From our bag factory in Brooklyn to cotton mills in Peru to old school screenprinters in Jersey, meet the designers, craftspeople and factories that help bring Brooklyn Industries’ ideas to life >
Brooklyn Industries began making vinyl messenger bags in 1998 out of our factory on North 11th St. and Wythe Ave. in Williamsburg. However, we faced the tough decision to close it in 2000 as we started opening up stores. We didn’t really have a choice as prices out of Asia at the time were considerably less, and our customers didn’t want simple bags for the price of a sophisticated bag they could buy for the same price. Thirteen years later, this has changed. First, foreign factory prices have skyrocketed, and secondly, awareness and desire for artisanal, local product has grown.
Now, Brooklyn Industries is once again planting manufacturing roots in Brooklyn. We began a resurgence of making products locally in 2011, with the reopening of our bag factory at our headquarters in Dumbo (later moving the factory to our warehouse near the Brooklyn Navy Yard). This process of moving as much of our manufacturing back to the New York area as possible continues.
But how do we make clothes and bags here when the costs are still significantly higher? We have been grappling with this issue for several years, doing tests with local factories and searching all over Brooklyn and Manhattan to find manufacturers to work with us. Along with bag production in Brooklyn, garment production in NYC, and t-shirt printing in Queens, I am proud to say that as of mid-2014, we are making 50% of our T-shirts within 150 miles of Brooklyn. We are knitting yarn in Clifton, NJ, dying the yarn in Shoemakersville, PA (no, there are no shoe factories there) and then sewing in small shops in Allentown, PA and Brooklyn. In addition to the local approach, we are using organic, recycled and bamboo yarns almost exclusively. It is a micro, small lot approach to making t-shirts, but we think it will work! - Lexy Funk, CEO
To celebrate our Portland store’s five year anniversary, we reached out to Portland artist Robbie Augspurger; he said yes, and we’ve all been cracking up at his work ever since. This year will see two limited edition graphic tee releases featuring his photography, the first - Glamour Paws (above), is launching this week. We recently caught up with the prolific artist to ask him about his eccentric work.
Your work is awash in 70’s and 80’s awkward vintage styles, colors, and characters. What was your upbringing like, and why does that era resonate with you?
I was born in 1977, and grew up in the midwest in the 1980s in Peoria, IL, so I suppose things were relatively normal. As a kid I was always interested in our old family snapshots, especially the faded ones I’d find lying around. I’m into the color degradation of aging photo paper that occurs over time. After college I worked as a tech at a photo lab, and learned a lot about the ways color is effected by aging paper and sun exposure.
Il mio Capo è il tuo Capo: Scene 9A Take 1, from Faux Film Stills
Your Faux Film Stills series is quite imaginative - and looks like a hell of a lot of fun to make. What other projects do you and your friends do for fun?
One thing that my friend Eric Lee and I made a few years ago is “The Original Pizza Video”, which is one hour of spinning pizza montage. Video Pizza has really taken on a life of its own. It’s an ambient film like “Video Fireplace”, except that it’s pizza. Soon the sequel will be coming out: Video Hawaiian Pizza. We’re just waiting for the soundtrack to be finished.
Some friends and I also put on an event called B-Movie Bingo, which is an interactive movie-watching game we made up a few years ago, back in 2006. We were recently hosted by The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and will be traveling to SIFF in Seattle in August, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art in November.
I also write songs and play music with my band Ozarks, and we’re currently working on our second album. Our eponymous debut came out in 2012.
Tell us about the two T-shirt designs you’re releasing with Brooklyn Industries - Glamour Paws and Bike Splits.
Glamour Paws came about when I was hosting an evening of portrait sessions and my friend Melanie Brown (the girl in the photo) brought her mom’s dog Diggy with her. Diggy has a very winsome, albeit temperamental personality and I think it comes across in the image. This image has garnered the reputation as the “photo that keeps on giving”, as people keep discovering it.
"Bike Splits" was made for one of the Portland Mercury’s bicycle issues a couple years ago. My task was to create absurd situations involving bicycles. Eric Dexter, the hairy man in the image, can do the splits, so we decided to take advantage of that.
