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Williamsburg Designer Cuts Hipster and Hasid Fashion From the Same Cloth

By Gwynne Hogan | January 24, 2017 3:08pm | Updated on January 25, 2017 2:54pm
 Seth Braunstein, 56, a Modern Orthodox Jewish clothing designer who's lived in Williamsburg since 1995. 
Seth Braunstein, 56, a Modern Orthodox Jewish clothing designer who's lived in Williamsburg since 1995. 
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

Move over normcore — Modern Orthodox fashion could be the next big trend.

The goal of Heimishe Ventures, a line of wool hats, baseball caps, aprons, baby bibs and assorted accessories, is to bring the Hebrew concept of "Heimishe" to secular people, while making Hasidic folks who already understand the idea proud of themselves and their originality, founder Seth Braunstein said.

"The simple meaning [of Heimishe] is 'homemade,'" said Braunstein, 56, a Modern Orthodox Jewish clothing designer, who's lived in Williamsburg since 1995. Though the term can mean "dowdy" or "frumpy," it can even be "something funky," he said.

His hats read "Hip and Heimishe" in both English and Hebrew. For secular people, the message is about staying humble and in touch with your roots, while still being "with it," Braunstein explained.

"Being down to earth, respect your grandparents, a universal positive message," he said. 

"A 120-year old-person can be hip. I listen to Tupac and I'm thinking about God. [You can stay] close to your roots and keep your intentions to do good."

Among his Hasidic neighbors, Braunstein has gotten varied reactions to his hats. 

"Some of the ladies on the subway they think I'm making a total mockery," he said, noting that others have embraced the caps.


Osvar Dayan

A photo posted by shloymela braunstein (@hipandheimishe) on

"People like it, they feel good about themselves," he said. "It's not a protest, it's giving them permission to be themselves. They're not dropping out of the system, they're not running to the heavy metal bar in Greenpoint."

Braunstein has a line of hats featuring brightly colored letters, as well as one line that's more modest or "chizuk" — with black-and-gray letters geared toward Hasidic people.

"It's subtle," Braunstein said.

For the designer, the idea of bridging North Brooklyn's music and art scene with its Orthodox community is something he's been working on for years. In the 2000s he ran a concert series called "Schul of Rock" at which he would bring together local klezmer and rock bands to play shows together at dive bars.

Heimishe Ventures is simply an extension of that mission, he said. 

Braunstein's family was in the garment industry and he's run several clothing lines over the years. In the '80s he had a line called "Big and Tall Guys" for larger men, and in the '90s he started a line of hats and jerseys under the name Zydeco Extreme, a streetware brand that was promoted by hip-hop stars like Groove Theory and Smoothe da Hustler. 

After Zydeco, he backed two artists with a brand called Brooklyn Rock, a line screen printed gear he sold at po- up shops around the borough.

Now with Heimishe Ventures, Braunstein hopes to incorporate his own heritage and community into his work.

"This is the first time I'm doing this with my own hands, finally," he said. "I'm paying homage to the tradition."

For more information about Heimishe Ventures, visit its Instagram. Caps are $15, wool hats $30 and aprons $20. Appointments are available to see Brauntstein's wares in South Williamsburg, via email at sb@heimisheventures.com.