Haram the Milkman is an NYC-based designer. He started his lifestyle brand, Cash Cow NYC, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and has released two collections since 2020. Now, he's looking to push the brand to new creative heights with a unique pop-up, mobile concept. He first designed the MOOOVan — his take on a mobile clothing store — as part of his Streetwear Essentials coursework. Yellowbrick spoke with him about launching Cash Cow NYC and bringing his MOOOVan vision to life.
HARAM THE MILKMAN: The concept of Cash Cow NYC is something that's been in the back of my mind since high school as one of those "what if" or "wouldn't it be cool" kind of thoughts.
In a way, Cash Cow NYC is also a "life comes full circle" moment. My paternal and maternal grandfathers were farmers, tending to the fields and cattle in Punjab, India. It's amusing to think that generations later, in a land literally on the other side of the world, their grandson is still taking part in the business of cows.
Even now, I still have uncles and cousins in the same line of work. My dad has run a construction business out of the Bronx here in America for over 30 years. My mother always wanted my brother and me to work in an office where we would have a desk and wear a suit and tie, but that stigma of white-collar professions being better than blue-collar professions always rubbed me the wrong way.
My whole life, I never once went without clothes on my back, food in my belly, or a roof over my head, and it was always thanks to the hard work my dad put into the construction business.
I realized any line of work could essentially be a cash cow with the right amount of ambition and grit behind it. I aim to highlight this very concept playfully in the designs presented in Cash Cow NYC. It doesn't matter if a person is a stockbroker or a dog walker. If the rent's getting paid and you're putting food on the table, then that's your Cash Cow, and you have to milk it for all its worth.
I hated catching the train into areas like Soho for all the latest and trendiest brands when I was younger. I thought it would be better to have a mobile store that could pull up to neighborhoods on a more local scale to target a larger demographic. Plus, it doesn't hurt to cater to customers in this manner with a pandemic still going on.
I drew inspiration from one of my assignments from Streetwear Essentials, which with a few modifications, gave birth to the MOOOVan. I think it would be essential in a city like New York, where the personality and make-up of a neighborhood change block by block.
To me, the milkman logo and M.O.O.O. motto are the modern-day equivalents of Robert Crumb's "keep on truckin" or that "hang in there!" kitten poster. I always say that M.O.O.O. is more of a mindset than just a company motto. To me, it means to aspire and strive to thrive, no matter the difficulties before you.
I created the "Milk Crate Crew" as a collective of individuals who embody this very way of thinking. Our members include everything from a high school teacher to an opera singer. Each of our members strives to excel in their respective field and keep "Moving Onwards Over Obstacles." It's also taken on a deeper meaning these past few years as Covid-19 has hit on a global scale and serves as a personal mantra for mental health.
I think that I've learned that there are only two vital steps to any new endeavor, the first step and the next step. You can plan and map out concepts in your mind indefinitely but only when you take that first true swing at it do things begin to happen. I also learned that the ability to adapt to changing circumstances is crucial, as well as being able to view "the glass as half full." There were dozens of things that went wrong during the creation of the MOOOVan, but I chose to focus on the handful of things going right at the time.
I faced two main hurdles when working on the MOOOVan. The first was changing the vehicle class from commercial to a passenger, so I could navigate myself through the streets of NYC easier since there are many restrictions as to where a commercial vehicle can be driven. To satisfy the requirements of a passenger vehicle for the DMV, I had to have two side windows installed in the back of the van and a back passenger seat bolted to serve as second-row seating.
The second issue was finding an auto insurance provider that would cover the particular niche the MOOOVan was a part of. Not everyone was ready to protect a passenger class vehicle carrying thousands in merchandise. Fortunately, after looking at two or three providers, I finally found one that offered a policy to meet my needs.
Honestly, the biggest takeaway from the streetwear course was the change in my perception of what Cash Cow NYC could be. When I started the online course, I only focused on graphic designs and fonts for tees, but the course allowed me to shift my thinking to a grander scale from the micro to the macro. As a result, I was pushed to begin to think about things I had never even considered before. For example, what would my booth layout at a major convention look like, or how would I design the interior of a brick-and-mortar location for my brand. The Streetwear Essentials course also helped me figure out a brand's small steps before making big moves.
I would tell them that if they have a genuine interest in developing a brand or working in the world of streetwear, I would definitely recommend enrolling in the course. All aspects of the business are covered to provide a vast amount of knowledge. This course's modules covered the history of brands that gave rise to streetwear and the current intricacies essential in running a successful brand. It was also amazing to get insights from people who have succeeded in streetwear and to hear their stories and realize how everyone has to start somewhere.
Well, 2021 was about building a foundation for the brand, from the website to the first two collections we dropped. 2022 is going to be all about expanding upon that foundation. Besides the usual suspects of attending pop-ups and social media marketing, I've already begun planning and developing "Star Grazer," the third Cash Cow collection. I also have an event planned for the Spring which would offer limited edition merch in a very fun and unique way, but I'll be keeping the details under wraps for now.
For more on Haram the Milkman and to get updates on his next Cash Cow NYC drop, follow him on Instagram @haramthemilkman. Also, check out the Streetwear Essentials course and learn how to take your streetwear brand concept to the next level.