemincuff come from?
NV: It’s a pleasure to meet you too and I’m honored to get interviewed by you. As a kid I always had a strong connection with bags. I used to watch my father make bags and small accessories at like 5 years old and I felt in love watching him create stuff from his sewing machine. I really remember seeing his clients be happy and excited when they picked up the item at our home in the Bronx.
He use to make clutches, top handle purses ,backpacks, card holders and also tailor clothing. Growing up I wanted to choose a career where I can share my art with people and bring them joy and happiness with my work. Nothing else made me happy. I tried physical therapy, tutoring and being a Librarian but it didn’t satisfy me.
AX: This man tried being a librarian. I’m dead. All praises to the Librarians, but I just didn’t expect that to be one of the jobs the mind who went on to create Hemincuff was doing. Shoutouts to the Dewey Decimal System. I’m going to assume your lack of fulfillment led you to really explore what was in your heart from the jump, fashion.
NV: Yes for sure. Once I started working in retail and interning in fashion I felt fulfilled because I was learning the business. I never felt I was working because I loved it. Every night for 2 years when I lived on the Upper East Side I uses to take walks alone from 51st street to 72nd street and study every luxury boutique store window. I learned so much by just doing this. It taught me the importance of visual merchandising, Story telling, branding and quality.
Every night after work I looked forward to taking these walks right after I prayed at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 5th Avenue & Madison Avenue was my school, literally, and it filled my soul every time I did it. When I used to get home I would watch documentaries of luxury bags and designers on YouTube. I literally live this and breath this.
AX: So often, the best designers tell their own story thru their work. I know this line is almost a labor of love that ties into your pops and HIS story that became "real" for you. What is the real message you're saying with Hemincuff?
NV: Hemincuff is a brand I designed for the modern, fashion-forward risk takers. Hemincuff is committed to empowering a new world order of creative adventurous professionals that aim high, focus on achieving the unachievable and look elegant while doing so. Our customers are typically in higher places, be that on the corporate or creative side. I’ve curated that where my visibility to connect with those who would even get what I do. I have seen how our customers are really about manifesting their goals with hard work and dedication, and their look and style matches that. Slow fashion and sustainability is a priority.
Mainly, all vegan brands are mass produced. Like there are a few places that do 90% of everything anyone would even see. Hemincuff will do this differently, we are not fast fashion. My work is meticulous and has integrity. My aim is to set the tone for the vegan luxe market and really move it up and on.
AX: Obviously you're very different than "other bag/accessory" creators. All of Hemincuff's work is Vegan. What was the thought process behind doing it this way and not working in the traditional leather ?
NV: I’m very passionate about handbags and I spend hours researching and learning about every small goods or accessory brand. My favorite handbag artisans I look up to are Logan Real and Atelier Peter Netz. Their work is beyond amazing and they share a strong passion of bag making like me.
AX: That’s super dope. You need to have your influences on point, fleshed out, and almost play with inspiration like a Rubix Cube to explore the foundation and evolution. I’ve always felt very strongly that where the disconnect happens in art generally is that the “new skool” doesn’t do homework and just thinks they can “disrupt” shit. The only way you know where you’re going is to know where you’ve been. Disruption and senseless chaos are closely related without foundation. But back to the Vegan topic...
NV: Well it started with seeing videos of major luxury brands harming animals to obtain skin from them to produce their products. It really breaks my heart seeing animals getting tortured to create a product. I want to lead in example for HEMINCUFF to create luxury products without harming any animals. I do my best everyday to find the most durable materials to create a product that can last. Every bag we sell we donate to onetreeplanted.org.
We want to be a brand that is all about helping nature. It’s why our product shots show greenery in the background to represent our items like Art of Sustainable Luxury.
AX: Luka Sabbat has been seen in Hemincuff supporting the line. That right there is the culture co-sign all brands dream of. How did that happen?
NV: I would say the Universe aligned it. I remember emailing Lukas general email on his website to inquire to send him a bag. I didn’t hear nothing for like 3 weeks. His father Clark who is his manager wrote to me and he helped make it happen. He appreciated my work and I’m thankful for their support when I first started.
AX: What does the future of the line, and your narrative - look like?
NV: My future for Hemincuff is to make my complete line via made-to-order and have videos of each bag being made for the client. Everyone can have a luxury experience on my website. It’s not easy dealing with order minimums and sitting on the product that doesn’t sell. I’m in the process now interviewing craftsmen to be part of my team. I really want to be known for designing the best Luggage Trunks. I will be releasing the FIRST EVER LUXURY VEGAN TRUNK in the world.
My trunks will be part of my Paris collection. It will be called the PARIS PRESIDENTIAL TRUNK. The trunk is so intriguing to me, and its so rich with history. It was one of the first types of “containers” to be made for travel in the 1800’s when people started to get on giant boats to see the world. I want to bring this back and make it my signature in the fashion world. Every trunk will come with a photo of my dad inside of it. Without him there is no me, or Hemincuff.
AX: From one NYC metro cat to another, I had to ask - Mets or Yankees?
METS !!! I grew up in the Castle Hill projects in the Bronx and from my window on the 9th floor I used to see Shea Stadium across the Whitestone bridge. I felt like I was meant to be a METS fan when I got that view and plus blue & orange are my favorite colors. That's the flag of NYC colors, too. It’s really in my heart.