Meet Robbie Augspurger and help Brooklyn Industries Portland celebrate its’ fifth anniversary with an artist exhibition and t-shirt launch, music by [DJ] Bill Portland, beer from Widmer Brothers Brew, and treats by Bunches and Bunches. Thursday, May 8th, 7pm-9pm in Portland at 735 NW 23rd Ave. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org
Today only, take 20% off Glamour Paws with code: TEETUESDAY
For the spring window installations, our window designer Koh strung upcycled, painted mannequin parts alongside painted clam shells we collected from the beach. We’ve received a lot of comments on how enchanting the shells are, resembling a kaleidoscope of colorful butterflies.
This Built America and AOL highlights Brooklyn Industries as the featured New York company in their 50 state series on companies that are helping to build the manufacturing industry in the United States.
View the entire episode on Brooklyn Industries here.
Brooklyn-based artist Andrew Ryan Shepherd weaves narratives through the creative use of photography, video, graphic design, sound, and even with model airplanes…
Andrew was born in the south just outside Hattiesburg, MS, and spent his childhood in Texas. After a short stint in Arkansas for university, Andrew moved to New York City for music, which somehow threw him into graphic design, and subsequently, photography, and then filmmaking.
When Andrew moved back to Texas in early 2008, the question of New York was not one tied up in an “if” as much as a “when”. On a trip late in 2010, Andrew met who would become his wife, which thankfully and unexpectedly sped up the process. After moving (this time to Brooklyn), he quickly proposed, and they were married a year later, living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn ever since.
BKI: The visual language in your photography and videography is very rich in textures and your compositions are unconventional. What was your background before getting behind the camera?
ARS: I’ve always been drawing and building things (model airplanes) and had sort of a meticulous brain, for better or worse. I started learning to play a few musical instruments in high school, and spent most of my time learning to read, write, and perform music. It literally swallowed me — I couldn’t think about anything else.
After years of playing in bands in high school and college, I started to learn to design t-shirts, album covers, and so on, and I grabbed a copy of Photoshop and started pulling images from stock sites and trying to set type over them. I don’t have a formal education in that stuff, and that really shows in the earlier work.
Fast forward a few years, I started to realize I could probably do this for a living, and I was working with much better photography and textures to form my compositions. I’ve always been inclined to the collage style of work over the illustrative (though there is a place for both) — the organic, the destroyed, the natural, and the use of light in the work.
I bought a cheap DSLR and started walking around Upper Manhattan and photographing everything I saw — Subway mural details, the bricks in the wall surrounding Central Park, the sun coming through my fire escape over 97th Street. I was really terrible, but it stands today that it’s actually difficult for me to say anything more about my work than that I’m more interested in being a student than a teacher. That said, I started setting type/copy over these images and started to discover I actually liked creating those original backgrounds more than I liked buying them from stock sites.
I started to take photography pretty seriously and took pictures everywhere I traveled. I started to meet other photographers who challenged me deeply, not only technically, but in my approach to and interaction with subjects.
A few years after freelancing as a graphic designer, I decided to take the plunge and start freelancing in a wholly new direction — as a photographer. I started shooting editorial stories, portraits, and worked with bands on stage — these were the people I connected with, as a musician myself. I found it was not only a great way to grow in my craft, but to also be living and working within the environments I was naturally drawn to.
I made friends with a bunch of people in the Texas music scene, and as I started to gain more access to their lives, I realized my insecurities and need to give others access to myself. Photography for me was an unfolding, not only on the technical side, but in that it made me grow as a person, and helped me to understand and relate to people.
I’ve always been a writer as well, and photography was always a way to explore stories. One of my interests in starting photography is that it seemed much more narrative than the type of work I was doing as a graphic designer. Creating portraits and documenting scenes seemed to say so much more about the world.
