Having caught the attention of Nike’s art directors and buyers at Colette, among others, with their arresting visuals, John ‘Sunshine’ Margaritis’ and a few of his close friends and family are behind New York Sunshine, the fashion-meets-art collective who have amassed a reputation for their immersive installations and beautiful imagery. Exploring a space where fashion, surfing, basketball and art intersect, each of their installations acts as a living canvas for building their streetwear brand.
What begun life as Margaritis’ highschool T-shirt label has bourgeoned into an impressive creative force blending elements from various fields to create inimitable experiences. A scroll through New York Sunshine’s Instagram feed shows a basketball hoop in flames, T-shirts submerged in dyed cement, a handblown glass basketball turned fishbowl, dissected trainers, and views of their installations for Heron Preston and Off-White’s Virgil Abloh.
“I was making hand-printed T-shirts in high school just to give to my friends, and we’d sell them at the local surf shop in Southampton in the summer where we taught lessons,” Margaritis told Vogue. “My friends would make fun of me because I looked like the kid from Remember the Titans, so they called me ‘Sunshine.’ I figured if I could make cool T-shirts that said Sunshine on them, they’d wear them, too.”
Margaritis went onto work for California-based Quiksilver at the height of its influence but didn’t necessarily relate to its aesthetic, and decided it wasn’t for him. “If I do one thing for too long, I get stuck and disinterested. Having all these creative outlets keeps everything fresh, and we like to figure out how to blend it together when it’s cohesive. We’re always working on refining the vision,” the multidisciplinary artist and creative director explained.
When it comes to retail spaces, Margaritis believes an experiential focus is vital. With their High Tide installation, New York Sunshine set out to build a wave-like mirage out of wooden shelving and a gradient of graphic T-shirts. First trialed in the Hamptons, they translated the concept into a much bigger installation during Art Basel Miami in 2015. The installation received much coverage, leading to a collaboration with VLONE and A$AP Bari the following year.
New York Sunshine’s T-shirts are sold in Barneys Japan, Colette, and on New York Sunshine’s website, among other stores. Previously, Margaritis and his team members, Luke O’Connor and Fardad Sabzevari, constructed a giant cement chamber with glass panels titled One Ton Tank. Filled with water, it weighed 7,000 pounds, and their model sat on the edge or was submerged and fully dressed. More recently, the collective’s latest lookbook was shot on a mirrored pedestal in the middle of the ocean.
On having no formal fashion background:
“I have zero fashion background. Just growing up and liking clothing and liking sneakers and shopping in SoHo, I’m always looking at what everyone’s wearing and whether I like it or not. Art school-wise, I went to the School of Visual Arts for a year and a half and dropped out, then the New School/Parsons for half a semester then dropped out. I don’t really like a classroom setting for anything. And I kind of like learning through trial and error, just kind of doing it and seeing what happens.” – Whalebone, 2016
On New York Sunshine’s beginnings:
“T-shirts were accessible – not incredibly expensive to produce and something our friends wore day and night. We grew up in the city and on the East End of Long Island. New York Sunshine shirts began life in a limited edition print shop on the outskirts of New York City. We just experimented with designs we liked and found someone who could put them on shirts we bought in bulk. …For a long time before they were in numerous stores and before I had an e-commerce website, I was selling them out of the back of my surf van and in my parents’ garage.”– Elite Daily, 2012
On the artists he looks up to:
“My favorite artist is my dad, Bert. Keith Haring has always been a major influence. I started silk screening shirts with my dad’s friend who used to do limited edition prints for Keith Haring in the ’70s and ’80s and still had some pieces in his studio. So, I was exposed to that style from my start. As I’ve focused and given more direction to my work, I’ve started to pull influence from Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, and Pauly the muralist for VLONE, even though I just met him a couple days ago. His outlook on everything is inspiring. I know it’s cliche to mention Haring, Koons, and Hirst. They’re artists that I’ve always looked up to, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m really inspired by my peers.” – HYPEBEAST, 2016
Feature image via New York Sunshine