Warner and Waverly Watkins of Brownstone design clothing for cultural commentary
Warner and Waverly Watkins, the twin brothers behind Brownstone, are back with their latest collection titled “I Like it Here Can I Stay? : Rude Boys & Girls Club, USA”. We got the chance to hear a few words from them on this latest collection and the challenges of starting an independent fashion brand in the current climate.
Often times fashion wishes to be timeless but in the case of Brownstone, they’ve flipped the script. Pushing commentary is at the heart of their creations. When you look back on a Brownstone piece, it should reflect the cultural landscape of the moment.
What was the inspiration behind this collection?
Waverly: When we first started out we made a lot more of the basics, simple things and now we’re moving into a wider range of pieces that are able to tell the story of who our audience is. I’m really more into the “now” and being reactionary. I believe the collection title reflects what is happening in America right now and the world. It’s current. We wanted to make something that could speak to right now so years later you can remember, ‘yes, this was going on’ and this collection was as a commentary.
It’s relevant to the conversations we’re having with each other and how we’re viewing the cultural climate right now. The ‘USA’ part is definitely tongue in cheek, almost like a spoof of a beautiful resort destination. There’s a lot to question and critique right now, so we’re just taking note of that and how it’s affected us. It feels like every day it’s something new that just makes you shake your head. We like to talk to our audience, we like to include them in the conversation of what’s going on with the brand honestly, we just have a bit of social anxiety; It’s something we’re trying to get better at.
Can you talk a bit more about being for the audience?
Warner: What we’re trying to do is not make it so personal but make it more universal. We’re still applying our take and interpretation of these types of things. We grew up in a super small town called Danville, Virginia. It’s such a small secluded place that you’re not really drawn to a lot of things so it’s really about growing up in the middle of nowhere and taping music and fashion magazines to your wall, but not in a nostalgic sense.
A lot of the graphic imagery comes from billboards we would pass on family vacations to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Some special pieces include the gas station jackets are an homage to the garbs our grandfather would wear. He worked in the textile mill Danville with fabrics like selvedge denim, twill, and wool, but it’s since closed.
How have you grown with each Brownstone collection and how is this collection different?
Warner: We’re working with better materials and realizing things last season we couldn’t do because of things like time restraints or not having the right team together to execute. For example, we’ve got Riri Zippers with the brand’s name on it now. It’s small, but to us that’s dope. We’re working with a great factory in LA who can make the pieces at a level we’re very proud of. A lot of our first designs were done by just Wave & I, running around NYC totally clueless in terms of what we know now. Now we have a really good team doing better graphics, initial sketches, CADs and stuff like that. Having a wider range of people’s input is kind of cool. I’m not one of those types of people where the idea of collaboration scares me.
How does collaboration work in that sense for you guys?
Waverly: We’re into picking people’s brains, we ask questions and I like knowing what other people are into and can bounce ideas off of them. We had a larger group of people’s voices who were able to communicate their ideas into this collection and it kind of became more of our story as opposed to just my story or Wave’s story. It has become the brand’s story. We’ve always admired the idea of Margiela, where there’s a team, and it’s communicated as “we.”
We’re also pulling from a larger well of influences—the more you see the more you know. You can take that and put it back into your brand. It was important to go to Fashion Week to see it and say “you know what, this isn’t really my thing”. It’s better to know exactly what you do and don’t like. We love working with the people at Union and they get what we’re about, having them on your side definitely doesn’t hurt.
What currently gets you excited about Brownstone? What else?
Waverly: For the brand, I’m currently excited to see the reaction to this collection and do some fun things to promote it. We’re working with our friends at Palette Agency to do a monthly party at Soho House here in LA. We know we’re not the usual crowd they cater to so it’ll be fun to kind of mix up worlds, I like that shit. A good juxtaposition. We’re having some of our friends DJ, maybe do a few performances, but curated our way in a dope venue. We also want to travel more and finally see some of the things overseas we’ve always read about. There’s plenty of “non-fashion” things that excite me like Malin + Goetz cannabis candles, the restaurant Night + Market Song is my fav place to eat, and the producer Wheezy.
Warner: I’m also really excited about the residency, I want the most oddball mix of people there to just have a good time, that’s so tight. I’ve been working with our friend Jake Zielinski shooting and editing a bunch of Super8 films for the collection that we’ll release to go along with the drops. We shot a bunch of film of the pieces being cut, sewn, and behind-the-scenes of the lookbook. I’m also excited about the paintings by this Los Angeles artist Chuy Hartman. And lastly, I’m excited to see the Have Heart reunion this Summer at Sound & Fury.
What are some of the challenges of building a brand in 2019?
Waverly: The social media aspects of it. The fact that fast fashion is crazy now. Knowing what you’re trying to say because there are so many outside factors so much noise and you have to find what you’re trying to say. There’s also making sure that your audience isn’t missed in the barrage of “noise” online every day and then battling with “If I don’t post am I doing anything?” OCD is a gift and a curse.
Warner: It’s an interesting situation and navigating that is a challenge. Being able to identify what it is you’re trying to say and to not fall into being like other brands or over-sharing as I call it are things we think about. We don’t want to be part of this movement of constant content with no reason. I think with our brand you need to touch it, you need to feel the fabric, you need to hold the jacket, you know? And that’s hard to do over the internet.
Also making a higher-end brand entails a higher degree of quality control, fabric sourcing, etc. You really need the right people working with you to deliver that. And of course, the best people cost more. With us, just putting yourself out there is a challenge, combine that with social media and something you actually feel passionate about… well yea, you can get a little anxious.
What part of fashion bums you out?
Waverly: Everything we just said! We try and not focus on the negative but yeah, fast fashion and the costs of doing this independently. But we also love the fact that we’ve got the ability to put so much thought and craft into our pieces and we love the fact that we have that creative freedom.
Warner: Nobody will ever tell us who, where, or what we can’t reference or make. That’s priceless. Of course, you want the reach and resources of the brand’s you sit next too, but time takes its time.