Most people will tell you it’s hard to work with your sibling. But after one conversation with Warner and Waverly Watkins, the twin brothers behind Brownstone, it’s obvious that that isn’t the case here. The two say the brand was actually conceived as a way for them to come together creatively. It started as many brands do, with logos printed on T-shirts, before the duo decided to move to cut-and-sew. The name was inspired by the mystery of brownstone apartments, and how you never know what’s going to be inside when you walk into one.
Growing up in the small town of Danville, Virginia, the brothers had to make an effort to remain informed about the latest in pop culture. Warner credits the internet as their initial guide before both brothers would go on to study at Morehouse College in Atlanta, working summer jobs at the local boutique Wish, and interning in New York City at Foundation Showroom. They did this all together.
“This showroom had a shit-ton of brands—10 Deep, Play Cloths, Stüssy Deluxe. It was just so eye-opening and inspiring for us kids who came from the small town to a bigger city, wanting to be involved in the culture in some regards,” says Warner. “To see that you don’t have to be a Prada or something to make dope, nice shit, that was really inspiring to us.”
The duo say they were especially influenced by Japanese brands like Undercover and Neighborhood. After graduating from Morehouse with business and English degrees, respectively, the brothers moved up to New York City to try to officially kick-start the brand. The self-taught designers say there were some hurdles. Things as small as having to lug heavy rolls of textiles on the subway in the blistering heat quickly took a toll.
Now 30, the pair have lived in Los Angeles for the past four years, and are in the process of launching their brand’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection. The first two years saw them lay the infrastructure for the business—finding a factory, studio, and sources for materials. Their products can best be described as elevated essentials. Think pieces like mohair hoodies, cropped pants made of Japanese cotton with branded Riri zippers, and custom-dyed shirt jackets. They fuse Warner’s interest in subcultures like punk rock with Waverly’s more traditional streetwear aesthetic and design expertise.
“Wave is much more of a fashion guy than me. I like ideas. I like concepts. I like the idea of pulling off something and creating things,” says Warner. “So if I could do it with my brother, I was like, ‘Fuck yeah.’ I think what he’s really more into is making dope shit, and it makes me step my game up.”
“I really focus on making sure the fits and the silhouettes and everything is proper. Warner will come up with designs and concepts,” says Waverly.
Brownstone currently does most of its business through its online store, but is also stocked by A Ma Maniére in Atlanta and Union Los Angeles. The duo say getting stocked at Union was always a dream, one that was ultimately achieved simply by dropping off a lookbook at the shop. It eventually made its way into the hands of owner Chris Gibbs. They also mention Gibbs wearing one of their cardigans in a photoshoot for GQ as a significant moment for them. They excitedly recall buying multiple copies of the issue. A Ma Maniére has also been a fruitful partner thus far. The brothers hosted a pop-up for their Spring/Summer 2019 collection at the boutique, complete with a chain stitch customization station for customers. It also marked the first time their parents got to see their children’s work in person.
For ComplexCon, the brand will bring back some of their favorite pieces from the first few collections for a new audience, along with some exclusives for their “Offline” booth. They will also be exclusively launching Brownstone’s “Form and Void” collection ahead of its wider launch the following week. To cater to fans that might not be able to afford a $275 collared shirt or $500 coat, Warner and Waverly are also introducing their Ready Made line in Long Beach—a diffusion line of sorts consisting of altered vintage pieces at a lower price point.
What does the future hold? Warner and Waverly just want to keep creating.
“I would hope we could lay a foundation for myself and Wave to be able to create ideas freely and to create clothes, create cars, to create candles, to create records, like we do whatever we want to do,” says Warner. “We could start a printing press tomorrow. We could start a whole leather works tomorrow. I want the idea of Brownstone to be freedom, to create in our ability to roam free in this world and do our endeavors and always have, at the end of the day, a sick-ass collection that reflects that.” —Mike DeStefano