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In Conversation: Older Brother

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As an independent and ever growing store, keeping things moving forward is critical. Progress is important us, and there is none more progressive than our new to store brand, Older Brother. Their name pretty neatly summarises their product; hand-me-down worthy pieces of clothing that you can learn from. The antithesis of fast fashion, Portland based Older Brother have nurtured a brand that holds it’s values high and proud, championing their kinder approach to making clothing with a healthy dose of transparency.

At the cross section of their considered approach is a brand that turns out naturally dyed, minimally tailored, sustainably produced genderless clothing. It’s quite a lot to digest but we are hooked. Why do clothes need to be anything other than easy to both us and the earth? With a dedication to the process, Older Brother are the kind of socially responsible guys you want on side. We spoke to founders Bobby Bonaparte and Max Kingery to go over the things that matter to them, how to create a contemporary classic that lasts and setting a brotherly-like good example.

Above The whimsical Back To School look book, our unisex Long Sleeve Tee in Khaki Cafe worn on the right and the Jeans in Black Indigo on the left

First up, why ‘Older Brother’?

Whether called mentor, friend or older brother, we hope everyone has a person who walks ahead on the path, someone with a ready hand to guide and lead. That attentiveness, that feeling that someone is invested in your path, is the larger story that motivates Olderbrother.

What do you mean when you describe yourself as creating ‘contemporary/nature based design’?

A new paradigm - contemporary design fused with ecologically sensitive techniques. We strive to go beyond what has already been done: creating wholesomely made garments with unique formulations of fabric and dyes in a modern context.

Above The recognisable Sonora Logo Tee and the Jeans in Black Indigo

With much of the process of hand dyeing with natural dyes being based on chance, how do you control the outcome? Do you want to have control over the outcome?

We dye and experiment with plant-based dyes like indigo, roots, coffee, turmeric and more. Each season it takes weeks of daily testing to invent colors and processes that are not only beautiful but can be executed on a large scale. It’s a pretty crazy and often unpredictable method. The most minute variations in temperature, pH or dilution can throw off entire batches. Then we are at the whim of chemistry, which might send a luscious red into a mushy brown. But, actually, that’s one of the things we love most about the process. The wabi sabi aspect of it. We’re often surprised with ‘happy accidents’. We celebrate that every piece contains slight imperfections to make it unique.

Did chance have much of a role in you meeting and embarking on creating a new brand together?

Our fathers happened to meet while camping, and talk turned to their sons. Our common vision of alignment to nature’s rhythms was obvious to our fathers. So, thanks Dads, for lending a hand.

It seems like eco-conscious fashion is finally getting its moment… Why did you decide to create a brand fueled by the principles of slow fashion?

Growing up in Portland and San Francisco, we were very aware of the food we put in our bodies. After noticing and feeling the psychological and physical effects of source-conscious nutrition, we were inspired to extrapolate and apply the same idea to clothing, since the things we put on our bodies are integral parts of our lives as well. 


Above The organic Japanese cotton Jeans in Black Indigo

Can you break down your understanding of sustainability in fashion for us?

We can’t speak for others, but our understanding of sustainability in fashion means making decisions about sourcing, manufacturing and distribution with the environment at the forefront. By asking questions about where, how, and why things were made, we are trying to set a good example.

What were your intentions behind this season’s AW17 collection?

Coffee was a new exciting chapter. It builds on our inspiration from the slow food movement and continues the playful exploration into the idea of what we put in our body versus on our body. Why shouldn’t they be of the same nature? Going forward we hope to continue to connect those dots in meaningful ways. At this rate maybe we could eat our clothes?


Above The Sherpa Chore Coat in Khaki Cafe and Jeans in Khaki Cafe

What a look book! Can you tell us about how it was created?

For the concept of going back to school, our friends Thomas Lauderdale and Hunter Noack of the band Pink Martini live in the most inspiring loft. From a library with ladders, to a gym, to giant stage curtains—it had everything we needed, and then some surprises, to tell the story.

Not only are you sustainably conscious, you are also unisex. What does the design process of creating each gender neutral piece look like?

We first concept what garments work well for men and women. Then we sketch and go through rigorous rounds of samples to find the balance.


Above The Anti-Fit Crew in Chocolate Coffee

Were there any specific dyeing processes formulated for this collection?

For our Khaki Café color this season we utilise a specialised pour-over method to dye the garments with organic coffee. Chocolate Coffee is unearthed through a combination of pour-over and steeping in a Wonka-like brew of bark bits, roots, and wood pulp.

From the notion of hand-me-downs to the stories behind each dyeing process, can you talk to us about the importance of narrative to your brand?

The stories and tales we weave around Olderbrother creates our world. Our clothing becomes grounded in a way that is intentional and playful. We want to create something that inspires people to follow us enthusiastically.

Above The fully flexible Jeans in Black Indigo

Can you tell us more about where are your garments are produced?

We import 95% of our textiles from Japan and sew them in America.

How socially responsible do you feel as an independent fashion brand?

We are doing what we can, what we feel is right and always looking to improve.

What next?!

Test edible clothing.

Words by Rebecca Field. Shop the Older Brother collection online now.