Taking it to The Next Level
Griffin Studios and Element team up for level raising outdoor wear
Article by Nicolas Payne-Baader
A geodesic dome is not the first thing one would expect to see whilst roaming through the wilds of coastal Devon. Grass bending in the stiff wind that whistles off the Irish see and deer peering out from the trees are more par for the course. Then again you may agree with Griffin Studios and think that it seems like the ideal place to found one of the worlds most advanced outdoors companies going.
Unlike many outdoors brands that started with a sport, designer or an event Griffin Studios was started with design and functionality in a more prosaic way. Inspired by brands like Comme de Garcon Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano these designers demonstrated that was about creating something rather than just adapting to a trend.
Deep on the other end of a spectrum – albeit one that is increasingly traversed – is Element. A skate brand based in the unremitting sunshine of Orange County, California and a brand fairly synonymous with long shirted skaters of LA; all seemingly all a bit more Kurt Cobain than Edmund Hilary.
However, over the last few years Element have been looking further towards the practical applications of their outerwear and looking to make clothing with greater wearability and versatility. With many of the people who were involved in the cult skate brands of the late 1980s and 1990s now reaching an age where falls are felt for longer, a diversification of product looks more authentic than it ever has in the past.
With Griffin’s deep understanding of branding, design and graphics which has always been so essential to skate wear combined with their focus and knowledge of technical fabrics and construction working with element seemed completely natural. What resulted was a small collection of technically advanced, well designed coats. We caught up with Jeff Griffin to talk about how it all came to be.
Who are your inspirations in terms of your combination of tech and design? From a distance it looks to have been borne out of a Massimo Osti inspired head space, is that fair to say?
I can understand why you could think we came from the Massimo Osti world, but I was more inspired by the urban streetwear, sportswear meets fashion. I was mainly inspired by Comme Des Garçon, Vivienne Westward and John Galliano because it could be worn in a casual street way and had a strong style that didn’t follow fashion but created it. Later on when l lived in ltaly, l learnt more about Italian sportswear and Massimo’s love for military, fabrics and washes. We even worked on one of Massimo’s projects Left Hand by Allegri. So going back to your question, l’m inspired by clothing which has come from technical needs, for example X-treme sportswear, the military – these have a functionality which makes it look cool.
What do you think of Element? Is there a smattering of skate in your past?
Element is an icon logo everyone knows, they have some of the best riders in the world. At Griffin we always worked with athletes as our models or muses because they understand the love and passion to do what they do, whether it’s a climber, skater or surfer they push the boundaries and that’s what inspires me on my clothing. Skating has always been an interest because it’s a sub culture; l even named my son Casper from the cult skater film Kids.
How did the collaboration come about?
It started with Element wanting someone to give them expertise on outerwear and the mix of streetwear and technical, from the Hoodies to the Woods. Element is different from other skateboard brands and there are perfect synergies in how they are very linked to nature with their skate camps in the woods and how at Griffin we have come from the city and we are based on the cliff tops of the Atlantic coast and how we have geodesic domes and tipis giving a complete lifestyle experience here at Loveland Farm. Having the Element team staying with us here at Loveland was fantastic as we have a projector in the pod and we chilled out watching films. In the day time we worked on the collection and did the fittings here. It was a lot of fun and the collaboration continues in 2017.
Where do you manufacture most of your product?
We manufacture all of our produces in the north of Italy in a factory which works with other luxury brands including Chanel, Dior, Armani and high end super technical sportswear. Important for me is the research and development you can do with someone in the factory who understands how to work though ideas. With a pattern cutter in Italy they completely get it, the machinists work hand in hand with the team. So with Element we did a lot of the patterns and developments with our cutters.
Where do you think the most exciting innovations in clothing technology are coming from?
Sportswear is where the innovation is coming from – just look at the sneaker world, or the technical side for extreme climbing it’s all about performance, warmth, breathability, movement etc.. But what it misses a lot of the time is that fashionable edge and this is what we have done with Element.
Do you see the technology we see coming through sportswear as being relevant to what we wear on a day to day basis?
Well, this is the big story because our lives have completely changed we don’t have 9 – 5 anymore. We are 24-7; workwear through to casual wear, we need comfortable clothing with style that we can jump on a flight as well as go to the office in. From skating to cycling, let’s mix it all up. But this doesn’t mean everything is coming from high tech man made fabrics, I’m a great believer in natural fibres and technology – wool is an amazing fibre and its natural stretch helps greatly. We have also been working a lot with recycled fabrics, recyclable membranes from Germany, it’s exciting times… Buy quality and not fast fashion is also a very strong message at the moment.