When the 5D Mark II camera came out, like many other photographers, I started shooting video. At the big turn of the responsive and media-rich internet in the late 2000’s, brands were looking for more video content. I was interested in video not necessarily for that reason, but because it felt like the full circle back to why I started taking photos — telling stories — and it was also the culmination of all my different interests to that point. It involved photography, graphic design, my love for music, my dedication to writing, to people, to building things from scratch. It felt like the most natural progression I could make, and it consolidated my skills and desires into one form — filmmaking. And there, the skills serve the video; not any one is the featured. I liked that it brought everything together; I liked the possibilities, and I liked that I knew really nothing about it.
BKI: Aside from your commercial work, it seems like you like to dabble in lots of different formal projects and exercises - anywhere from Super 8 videos to time lapse studies. What inspires you to produce in this wide range?
ARS: I get bored pretty easily. I maintain a pretty steady stream of a few different kinds of work in photography and film, but I have sort of this deep discontent when I’m not trying something new, or learning, or being challenged. I find that my lowest times are the times when I’m not experimenting or trying to grow.
BKI: The Brooklyn landscape, along with other travel destinations seem to play a large character in your work. What do you look for in locations when you shoot?
ARS: I grew up in Texas and travel back frequently. My family is there, I have a lot of friends there, and it’s been a great landscape to learn, grow and get better. Plus, it’s beautiful. In Texas you have such a wide variety of scenes, that if you drive a couple hours in any direction you’ll find something inspiring. My dad taught me at a young age to appreciate nature and to love silence and solitude. I find that when I’m traveling I’m interested in documenting not only a place, but a moment in history, at least my own history; and I hope I always get to do that with friends and family. That’s sort of what I’m thinking most — Where are we? How thankful am I?
Another aspect in my personal projects is bridging the water between a hectic New York life and a more slow, peaceful one that I’ve experienced elsewhere. I love both for different reasons. Agoraphobia is the kind of anxiety that usually results from a fear of crowded places, or a fear of open spaces. Even without the fear — mentally, historically — I have and think I’ll always have my feet in both countries, and I like talking about both experiences equally.
See Andrew’s recent photography for This Built America’s profile on Brooklyn Industries here. Follow Andrew as he takes over our Instagram this week @BrooklynIndustries. Or check out more of Andrew’s work here. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @andrewshepherd
Brooklyn Industries has always remained committed to sustainability. This year, our focus is on enhancing the sustainability of our graphic t-shirts. We have long-offered eco-blend t-shirts made with one or all of the following components: certified organic cotton, recycled polyester (made from recycled water bottles) and/or natural rayon sourced from bamboo and birch wood. But by later this year, a third of our tees will be 100% sustainable. What’s more, we’ve been making many new friends in the tri-state area who are helping us further reduce the carbon footprint of our tees: by Summer 2014 more than 50% of our t-shirts will be made within 150 miles of Brooklyn.
Today only, take 20% OFF all eco-friendly tees and accessories. Online only with code: ECOTUESDAY Shop now>
With flowers blooming in full force, we’re excited to release a graphic tee based on some flower artwork we’ve been into lately by New York based illustrator, graphic designer, and artist Jenna DeRosa, aka ‘From Roses’. A frequent collaborator with BKI, Jenna has worked with a number of music and fashion labels, and most recently has created artwork for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
“I work under the name ‘From Roses’ which is a loose translation of my last name. I started working on this flower art project in my free time recently - pressing, drying, then dying the flowers which help with color preservation over time. It’s actually pretty time consuming and requires a lot of patience, but for me, it’s a great reminder of nature, mortality, and the cycle of life.” For more of Jenna’s work visit her site or her shop.
Shop Pressed Flower Skull graphic tee.
At the studio of Red Antler in Dumbo, Brooklyn
I get inspired at work by looking out our Dumbo office window every so often at the skyline view of Manhattan. It’s always the same, and never the same. - Judy, Marketing
My picks: Creekside Tank, Tulip Maxi Skirt, Pebble Tote & Crossbody
I get inspired by eating good sushi. I also get inspiration from the interesting people and things on the streets of New York. - Koh, Window Designer
My picks: Paddington Raincoat, Slater Pocket Sweater
Listening to electronic, sad, or country music usually inspires me, but if I get really stuck creatively, I take the Archimedes approach and try and step away for a long walk past rundown warehouses. - Teddy, Art Director
My picks: Lawrence Floral Shirt, Dillon Tweed Pant
Winter, we’re seriously over you. And this time, it’s for real. Despite how hard you’re trying to hang on, we know spring is bloomin’.
