I first found out about Graziano and Gutierrez late last year after a trip to Oaxaca. Founded in 2018 by Alejandro Gutierrez and Samuel Graziano, G&G is focused on three things: providing a platform for Mexican artisan work, demonstrating transparency and education, and promoting environmental responsibility. Since inception the brand has sourced handmade fabrics almost exclusively from Oaxaca and Chiapas and crafted them by hand in their Oregon studio. In a few short years, they’ve established themselves as a frontrunning clothing brand merging generational Mexican craftsmanship with new-school American workwear.
Moving away from seasonal collection releases, G&G is focused on releasing limited drops throughout the year. That’s the case with their latest release which dropped on June 1, 2022. It includes their new Jardín Shirt made from a 5.3 oz hemp/cotton blend that features two front waist patch pockets and a unique back pocket with a button closure; the Pericon and Wild Marigold Camp shirt made from a light-weight naturally dyed and hand-woven fabric in San Sebastian Rio de Ondo, Oaxaca; and their high-waisted Arena Easy Pant made from a 12 oz. hemp/cotton blend canvas sourced from Envirotextiles in Colorado.
Back in Oregon, Alejandro spoke with me about the philosophy behind G&G and how the brand got started. As it turns out, he’s one of the nicest guys we’ve met virtually. You can follow them on Instagram for new releases here and or by visiting their website. Scroll to the bottom of the article for our interview with Alejandro.
KJ: How did you and Sam meet and how did the concept of Graziano and Gutierrez start?
G&G: We met in college. G&G was our thesis project for our final year in design school in Cincinnati, Ohio. We presented a couple different iterations of the brand throughout our school years, sold a few random things locally, and slowly worked out the kinks until we created the final plan and first collection in 2019 upon graduation. I have a background in pattern-making, sewing and sourcing/working with hand-woven textiles. I spent time in Mexico working with artisanal communities and learning about textiles in Yucatan and focused my school internships in pattern-making and sewing. Sam spent time in active, outdoor, and menswear design and we eventually we met in the middle.
KJ: What made you want to start a clothing brand together?
G&G: We spent a lot of time together growing as designers. We were roommates for around 4 years in college and basically became like brothers. We would constantly talk about new ideas and what we could do. It all kind of fell into place when I returned from visiting the Yucatan and had discovered these textiles. We thought we could find a way to help preserve this ancient art and keep the craft going by giving it a new end use and showcasing the artisan’s work.
KJ: Are there any designers / labels that inspired you to get into the business?
G&G: From a design perspective, G&G is an homage to traditional Mexican dress, vintage work, military, and outdoor wear from the US and Mexico. We were inspired to get into the business by learning about the industry through school although we kind of knew we would figure it out and do our own thing anyway. We both wanted a small, family-run business since we were kids, although back then we probably wouldn’t have thought it’d be a clothing brand.
KJ: Can you tell us about how you started working with Mexican textile artisans and fabric makers, and what that process has been like?
G&G: In 2018 I did a research semester where I moved back to Merida, Yucatan which is my hometown. I wanted to work with hand-woven textiles and learn about working with indigenous communities and sourcing hand-woven textiles for our thesis. It was during this time that I met both the families that we work with today.
We currently work with Familia Bautista Martinez out of Teotitlan de Valle, Oaxaca who have focused on hand-woven textiles for over 50 years. Their family name and business is Familia Bautista Martinez and Antonia is the store owner. Her son, Antonio, runs the store/workshop and handles the orders. These textiles are commonly used for upholstery, bedding or home-goods. We found the hand-woven quality to be incredible and wanted to provide a new platform for the traditional fabrics. Everything they make is hand-woven on a pedal loom so fabric orders have to be placed well in advance to allow weaving time. When we first started buying textiles from them we’d buy them by bed-cover sizes – king, queen, etc. – but now we’ve worked with Antonia and Antonio to weave yardage. This is a more efficient and less wasteful way. The family also works with local wool for rugs and ponchos that we are hoping to be able to dive into very soon. We work with one more artisan group out of San Andres Larrainzar, Chiapas. I met Jorge Giacobone in 2017 while sourcing textiles in Chiapas. He has been working with these artisan groups in Chiapas for over 30 years. They mainly work with organic cotton which is acquired in Mexico City and then transported to Chiapas. We’re slowly expanding our relationships and fabric opportunities there as well. Jorge provides a platform for some incredible weavers that we would love to work with.
