It takes a certain something to go it alone and build something special in the modern world. So when we see entrepreneurs taking the plunge and succeeding, we’re compelled to provide a tip of the cap.

Heading into 2015, the Independent Collection has gathered a few of our most praise-worthy independent brands. Read on to learn more about our favorites:

Ernest Alexander

It all started with the search for the perfect messenger bag. Ernest Alexander set out to create a bag that was at once modern, rustic, functional and durable. In the process, he built a flourishing brand, won acclaim as a GQ Best New Designer in 2013 — and succeeded in his search for the ultimate men’s tote.

Today, Ernest Alexander’s eponymous brand is a leader in the small batch leather goods industry, known as much for its crisp designs as it is for its responsible sourcing and high-quality materials. The brand professes to manufacture 100 percent of its products in the U.S., supporting New York City’s Garment District by relying on local production for a large share of its items. The brand has built on its reputation for crafting handy travel and commuter bags to expand to luggage tags, shirts, neckwear, wallets, and a variety of other accessories for discerning men.

Ernest Alexander Brand Video from Ernest Alexander on Vimeo.

The Independent Connection:

  • Ernest Alexander’s flagship shop is in Soho, just a few blocks away from Duane Street Hotel. If you’re staying at The Boxer Boston, try the Prudential Center location of Club Monaco, which stocks select bags from the line.

Find out more about Ernest Alexander’s backstory at and keep up with the brand’s latest goings-on at @ernestalexander.


It isn’t its T-shirts, wallets and oxfords that separate Everlane from a crowded field of competitors in the apparel basics market. It’s the brand’s transparent pricing strategy, dubbed “Radical Transparency” by Everlane itself, that sets the San Francisco-based e-tailer apart. Founded by Michael Preysman, a financial services worker who grew disillusioned with the added costs baked into the clothing he was purchasing, Everlane pledged from the start to never charge anything more than it needs to earn a 100 percent profit.

When you browse Everlane’s site in search of men’s and women’s tees, polos, tops and accessories, you’re presented with a description of each item, along with a brief section about its genesis. The retailer describes the factory in which the garment was manufactured and the backstory of Everlane’s relationships with the producers. The online-only retailer’s focus on transparency shines through in its pledge to charge no more than double the costs of materials, avoiding the massive markups seen across the American retail landscape.

Learn more about Everlane’s remarkable retail pricing strategies at and follow the brand on Twitter at @everlane.

Blue Bottle Coffee

It’s apparent within moments of entering any of Blue Bottle’s cafes: This company cares about coffee. Blue Bottle was founded by James Freeman on the promise to never sell a cup of coffee made from beans roasted more than 48 hours prior. The Oakland upstart has kept its vow, scaling up to sell its single origins and blends at 16 cafes in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles.

Blue Bottle deserves mention for its ability to consistently innovate and bring new ideas to an industry once dominated by anything-but-fresh Folgers concoctions and batch-brewed Starbucks coffee. The company’s website serves as an open book and a high-end coffee emporium, providing instructions on how to brew and prepare quality pourover coffee at home, along with 16 blends for sale at a wide variety of price points.

The Independent Connection:

  • Several of Blue Bottle’s seven NYC cafes are within minutes of Duane Street Hotel and Nu Hotel, including the mini-chain’s Dean Street location in Brooklyn and the Chelsea location in Manhattan.

Find a Blue Bottle Coffee cafe near you at or learn the latest about the brand on Twitter at @bluebottleroast.


Kansas City: a style hot spot it certainly is not. But it is home to BALDWIN, one of America’s strongest young independent brands. Matt Baldwin’s brand started in 2009 as a small-run denim line, pressing three fits and 70 pairs of jeans at a time. Within five years, BALDWIN has grown into one of the nation’s top denim brands, selling women’s and men’s styles at leading boutiques nationwide and at two flagship stores in Kansas City.

Locality and authenticity remain a focus of the BALDWIN brand. The company’s most iconic item is a line of hats emblazoned with a simple “KC” (for Kansas City), and its latest collection is dubbed #REPYOURHOOD. True to its social-savvy name, the series allows wearers to represent their hometown in their own creative way: T-shirts come with a space to write in the city of their choice using the BALDWIN-branded Sharpie marker provided with every purchase.

Baldwin — Shop Talk — Episode 1 : Introduction from Baldwin on Vimeo.

The Independent Connection:

  • We may not have a property in Kansas City, but it isn’t hard to find BALDWIN pieces near one of our hotels. Try Carson Street Clothiers (near Duane Street Hotel in NYC), The Tannery (near The Boxer Boston), or Barney’s Co-Op (down the street from Nu Hotel in Brooklyn) to get your selvedge denim fix.

Check out Matt Baldwin’s classic denim creations at Follow the brand on Twitter at @BaldwinDenim.

Rough Trade

Geoff Travis’ now-iconic record label isn’t new, emerging, or particularly of-the-moment. But it’s a great example of an independent brand learning the ropes, gaining a following and scaling up at a sustainable pace.

Rough Trade started in 1976 as a small record shop in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood. By 1978, Travis and several other employees had signed artists — mainly reggae, punk and indie-pop — to their fledgling record label, and set up an underground music distribution system. The label and store both endured the ebbs and flows of the British music scene in the 80s and early 90s before establishing a foothold with a roster of successful artists in the late 1990s, including the Strokes and the Libertines.

The newest chapter of the Rough Trade success story is two-fold. The brand has expanded its retail division to include a music venue/store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and 5,000-square-foot megastore in Shoreditch, London, two neighborhoods teeming with new music and art. On the label side, Rough Trade is now home to Warpaint, Pantha du Prince, and other indie luminaries.

The Independent Connection:

  • Shop for hard-to-find vinyl and unique books — or catch a live show — at Rough Trade NYC, just a short subway or cab ride away from Nu Hotel and Duane Street Hotel.

Keep up with what’s new by reading Rough Trade’s latest lists and blogs at Follow the label on Twitter at @RoughTrade.