by Adrienne So
Olderbrother, the new clothing line started by Portland, Oregon-based designer Bobby Bonaparte and LA-based Max Kingery, has a whimsical, minimalist aesthetic that is partly influenced by the duo’s fascination with Japanese design and partly by their sly, irreverent attitude towards fashion and clothing.
The brand’s 2015 autumn/winter collection, called “Enthusiasm and Naps,” is comprised of boxy, unisex and deceptively casual garments like sweatshirts, T-shirts and sweatpants, along with two wool coats, button-down oxfords, polos and a gabardine trouser. But the pieces themselves are wrought in luxurious small-batch Japanese woolens and organic cotton, grown sustainably in California’s Central Valley. “Take the kimono,” Bonaparte tells CH. “It’s a universal garment. We’re taking that idea of a universal garment and updating that to our modern cuts of Western clothing. Not too many frills, not too much tailoring. Just garments that everyone can wear regardless of their gender.”
This dedication to natural materials also pays off when it comes to their dye process. Bonaparte and Kingery dye the fabric themselves, tinkering with organic and sustainable materials in a new dye house that they recently opened in Los Angeles. The use of logwood, vitamin-grade iron oxide and indigo produces striking hues of a startling depth, particularly when used with the natural fabrics. “You can really tell how minimally the fabric is processed with the natural dyes,” he says. “Japanese fabrics love the natural dyes. They just take to it really well… Things just aren’t one flat color; there’s a lot of depth. It just looks like it has a lot of character.”
Like most things about Olderbrother, the inspiration for “Enthusiasm and Naps” came about organically. Bonaparte is himself an older brother, and wanted to “set a good example, using natural dyes, classic silhouettes with contemporary cuts.” In addition, the natural fabrics and dye process lend the garments an instant softness. “The clothes have a vintage feel to them right away. It’s like reinventing a hand-me-down from an older brother,” he tells us.
The title for the collection came from Rason Jens, a Portland, Oregon-based sculptor and long-time friend of Bonaparte’s, as well as a collaborator on Olderbrother’s first collection. Jens had adopted “Enthusiasm and Naps” as his informal motto for the year, and Bonaparte asked if they could adopt it as the theme for their upcoming collection. Jens agreed. When illustrator Will Bryant caught wind of the project, he depicted the saying in the abstract graphics that now appear on the line’s shirts.
For this second collection, Bonaparte says, “We really upped our game. We discovered a lot of new materials, added a jacket and some new silhouettes. A polo shirt is a nice in-between. You can be very enthusiastic in a polo, but also wear it around the house.”
For the upcoming spring/summer 2016 collection, the pair hunted down German artist David Scheisser. “He contributed the graphics,” Bonaparte says. “We wanted to talk about sustainability in a funny way. Let’s make a faux cult to talk about it a humorous manner. We talked to David and asked, ‘How would you express that in the tone of the collection?’ He came up with the idea of these tattoos. Cult members have tattoos. We put them on the T-shirts like you might get a tattoo on yourself.” The impulse to collaborate comes naturally to the two, having grown up in Portland’s artist- and maker-friendly environs. “I think it comes from this philosophy of abundance versus scarcity,” Bonaparte tells us. “We’re all pretty small. If we create this abundance, all of our boats rise together. It’s definitely not a cutthroat city.”
Olderbrother’s “Enthusiasm and Naps” AW15 collection is available online with prices starting at $95.
Lookbook images courtesy of Charlie Schuck; all others by Ian Lanterman