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Fashion Designer Brian Wood Takes Us Inside the BWOOD Studios

After graduating with a degree in Fashion Design from Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute in 2004, Brian Wood brought his two clothing brands, pop art-inspired t-shirt brand BWOOD and menswear line Brian Wood, into being.

Since, BWOOD has attained an impressive degree of notoriety with no corporate endorsement, having collaborated with fellow indie brands like Duckworth and and a maintaining a continuous partnership with Vinnie's. New to his shop are one of one cut and sew pieces, in which Wood takes bits and pieces from individual shirts and “mashes” them together, oftentimes to illustrate a greater message.

We tagged along to Wood’s studio in midtown Manhattan (which will soon be moving to a retail location downtown) to see what goes down at BWOOD, behind the scenes.

Tell me the genesis of BWOOD.
After graduating from Pratt and working freelance in the industry for a while, I eventually started BWOOD, which was mostly tees and hats. It’s been around for a while, but somehow it stays so relevant. It’s a little under the radar, but still out there, and we’ve been picking up steam over time and maturing the brand. I also have my menswear collection, Brian Wood, which was my main focus for about four years or so.

Since you’ve been around for a while, have you reached any particularly memorable milestones?
The business is self-financed; we’re not owned by a big company or any other entity. It’s truly an organic company. Waking up sometimes, I’m in New York City, I’ve been able to do this for a while, been making a living on it for the past four or five years. The stuff we do is really fun and creative, so that to me is a pinch-yourself moment in itself. This sounds corny, but sometimes I wake up in the morning and I feel so lucky. I never take it for granted.

You’ve said that fashion is a form of self-expression. How do you see yourself through your designs?
Our brand has always evolved, and while some aspects stay the same, every season we change. The inspiration is always changing. I’ve seen myself grow just by looking at the collection. Obviously, a regular person wouldn’t really see that, but me creating it, if I’m going through a dark time or some period like that, I put out certain work that’s reflective of that. I think it just represents being not afraid, independent, and passionate, while still marching to its own drum.

Have you had a favorite collection or collaboration?
That’s so tough. I had a womenswear line for a year, which was really fun and definitely one of the more difficult things I did. It was called Silvio Liu. That was one of my favorite things because it was totally out of my comfort zone. I mean, I was doing women’s evening wear. It was great, though; it was written up in W and Elle.

BWOOD collaborates with a store called Vinnie’s, in Brooklyn. The whole idea of it is amazing, because Vinnie’s is an independent store, and we've been able to work with each other for four or five years and do some good numbers. That whole concept of organically building something up is really cool.

What can you tell me about this three-city drop?
It’s an exclusive drop for Villa. We started selling this in bigger stores, which is exciting. The shirt was designed nine years ago, which is crazy because it’s still one of our most popular pieces. We’re doing a lot of things with them this coming year, so that’s the one shirt that’s Philly, Detroit and Chicago.

What about these cut and sew, “mash-up” shirts?
Those are cool because it’s almost like me freestyling. It’s this whole new thing where I’m taking shirts and mashing them up, bleaching them and dying them, and I feel like the whole direction is going in back in time. Because they’re one-of-one pieces, it’s this really personal experience between the designer and the customer. It’s really, extremely unique. They’re all very spur of the moment and done without boundaries.

How do you keep yourself inspired?
I don’t know; I have no idea. I want to do the collection. That’s really all I want to do. The t-shirts are doing well, people are working for the company, so I can’t be selfish. I would be selfish to do just the collection. We’re trying to push that as far as we can, with subject matter and everything. I just feel lucky. I’m not sure. Maybe sometimes it’s just not being satisfied.

I came from a background of art. That’s my favorite part of it. To me, fashion design shouldn’t be behind a computer for eight hours. To me, getting inspired and being creative is the most exciting and cherish-able part. It’s how I stay hungry.

What kind of message are you trying to spread?
We were running around like idiots saying, “Oh, design to inspire.” I don’t think it’s just about inspiring people. The main thing is inspiring people, but we also like to project some social messages. I think we give a sense of inspiration, but we also represent a sense of hope, rebellion, and independence. I don’t think we should have gotten this far, honestly. The industry isn’t built that way. But as we ascend to a bigger platform, we’re able to address certain issues.


Images: Phil V

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