WEST BRIGHTON — A clothing store has created a line of T-shirts and hats dedicated to showing pride in the often forgotten fifth borough.
The Richmond Hood Company recently debuted T-shirts and hats subtly giving a nod to its home — like a shirt that reads "Advanced" printed in the local newspaper's font or a beanie with "#SHAOLIN" on the brim, a reference to local rappers the Wu-Tang Clan.
"We wanted to provide items that people can feel good about," said owner Tariq Zaid. "Yes. I'm proud of the borough, yes I rep Staten Island. There's a lot of cool things out here and we deserve it."
The store started a house brand last year and Zaid said they moved over to Staten Island-centric designs this year.
He said he wanted the designs to attract people who don't live in the borough, but they have a much larger meaning for residents.
"To a Staten Islander that means a lot more than it would to somebody in L.A. or Manhattan," he said about the "Advanced" design. "We wanted to create a shirt that islanders can wear and say 'Yes, I advanced the borough.'"
Aside from their own designs, the store has collaborated with local artists to make clothes, like a T-shirt of a shot by local photographer Mike Shane of two bees fighting.
While a shirt with a list of Staten Island train stations might only appeal to residents, Zaid said that the brand has received orders from all over the country.
"Yes, a part of Staten Island will be in there," he said. "But our concepts and merchandise designs are intended to transcend Staten Island in the fashion world."
And because they stock Wu-Tang Clan branded clothing, the store has started to attract tourists from Japan, Australia, Norway and elsewhere who want to snag some of the group's merchandise in Shaolin.
The store opened its door six years ago, originally on Van Duzer Street. It moved to its current spot at 812 Castleton Ave. a year later and sells shoes, accessories, clothing and skateboards.
Zaid's now thinking about opening a second, smaller, store that sells only the house brand or an art gallery to sell shirts, he said.
And he said designers are constantly looking for new ideas.
"That's been kind of like where we wanted to go, to build and develop a brand that Staten Islanders can be proud to wear and feel cool," he said.
"We rack our brains trying to spin regular Staten Island things into something cool."