The new Autumn/Winter 2013 clothing range from G&G.
Independent UK streetwear brand Growl & Grandeur recently released their Autumn/Winter collection of illustrated goods. I chatted with founder and chief illustrator Colin Hood about the brand.
How would you describe Growl & Grandeur?
Growl & Grandeur is a lifestyle brand which is very much about supporting the underdog. Influenced by skateboarding, bmx, graffiti, tattoo & Volkswagen culture, we pride ourselves on designing and producing fine quality merchandise for like minded people. People who would rather be doing bunyhops down the local skatepark than working towards another promotion in a stuffy insurance company.
Who’s behind the brand?
Growl & Grandeur is an army of four. Led by me (Colin Hood). I work on all the products; creative, illustration, advertising & online (I design everything, my good friends at williamsnash.com do all the techy programming bit) whilst my wife Kathryn, works with me at trade events or festivals and generally advises me when I have outlandish ideas that realistically are more for giant well established brands who can afford to blow heaps of cash on promotional stuff. The remaining of the team are more of a hinderance than help, as they are small scruffy dogs. I always count them as founding members of company because they are, in part, the inspiration for our name.
G&G features some of the best photography we’ve seen for an independent clothing brand. How do you choose the models and who gets to photograph them?
We’ve used a couple of photographers in the past but we now solely work with Rick Nunn who is an awesome photographer. He’s an all-round nice bloke who understands what we’re trying to do, and the brand image we are aiming to produce. He’s also enthusiastic and creative. Last December we shot in the Derbyshire hills with Emma Summer; Rick had scouted miles ahead, climbing steep hills like a mountain goat and hopping barbed wire fences looking for the ideal location, before myself & Emma had even got to the top of the first ridge. That shoot was so cold too, I can’t recommend Emma enough, she is a beautiful model & never complained once, even when we asked her to wear a vest in near freezing conditions.
I personally choose all the models, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Seriously though, it is quite difficult and there is a necessity to be quite selective. I worked on a freelance project a few years ago and the model just couldn’t pose, his body looked awkward & his facial expression was identical in every photo. I spend a long while looking at model portfolios, this includes a lot of boobs, but what I’m really looking for is facial expressions and poise. We’ve had the opportunity to work with some great models, some of which have been booked through agencies, such as Melissa Clarke who is amazing & won page 3 of the year just after modelling with us (we take no credit at all for that).
Alysha Nett is probably our most popular model to date and was a bit of a fluke. I had a shoot arranged but a model dropped out, the same day I met Alysha at the London Tattoo Convention, asked her if she was free and she kindly juggled her time to fit in our shoot. She’s also a brilliant model, highly professional & amazingly quick! Emily Johnston is a fantastic model and a personal favourite of mine, she’s focusing more on tattooing than modelling now but we spoke via instagram & have mutual interests in fluffy dogs & rusty volkswagens so I persuaded her to work with us when we collaborated with Air Monkeys magazine. That was such a good shoot, apart from the heavy rain. The VW Camper kindly lent to us by Si Medlicott was incredible to shoot with as well as giving us a changing area for the girls, as well as a dry place to store the clothes & equipment.
Locations are the hardest thing to come by. There isn’t a square inch of this country that isn’t owned by somebody. If you set up a load of photography gear (especially in London), and get noticed, all of a sudden people show an interest, complain or want some money, usually quite a bit! Paid for locations are awesome, but they’re so expensive that we try to avoid using them now, unless we have planned something in particular. Otherwise we keep to the quiet areas, if it’s in an area of business we’ll shoot on a weekend, if not we’ll shoot in the week when everyone is at work!
Who creates the artwork on your clothing?
All the Growl & Grandeur artwork is created my myself. I have always drawn since I could hold a pencil. I remember my mums old dining chairs had space rockets scribbled on the bottom with red wax crayon. Now I use more sophisticated equipment to finish the job. Initial ideas are still just pencil on paper thumb nails though. I enlarge these then redraw over the top adding more and more detail. Quite often these are redrawn a few times until I’m happy and it’s not unusual for the final ‘sketch’ to be made up of a puzzle of five or six scraps of paper. The whole thing is scanned, retouched if needed and then redrawn in vector.
All my finished work is in vector now. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and so prefer the flexibility & crisp lines vectors can offer, and for the image I want Growl & Grandeur to project, vectors are ideal. I plan to introduce some more traditional graffiti methods into the design process soon because sometimes shapes created in vectors lose the roughness and spontaneity of other media and just don’t give the same feel as the real thing.
Style wise Growl & Grandeur is a mixture of my own interests. I’ve always been into more unconventional art like comics and graffiti and in the last few years tattooing. Since an early age I’ve loved old Volkswagens & the surf/skateboarding scene that surrounds it. The VW culture has a really cool image yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. A lot of street wear brands come from the US, many of which are born in New York or LA, are influenced by hip-hop and take themselves really seriously. I always find it intriguing how this translates outside of those areas, why a kid on a Dagenham council estate wants to wear an LA snapback having never been, nor ever likely to go to the place itself? Would it work in reverse if somebody produced a Romford snapback? With that in mind I try to keep an essence of britishness to the brand as we are proud of our roots, but I always remember that Growl & Grandeur is the brand, not where we are from.
What advice would you offer to those considering launching their own indie fashion brand?
Offer something original and be passionate about it. There are a lot of copycat brands who jump on the latest bandwagon. Develop a style from your own skills & interests, that way you’ll never get bored of it. It may not be an obvious choice, but if you like it, others will too. Keep at it too, most brands you’ve heard of will be 10+ years old. Unless you are really lucky or have pots of gold, your brand won’t grow overnight. It’s hard work!
Finally, don’t get into it if you don’t like spending money. If you want to have a quality product, you will pay for it. There are a lot of cheap deals with various printers, but we all know the story of the cheap tee that faded or lost its shape after the first wash. If your product is poor, your customers won’t come back, simple really.
You’ve got a great online shop, where else might we find G&G products?
We only stock a few shops at the moment, Tigerlilly in Oxford and Evermore tattoo in Bedford are our main stockists. We’ve had a dilemma about stocking shops. We’ve seen a lot of bigger independent brands cutting their wholesale ties completely and selling direct to the customer, it makes more financial sense and you have more control over your own brand but for now we’ll continue wholesale offers to help our brand expand. Outside the internet you’ll be more likely to come across us at an event. Last year we traded at numerous events, including Nass Festival, Tattoo Freeze & London Tattoo Convention to name just a few. We’ve nothing booked yet so I can’t say for sure, but we’ll definitely be out & about somewhere, Facebook is probably the best place to check where & when.