What Made Boyfriends Now Husbands Start Nasty Pig Almost 30 Years Ago?

Started in 1994 in a tiny 64-sq ft store in Chelsea by boyfriends David Lauterstein and Fred Kearney, with only fifty dollars clothing brand Nasty Pig has morphed into a global sensation. Now twenty-eight years later those boyfriends – now husbands – are taking their company to the next level. Today the ever-popular brand is still making high-quality clothing and accessories that aim to make queer people feel sexy and empowered. The disarmingly attractive founders realized early on in their relationship they had shared passions for both clothing and their community.

In 1994 the world was a very different, and scary place for our community. The AIDS epidemic was raging and thousands and thousands were dying. An entire generation of gay men perished. In response to that ongoing epidemic, they started Nasty Pig as a rallying cry to reclaim queer culture from the prevailing heteronormative attitudes at the time. They set out to make menswear that allowed people to boldly wear their sexuality on their sleeves. Almost 30 years later, they feel incredibly lucky that they get to continue creating art for their community, and nothing inspires them more than helping and mentoring queer artists who are trying to do the same. Scott Wise, Chief Operating Officer, told Instinct, 

“I joined Nasty Pig in 2021 after meeting David and Fred. I left my job in management consulting because I was so inspired by their passion for our community, and I am thankful every day that I get to work for a brand whose mission is to make queer people feel sexy in a world that tries to remind us that our sexuality is invalid.”

That passion extends through the entire staff. Designer Mihkel Vanager, also sat down with Instinct telling us, “Being a designer at nasty pig means a lot to me. It’s a place that fosters creativity and has allowed me to design things that I love while keeping our customers happy. We always try to keep our customers top of mind by connecting with the community and letting them know we appreciate them and their love for the brand.” He went on to say,

“Working at a company where you can see people in the community wearing things you designed and seeing how sexy and confident it makes them feel- it’s a true joy. ‘m really happy people are hearing more about the NASTYPIG story because a lot of heart and hard work goes into everything we do.” 

Related: Instinct ‘Hottie of the Week’ is Nasty Pig’s Mike Massraf

In those early days, Nasty Pig gained notoriety in New York City’s underground club and leather scenes and was able to open a bigger location on the corner of 19th St and 8th Ave. The brand gained followers outside New York City through leather and fetish conventions like International Mr. Leather in Chicago, where new customers could experience Kearney and Lauterstein’s fashion-forward, fetish-inspired collections. That flagship location, centrally located in the hub of the gay community at the time, served them well for many years. Once the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020 things changed. A new location was sought. David Lauterstein, Founder and CEO, explained,

“When looking for a new space, we knew we wanted it to be versatile. We needed a studio for our creative team to design the collections, we needed a space for our art department to create content, and we wanted our customers to be able to peek behind the curtain and get to know Nasty Pig more as a design house than just a retail store. We found a spot on 28th street in a building full of art galleries and creative energy- not to mention it was right next to the Eagle. When I first walked in I knew this was the home of the next phase of Nasty Pig, and I’m incredibly excited to share it with our customers.” 

The new store will once again give customers that “tangible experience” they have been missing. That first retail store provided a safe space and safe haven at a time when those were few and far between. Even today, customers use Nasty Pig clothes to flag down their fellow pigs, whether they’re traveling in airports or buying groceries at Costco. By wearing Nasty Pig, our customers get to send out a private nod in a public world to other Nasty Pigs. Dozens of customers have gotten the NP logo tattooed on their bodies. Ask the founders to pick a favorite item of clothing they designed through the years might as well be like asking a parent to pick their favorite child, 

“Every collection features new pieces designed specifically with the Nasty Pig customer in mind. Our design team takes inspiration from classic queer iconography like vintage porn, Tom of Finland drawings, queer male archetypes, and the latest high-fashion runways to put out fresh pieces each season. In addition to our seasonal collections, we always feature our CORE pieces that have been fan favorites for years. This includes the Snout Cap, your go-to baseball cap that shows exactly what team you play for, the Core Jock Strap, your “little black dress” of sexy underwear, and the Union Suit, the best-fitting onesie you’ll ever own that snaps all the way up the butt.”

The new space on 28th street will also serve as a safe meeting space for the queer community. Most recently NPHQ has hosted book readings by queer authors such as Alex Cheeves during his book tour of his best-selling memoir, “My Love is a Beast”. When we asked Lauterstein about what we can expect from NP in the next few months, he had this to say,

“The Pop-Up shop will feature pieces from our Fall / Winter 2022 collection, “Expedition”. This collection is made for the out-and-about lifestyle of our community, as we are finally able to travel and dance again. Nasty Pig has more exciting product drops and events planned for 2022 and 2023, leading up to our 30th anniversary in 2024. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements about what’s in store for Nasty Pig!”

The Grand Opening of the new NPHQ will be this Friday and Saturday October 28th and 29th. NPHQ is located at 548 West 28th Street.


All photos for this article provided courtesy of Nasty Pig. 

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