We also work with Khadi Oaxaca, a collective of over 400 families that produce incredible textiles from local cotton and natural dyes in Oaxaca. Additionally we’ve been working with Juan Pablo Romero from Tabio, Colombia who weaves on backstrap and pedal loom, a very traditional art to Colombia as well, for a few years now.
KJ: What makes the fabrics in Oaxaca and Chiapas so special?
G&G: This style of weaving has been around in these areas for hundreds of years. These fabrics are very tedious to make, by hand, and it can take over a week to weave enough fabric for a production run of 10-15 pieces.
KJ: From my understanding, it’s only you two on the production team which makes each piece even more special. How has it been balancing the design aspect of the business with the production aspect?
G&G: The studio is pretty much run by myself in Portland, Oregon. I cut, sew, pattern and size all of the pieces for our collections and wholesale partners, We have someone that comes and helps about 2 times a week and we also work with a local contract sewer named Myriam who helps with some of the wholesale orders as well. Doing this while running the business and making sure everything happens can be quite stressful and I’m still figuring out what is the best way to balance running the business while also doing all of the production. As a small business there are a lot of moving parts to make sure everything happens and gets done on time. Sam and I have been best friends since college and we talk almost on a daily basis so we are always going back and forth on creative and strategic conversations. Sam also works full-time as a product and apparel designer in the outdoor industry.
KJ: How does Chiapas and Oaxaca differ from other places in Mexico as far as fabrics and textiles are concerned?
G&G: Oaxaca is considered a hub of textiles in Mexico. They receive funding from the government and you can find very contemporary textiles as well as traditional textiles. In Oaxaca they work a lot with wool and natural dyes that are native to the region like Añil (Indigo) or Pericon (Wild Marigold). They also work a lot with wool. Teotitlan del Valle is the little village where you will find some of the most beautifully crafted rugs in Mexico. Yucatan doesn’t have the same quality of textiles to work with as Oaxaca and Chiapas. In Yucatan the most common textile is Henequen which was used by the Mayans for rope – shoe soles, bags and such. This isn’t a very soft fiber so it doesn’t lend well for clothing, however the Yucatan focuses a lot on embroidery especially Xok Bi Chuuy (Mayan name) or cross-stitch. This is one of the oldest techniques in the world and originated in Europe and Asia and it was brought into the Yucatan by the Spaniards. It is used today to adorn the traditional Huipil on the chest and along the hem. Our goal is to be able to slowly start working in different regions of Mexico in order to incorporate as many different traditions as possible into our collections.
KJ: G&G is made-to-order and you create all the pieces by hand. How do you see the made-to-order model evolving in the future?
G&G: This is a model that we will always keep. We feel having a made-to-order model allows us to reduce waste and keep the production in the US. With a made-to-order model we can make sure we order the amount of fabric that we need and to not be creating clothing that won’t be utilized. We are very aware of the fashion industry’s impact on the environment and we do our best not to contribute to that and be as environmentally responsible as possible. As we grow we are finding some wholesale partners that will have stock of our garments that are ready to ship immediately but anything from our website will be made-to-order for the foreseeable future.
KJ: What are you most excited about with these new summer pieces?
G&G: We’re super excited about the garden shirt. We’re adding a bunch of new color-ways and running a couple pieces back from last year that some people have been asking a lot about. We’re also re-introducing some home-wear with a collection of blankets that is available for pre-order. These blankets are made from start to finish by the families in Oaxaca and we’re super happy to be able to make them available to a wider audience.
KJ: Are there any arenas you’d like to take G&G that you haven’t done yet?
G&G: As we grow and obtain more machines and widen our construction capabilities, there will definitely be some more exploration of fabric and silhouette. As we bring back some blankets, we’re always thinking about possibilities in the home space. Additionally, some future work with some different friends may bring new ideas as well.