Before he found himself designing luxury shoes for women, Sherwayne Mahoney was a kid who found an outlet for his artistic talents drawing comic books.
It was the siren giggles of a room full of girls that first caught the attention of a teenaged Mahoney, and inside that room at John F. Kennedy Campus, he found his future: fashion illustration.
It’s been about women and fashion ever since.
Today Mahoney is focused on expanding his shoe brand, Things II Come, and take that business to the next level.
“I was always fascinated by luxury, and I felt like luxury was the thing that people aspired to have,” Mahoney said.
Much like his favorite superhero Marvel’s Iron Man, both Mahoney and Tony Stark enjoy lavish comfort. Mahoney plans to expand his brand internationally first before looking to step into high-population states like Florida and California.
However, he also wants to keep part of his business in the Bronx, not only to maintain that aspect of his business history, but also to always remind himself where he started.
Part of what Mahoney says makes him a unique designer is his background, coming from a family of designers. His grandmother would make dresses for her Jamaican community while his father handcrafted leather goods.
Mahoney’s shoes are handmade as well — but in Italy. And they retail for between $450 and $1,250. When Mahoney told his parents he wanted to get into fashion, they encouraged him to do what was important to him.
Today Mahoney not only designs elegant women shoes, but jewelry and even scarves and pillows on occasion. He chose shoes because he realized how many shoes some women owned, and realized it would always be a product in demand.
Yet, the road to riches in fashion was not always a smooth one.
As a young straight black man interested in fashion, people would project stereotypes onto him, expecting his style interest to be limited to basic clothing, or that he had to be gay.
“When it comes to fashion, for straight guys like myself, no one gets it,” Mahoney said. “How could you go from superhero to shoes? You have to just be interested in designing jeans and T-shirts, and we’re so far from that. Just because I’m African-American doesn’t mean I don’t have other interests.”
At JFK, it was a teacher he remembers only as Mrs. Kravitz who cultivated his interest in drawing and recognized his eye for fashion. While perfect scores were not common at JFK, Kravitz would give him that score regularly, Mahoney remembers. When the principal questioned those scores, Kravitz defended them by speaking to Mahoney’s talent.
“She was like, ‘Sherwayne’s talented and a lot of the students look to his work,’ and I was like, wow, and I thought I must really have something,” Mahoney said.
Years after Mahoney graduated, he tried to look for that teacher who gave him that early inspiration, but has yet to find her.
“I wanted to show her what I had accomplished and that I worked hard,” he said.
Mahoney’s brand name, Things II Come, in fact was motivated by one of Kravitz’s assignments.
“I was like that sounds dope, I’m going to keep it,” he said. “And if it wasn’t for that project that she told us to do, I probably would not have that name.”
It was Kravitz who pushed him to attend Parsons School of Design, where he graduated in 1997. A few years after that, Mahoney graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
“You don’t have a lot of us (fashion designers) from the south Bronx,” Mahoney said, but the expectations of others never stopped him from pursuing his passion. In the future he hopes to one day include clothing like eveningwear for women in the brand as well. But for now he is sticking to what is familiar to his customers and what he knows best.
Mahoney’s advice for young men who want to step into fashion is to always stick to their beliefs.
“Go into luxury, explore outside that bubble and don’t be afraid to travel and go to whatever you feel you can make a difference in,” he said. “This business is all about who you know and what you can bring.”