One of our favorite parts of Spring’s arrival – the scent of flowers from trees and flower shops fill the streets. This year, fashion is getting in on the action, with floral prints being a mega presence on the runways during the SS14 collections, such as Christopher Kane, Nina Ricci, and Thakoon. We here at Brooklyn Industries found ourselves under the same spell - in particular by our borough in bloom with the yearly, epic-ness of the Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanical gardens, riding bikes and brunch outside in the warm sun- what?!? Spring’s reawakening also inspires us to look back to our younger years in the ’90s. Remember all those floral rayon dresses we used to wear? Maybe you don’t, but we do and we miss them so we had to bring them back!
So get ready for warm days ahead- and celebrate the first day of Spring (TODAY!) in Brooklyn style! -Janeane, Women’s Designer
Brooklyn represent on a burnout. BK Type - available in two colors. Today only, take 20% off this tee w/code: TEETUESDAY
This March, we’re blending into the city with The March Coat, available in camo and black. This versatile, lightweight, military-inspired jacket also features a funnel neck, full zip with covered snap placket, patch pockets at the chest and hips, and a slimming drawcord at the waist, and will take you from March through the start of next year’s winter.
Getting outside again also means strolling around BKI headquarter’s neighborhood, Dumbo, Brooklyn - and getting some shots of the amazing mural project, Dumbo Walls, installed last summer under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Walk beneath and along the BQE to find large murals from some giants of the design and art world, including Stefan Sagmeister, MOMO, Shepard Fairey, CAM, Yuko Shimizu and many, many more. So get out and visit Dumbo and see one of the most amazing and free open air galleries New York City has to offer.
Artist and typographer Jay Roeder who made the above shirt for us awhile back finished his 58 week project of setting Biggie’s ‘Juicy’ to beautiful typography. And if you don’t know, now you know.
Check out his latest design for Brooklyn Industries: BK Hot Dog.
What the Little Mermaid may have looked like had she been born in the East River. Today only, take 20% off this tee w/code TEETUESDAY
We here at Brooklyn Industries’ Dumbo-based headquarters and design studio feel fortunate to be surrounded by so many creative people each and every day – from the moment we step off our bikes or come above ground from the F train, to grabbing a cup of coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company to riding the slow elevator up to our floor. So we thought what better place to shoot the Spring Collection than in the middle of where all of these creative-minded people do some of their best work? Our Spring 2014 shoot, “Dressing Up Creative Workspaces” is a tribute to the creative energy and forward thinking that runs rampant in imaginative office spaces such as those you’ll find in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The campaign was photographed inside three offices in our building – (1) at our headquarters and design studio, (2) at the branding and design firm Red Antler, and (3) at the digital agency Space 150's NYC office. We hope that our newest collection will inspire you just as much as working in Dumbo continues to fuel our imagination.
We finally had a chance to see what a photocopy of a donut looks like.
In our Brooklyn design studio, you’ll see T-shirt ideas… LOTS of T-shirt ideas.
Taken on top of Space 150’s breakfast table (next to their impressive liquor collection).
Shot inside Space 150’s meeting room while they were working on these amazing Valentine’s cards.
Julia modeling with Nuria, our bag designer (left) at her workspace.
Meetings, conference calls, donuts, inflatable orcas…
Inside Brooklyn Industries’ photo studio.
View the entire lookbook here.
After renovating several Brooklyn Industries stores last year, we were left with two truckloads of materials that under other circumstances would have been trash. But instead we re-routed it all to our design studio. Working with Koh, our window designer, we upcycled every piece of discarded material - including old paint and paintbrushes — and designed several vivid installations for our store windows.
Suspended clusters of purple and yellow balls look like floating organisms (or grapes!). Flying paintbrushes are diving for their paint cans, and purple and yellow baton-like rods defy gravity. Make sure to see these installations for yourself, on display at any BKI store location until late March.