The fashion brand Columbus not only creates its own styling Among their peers founded a retail hub in the short north that aims to promote and sell high end streetwear brands from around the world.
Mario Hairston, co-owner, not only sells working class-inspired street and casual wear under the Amongst Peers brand, but also brands and high-end garments from Montana, Miami, New York. Los Angeles and France.
The spirit of Amongst Peers echoes the brand name, Hairston said as he and co-owners Jarred Sibert and Scott Wooten seek to bring together an international community of like-minded creators in the fields of fashion, art, food and music.
“The voices of the unheard, the young creative, the streetwear kid – it’s the breakthrough in this type of fashion and retail,” said Hairston. “It’s not exactly something Columbus is known for, but we are here and what we do and it’s dope. And when people see it, they’ll love it.”
Chuck Daniels, who supports the group in retailing, said having local and global brands under one roof gives local streetwear connoisseurs a chance to explore emerging trends in the industry.
“When (Hairston) told me about the idea, I thought it was brilliant and gave Columbus more (variety) when it comes to clothing brands,” Daniels said. “Instead of just highlighting more popular brands, the city has more to offer.”
Hairston said the brand’s collaborative model was inspired by his passion for the arts. Most of all, he’s a fan and wants to support any clothing or accessory brand that matches his vision.
To this end, Amongst Peers runs local brands like Good behavior and Corrupt anarchy. In the coming months, Hairston said, the business plans to roll out more Columbus-based brands so the companies can build relationships and grow together.
“I’m attracted to work, then I learn about the brand, the story and the person behind it,” he said. “And if it matches the message we’re trying to get across, it’s a perfect marriage.”
Hairston said that All Amongst Peers designs are made in-house from US-made fabrics. However, he plans to work with other designers around the world on special projects.
After working for Tackma, a brand founded by Columbus-born Jeffrey Schottenstein and now based in Los Angeles, 30-year-old Hairston was led to start his own clothing store. He said the vision for Amongst Peers began years ago, but he, Sibert and Wooten pushed for a partnership-based unit to be developed.
Last year, the partners looked for retail space and brands that matched Amongst Peers. For their Short North Shop, which opened in November, they created a minimalist space with TVs and seating in the lounge.
With retail giants like Saks Fifth Avenue and small Columbus boutiques equally grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, Hairston and its co-owners have developed strategies to thrive, despite the challenge that arises when customers fail for safety reasons shop in person.
“You can add another layer to minimize risk and protect yourself in this day and age,” Hairston said. “(Amongst Peers) was built to survive in Covid-19, but it was built to be something much bigger, faster, and much more flexible when Covid-19 is over.”
Hairston hopes the business will benefit from the local shopping movement, particularly the renewed commitment to support black and minority owned businesses that emerged from the Racial Justice Settlement that began last summer.
Hairston, who grew up between Columbus’ South Side and the Linden region, also hopes to inspire others. He said it is easy for young downtown kids to feel like the entrepreneurial path is not set up for their success, but he hopes the impact of black-owned brands will inspire them.
“It’s important to me to show people an alternative way of life, an alternative way of being an entrepreneur,” said Hairston. The more of us do this, the more attention people will pay to it. “
“It opens up new possibilities,” said the co-owner. “It shows people that you can be creative successfully – you don’t have to follow the traditional path to success. Your art is valued, be it painting, fashion, sculpture, whatever it is. Your art is worth what you believe it is. “
Going forward, Hairston said he and his partners are developing a way to host pop-up stores in and out of the store. As soon as the pandemic slows, Amongst Peers will start a mentoring program and hold business workshops. Although no dates have been set yet, several entrepreneurs have already agreed to participate in these initiatives, according to Hairston.