In 2015, a brother and sister team from Longwood decided that they wanted to showcase their native Bronx in a positive way, highlighting their love for their home and the people living in it. With a passion for the borough, they cooked up a clothing line called Bronx Native, using design to promote the Bronx and its people. Now, two years later, the brand is finally in the stage where the revenue from product sales has put the company in the black, and the team is looking to expand its reach to talk to school kids about entrepreneurship and give a voice to the community through media.
“We are a brand that embodies what the Bronx truly is, the Bronx is all about passion,” said Amaurys Grullon. “There are a lot of issues in the Bronx and while it’s cool to do the clothing and all of that, we want to do things that overall help our people and inspire them to be creative, more community-based work.”
Sitting around the iD Studio Theatre space on East 140th Street, the team discussed its upcoming projects and new pieces for the coming months. The brand sells T-shirts, tote bags and hoodies, each piece printed with “The Bronx” or other sayings related to the borough, such as Rapper Cardi B’s “I’m Just a Regular Degular Shmegular Girl from the Bronx.” Tote bags cost $15, and T-shirts start at $20.
“We look at the history of the Bronx – where we came from, our culture, what we see around us – and we mix that with what we see in pop culture today to come up with design ideas,” said Roselyn Grullon.
The siblings run the brand out of their home in Longwood where they grew up. Amaurys, 24, a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and owner of a creative agency called GET Studios, and Roselyn, 22, a fashion student at Parsons, along with their team of four run the brand.
The siblings have visited five schools so far to talk to students about entrepreneurship and creativity, and want to focus this year on visiting as many schools in the borough as they can. They’re vendors at community events and have a partnership with the Bronx Museum of the Arts where they sell their items and host monthly live music events showcasing artists. Bronx Native has also partnered with Montefiore Hospital’s BX Mpowerment Project, that deals with the LGBT community in the Bronx, working on T-shirts and marketing. The team also has a current collaboration with Cardinal Hayes High School, the school founder Amaurys graduated from, where they hope to inspire students to follow a creative path.
Every detail is important for the brand in telling its story, down to the catalog shoots. Using young residents as models and putting the least amount of makeup on them as possible, Bronx Native tries to showcase its clothes as worn by real people in the community.
“I had a vision for the catalog shoot for Bronx Native based off what I see from the people in the Bronx — being completely natural in a state where nothing is expected but to be real and be you,” said the brand’s photographer and media developer, Jeremy Rios. “People from the Bronx are unapologetic That’s what I want people to understand: when people from the Bronx go out into the world, they shine and it’s remarkable. We’re not expected to survive but we do, we prevail and that’s what I want to show through our shoots. We’re still here and it’s not going to be easy to displace us.”
Since its launch a couple years ago, the brand has been getting more exposure, being featured in The New York Times, on News12, and BronxNet. Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist Mario, and Jharrel Jerome from “Moonlight” have been wearing the brand’s pieces as well.
“One thing I’ve always been proud of is being from the Bronx, I pretty much grew up immersed in the culture,” said Jerome, who plays Kevin in the Oscar-winning movie. “What I love about Bronx Native as a brand is that they focus on the culture — pop up shops in chicken spots, Instagram posts of old neighborhoods, slam poetry, hip hop meetings — these are all things the brand does to continue to spread the love and pride of the Bronx. When I wear one of the shirts, I know what I’m repping — I’m repping culture, diversity, I’m repping the whole Bronx — and when you’re from uptown like me, it feels empowering to wear them.”
Bronx Native’s fall/winter collection is set to come out in mid-October featuring all new hoodies, T-shirts, and bags, along with a recently started YouTube channel for people to follow along on their journey with weekly vlog posts highlighting Bronx partners and suppliers. The team also has a video series in the works highlighting Bronx natives that are doing great things in the community.
From Oct. 2 to Oct. 15, Bronx Native has a pop-up shop at 127 Lincoln Ave., where they will sell their pieces starting at 9 a.m. and have events every night.
With their growing momentum, the team has no plans of slowing down, constantly coming up with new projects that exceed just apparel and continuing to shine a light on the Bronx in artistic ways, in hopes of rebranding the borough’s image. Bronx Native is in talks of creating a book that will give a voice to the people in the community and tell their stories.
“We want to continue tackling the Bronx’s issues through the arts,” said Amaurys, “continue an artistic movement and leave our mark.”