WORDS: Yahdon Israel PHOTOGRAPHY: Julien Roubinet
Regardless of the fact that twins are essentially two different people, we often treat them like the same person. I say this because I met up with Chris and Clayton Griggs in Soho for the interview and asked them each to draw the first thing they remember making.
Chris went first. He grabbed the pencil and pad, sketched a t-shirt with the word "Sonrise" in the middle and, before I could even ask Clayton to draw his first make, he peered over his brother Chris's shoulder and said: "I was just about to draw the same thing."
In theory, Chris and Clayton deciding to draw different things would've made it easier for me to separate them. But then I thought about why they're inseparable—and it's not necessarily because they're twins (albeit fraternal). Chris and Clayton are inseparable because they both deeply care about the same things in life and pursue them similarly. One of these pursuits is making clothes with a personal touch.
Chris and Clayton's mutual passion for personalization has provided them with unique opportunities to work with Nike, Ralph Lauren, Public School, LFANT, and most recently Opening Ceremony, who afforded The Griggs the back section of the store to open their own Embroidery Space. Over the course of our interview we spoke about their first make, what initially attracted them to customizing clothing and why it's imperative to push ourselves beyond our limits.
What was the first thing you made?
Chris: The first thing we made, together was this "Sonrise" t-shirt when we were 14. We did this with a basic silkscreen.
We were so heavy on football our freshman year of high school, we thought we were going to go pro until we realized we were not ever going pro. So then it became, "What else do we do?"
Around this time, we were going to church and very dedicated to our spiritual growth. Clayton and I were going back and forth about ideas and then we came up with "Sonrise" because we were sons, rising. We wanted to be wiser. We wanted to be greater.
Why do you make what you make?
Clayton: We were in a car one day with our uncle and he was like, "Y'all are the perfect age to find out what you guys really want to be. Think about it now so by the time you're my age, you don't have to worry about it." He was speaking real talk to us. We took that to heart.That's when we were like, "What do we really like, other than football?" Clothes.
Our moms always had us around fashion, so we were just used to it and it always felt good being fly. We wanted to create that feeling for ourselves and other people. That's kind of how we got into customization. We were into fashion but we really didn't want to work for a brand. So we were trying to figure out how to get to where we wanted to be without taking an expected route.
Chris: For us it was just like what is the thing everybody is always going to need? You know what I'm saying? It was one of those things where we knew were always going to have work. And we wanted our work to be eternal. So that was our initial motivation. Providing something that would always be needed.
How did you get into customization?
Chris: This is what went down: we were working for a guy who was the head of Public School and he was like "I got an opportunity for you. We don't have nothing for where you are right now but I got a job for you at Nike, do you want to do it?" And it happened to be customization.
And while Chris was at Nike where were you, Clayton ?
Clayton: I was at Ralph Lauren, working as the head of the make your own department. So it was like we were doing the same thing. Just in different places. Like, I made over $100,000.00 in patches in a few months, you feel me? Killing. So when his store popped off and Ralph was a little shakey for me, he reached out to me and was like, "We're looking for people, do you want to try and work for me now?" So from there it was a rap. I get to make clothes all day. Like actually, physically, make things for people. It was even better than I could have imagined.
How did Griggs Brothers Embroidery come about?
Clayton: Chris had already had a job here, at Opening Ceremony, but wanted to do customization and kept pressing management about it. They were like, "We're thinking about it." Then finally they were like, "We're thinking about doing something for Mother's Day, do you want to do it? And of course Chris is like, "Hell yeah!" So they got a embroidery machine for Mother's Day and realized how much of a good idea it was. He kept doing it until they were like, "All right, let's bring your brother." I came along and we've been making it happen.
Chris: We weren't even in the back section when we first started. We were in the front of the store until we proved that we could make the money and do the work. It's only been a few months since we've been doing this and it's been taking off. We got that article in the NY Times. Right now we're just doing embroidery. But soon we'll be able to do a lot more.
How do you each decide what to create?
Chris: Honestly bro, I get inspiration from everything so it's like whatever is really inspiring me at the time or whatever we really have around to accomplish. I'm very good at great ideas at the last minute.
Clayton: I'm like the 12th hour type of person, you feel me? Something'll probably need to be done in 2 weeks but I'm going to do it the day before. Just because I overthink things when I have too much time. When something is right there, I can just do it.
If there's anything you wish you known sooner as a maker, what would it be?
Chris: I wish I knew that I could free up myself. That I could have long hair; that I could do what I want to do. I wasn't really thinking like that until I moved out to New York.
I was watching that Netflix documentary on the photographer Bill Cunningham. And I really respected his approach to everything. He was the the type of dude who was like, I'll work for you but I ain't taking no bread from you because I want to do what I want to do. He understood the value of what he was doing and didn't compromise.
That takes a lot of courage. To know you're going to be all right having your integrity. Especially because there's this push in our society to make you feel like you need these material things to be happy.
Clayton: Business. In everything, even creatively, it's always about the business. That's something I kind of regret. I've already been in fashion design. I didn't need to go to school for fashion design. I should've went for fashion merchandising or fashion business or something business related; just to get me over that hump of navigating the other side of things. So, I would say, for me, that being more business savvy would be thing.
What have you learned about people through what you make?
Chris: With clothes I've learned that people just want what other people have. It's a bit discouraging at times but it's also one of the reasons why I really love customization. I'm hoping that what we make inspires people to push themselves beyond the limits of what they see other people wearing, and go for something that's truer to who they are.
Clayton: I learned that we're never going to make anything new. The only thing that can be new is the story. Even from when we first started, I really implemented the idea of making sure their was a story for everything we made. I was so adamant about that. Don't just make it and be like, "Oh, I wanted it to be dope." Like, why? How does it fit into this collection the overall goal? And that helped really helped us structure everything.
Last thing you made and why?
Clayton: The last thing I made was a cheeseburger for a customer. They just wanted a cheeseburger in the middle of their shirt.
Chris: The American Flag and the peace sign. I'm all about love and peace, you feel me? So it's like why not go with the red, gold, and green.
Clayton: We're actually going to start a new brand called a New Way of Life that's going to be straight Rasta shit. Even through Nike we always found a way to incorporate Rastafarian culture, you know what I'm saying? I'm actually going to do another shirt, kind of like a Ferrari car and I'm going to make it red, gold and green and call it "Rasta-Ferrari." Everything we've done, we've flipped into Rasta because that's who we are.