Over the past 20 years Griffin has been a menswear innovator. Alongside their own collections, the label by designer Jeff Griffin has collaborated on designs for some of the fashion industry’s most well-known companies including Berghaus, Baracuta and rainwear specialist Mackintosh.
Griffin mix an inherent love of style and luxury with an eco ethic from their base on the cliff tops of North Devon. This love of outdoor living, and their London urban roots, result in freethinking outerwear pieces produced with high quality finishes, craftsmanship & creative flair.
For Autumn Winter this year, we see Griffin’s finest collection to date, combining wool from famous British Mills with exceptional Italian technical fabrics and manufacturing. Pieces reverse and unzip for countless style options. Claire Lomax spoke to Jeff Griffin on living in an urban world, sustainability, tractors and travel.
FLUX: How does contemporary fashion fit with the rural and eco-lifestyle?
JEFF GRIFFIN: We aren’t a rural, country fashion company, we are a design team once based in London and now living on edge of cliff in North Devon. We don’t really see ourselves as rural. We float from Tokyo to Milan living in an urban world. Loveland Farm in Devon is our retreat. Every rock star ends up living on a farm, I guess I am no different!
FLUX: Do you try to keep the fashion business and the lifestyle you have distinct from each other or is that part of your ethos?
JEFF GRIFFIN: We work as a design studio with the idea of looking to the future. Sustainability is key and what we are doing at Loveland is an experiment. Instead of just talking about it, we live it. Everything comes together as part of the final outcome, the lifestyle, the clothing; they are all influenced by each other.
FLUX: The Griffin collections have a real outdoors feel. Have you always preferred to design/been drawn to outerwear?
JEFF GRIFFIN: Growing up in London in the late 80’s sportswear has always been a big influence to me and I have always had a love of Italian quality and manufacturing. In the past we have designed from sportswear brands to luxury brands like Berghaus, Nike and Kenzo. Now, as a design studio, we work with local surfers, cyclists, and climbers to create an authenticity behind each garment and we research heavily into what makes a good piece of clothing. I love mixing things up, integrating outdoorwear, and fashion to create really unique and interesting pieces.
FLUX: There is a visual contrast between quite technical looking, modern pieces and the more traditional pieces.
JEFF GRIFFIN: We want to push the boundaries and move forward with technology. Our factory designs for some of the world’s leading sportswear companies such as Armani, Dior and Moncler and we work closely with our machinists and pattern cutters to create new and interesting ideas using the latest technologies in sportswear and fashion. Our garments are a mix of traditional and forward thinking, technical pieces. We mix wool from traditional British Mills such as Fox Brothers, based in Somerset, with high tech fabric from Japan to create something really unique. No one else is doing this, which is really exciting for us as we can really lead the way and explore and experiment with new ideas.
FLUX: Griffin has a really strong style. When you are approached to do collaborations, how do you decide which ones to do?
JEFF GRIFFIN: It always has to be something that interests me. There are a lot of fake collaborations where you just put your name to a selection of garments. The collaborations that interest me are the ones that bring two brands together to create something strong. It’s 50/50 for me when it comes to collaborations and I always want to get something out of it that can benefit Griffin as well as bringing something new to the table for other brands. We are constantly collaborating, not only with other companies, but also with local surfers and climbers. I love learning new things and working together with people to create something that is really new and exciting. Someone once told me “1 plus 1 makes 11” and I think that is the case with collaborations. Bringing many minds and expertise together can really push the boundaries and produce outcomes that you wouldn’t necessarily produce by yourself.
FLUX: I seem to remember you had some tractors or tanks – in any case some kind of very masculine vehicles. Do you still have those? Do you use them or are they more like collectibles?
JEFF GRIFFIN: I have an old V8 First Gulf War long wheelbase Military Landrover that I love and especially in the summer, I drive everywhere. I also have a Porsche 911 that is an icon. I love icons and have always been fascinated with icons. In the past we have worked with a number iconic brands including Converse , Baracuta and Macintosh, some of the most iconic fashion brands around. The next project for next year is to get a John Deer tractor. But these aren’t collectables as such, they are part of my lifestyle on Loveland Farm.
FLUX: You are now based in Devon, with its rural landscapes and active, outdoors community. Was it a conscious decision to move the business away from bigger fashion cities like London?
JEFF GRIFFIN: We had a shop in London, a shop in Tokyo and I wanted to move away from what everyone else was doing and open my mind to new things and ideas. London is such a “scene” and the fashion world is almost like a really small, tight knit community. It was great to just get away from it all and really live a different kind of lifestyle with different priorities.
FLUX: Do you travel a lot?
JEFF GRIFFIN: Yes! But now I like to use work and travel as a holiday. I was asked recently to do a 12 hour trip to Korea for one meeting but only agreed to do this when they lengthened the trip so that I could really spend some time in the country. I wanted to use the trip as something I could get more from than simply travelling from airport to office back to airport again. So much time can be wasted travelling so I always try to get the most out of the experience as possible.
FLUX: Do you enjoy the idea of Griffin as a brand, for mavericks? A brand to be discovered?
JEFF GRIFFIN: As a design studio we design for bigger brands so we understand as soon as you go for the bigger market to make the big money you have to compromise on design and quality. We would never want to compromise on these things, as this is what makes the Griffin brand so unique and special. Working with mavericks and people who aren’t just led by labels is far more interesting. We have been around for 20 years and have great client bases that have been with us throughout this time. They understand the brand and what we are about. That is what is important to us.
FLUX: Do you have plans to expand Griffin in any way? Is it important to you that Griffin maintains its reputation as a lifestyle brand rather than a mainstream brand?
JEFF GRIFFIN: Our design studio, Loveland Farm is in a way an extension of Griffin. We’ve built an amazing geodesic dome and have plans to extend and build new domes to create a lifestyle eco-retreat that represents the brands philosophy and our outdoor lifestyle. We have had many people from all walks of life, including the fashion industry stay with us and share what we have out here in North Devon. Throughout the years we have worked with some of the biggest companies in the world and are always in talks of how to bring the Griffin brand to the masses. We are just waiting for something that we believe is real.
FLUX: What is your favourite piece for AW14 and why? Where was it made?
JEFF GRIFFIN: The Sleeping Bag Coat is always one of my favourites. We try to re-invent and re-master it each year and it is one of our most iconic pieces. We first made the original sleeping bag coat in 1999 under the concept of BI-Ocular mixing: inside-outside, urban-rural, and technology-natural. This season the design is a modern take on the classic and we’ve created a more luxurious piece as a down coat for city living made in a super lightweight Italian technical nylon with micro ripstop and PU coating on the reverse. We’ve mixed this with the independent textile manufacturer William Bliss based in Yorkshire, UK. Their wool is famed for its soft, merino like qualities as well as being hard-wearing and long lasting. All of our garments are made in our factory La Rocca in Italy, one of the best manufacturers in the world.
Griffin is available at Flannels Spinningfields, Manchester, and Flannels, Liverpool One, Liverpool. For more on Griffin see www.griffin-studio.com.