Founded in 2020, CT-based designer Justin White launched his very own brand Gravile Studios, inspired by his collective experiences and influences. The emerging clothing label was created with a season-less approach to fashion, tastefully encompassing patterns and fabrics that stand out.
For Gravile Studios’ SS22 collection, comprised of six pieces, transformative optimism and artistic expression influence the range of garments. Featuring distinctive abstract prints and accentuating silhouettes, the collection includes a three-piece suit, mini dress, and a jumpsuit. A standout piece among the many includes the GS Jumpsuit, largely inspired by the designer’s father who was an oil painter during the ’90s. Elsewhere, other clothing selects effortlessly blend style and attitude.
Below, we sat down with Justin to chat about his creative inspirations, the advantages of being a young designer, Spring/Summer 2022 collection, and more. Read on below for our full interview.
Take us back to the beginning, where does your passion for fashion stem from?
I’m from New England, Connecticut and it’s a very small, conservative town. Being in an environment like this, you have to find escapes so one of mine was art. I was always interested in fashion, but for myself—when I get older this is how I want to dress, this is how I want to present myself, this is how I want to express myself. So when I got into a new town, I was the only queer POC there so I left and went to a performing arts school. Throughout high school, I did theater design and production and that’s where I got into costume design. Through that, I learned how to sew, learned more about fashion, and how to do fashion illustration.
After high school, I took a gap year because I didn’t want to go to school, and also, I couldn’t afford to a fashion school. I saved up and the summer of 2018, I went to Central Saint Martins in London. I did a summer course and that was the first time that I was around people who wanted to do the same thing as me. The culture there was so refreshing, and I didn’t feel out of place due to how accepting the fashion scene is over there.
What led you to launch Gravile Studios?
I started interning for other designers in New York like Kim Shui and LaQuan Smith, working for different showrooms. That’s how I got my foot in the door. I was also working with other designers here in Connecticut and finding anything I could to immerse myself in that culture. At some point, I decided it’s time for me to want to be a part of that world so I had to start making my own stuff and putting my stamp on this world that I created. For me, that was creating my own brand.
Over the last several years, we’ve seen a rise in indie designers and clothing labels. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve had to face since you started your fashion journey and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest things for me was self-comparison. In the beginning, that was a big thing because we live in an influenced type of era where you literally see everything as you scroll. Also, getting my foot in the door was difficult. I always said once my foot was in the door, I’m not letting it close on me. I feel like it would be a disservice, and it’s still kind of an obstacle. Although, as you keep growing and creating honest work, there’s always going to be someone who appreciates what you do. As long as you create work that has meaning and surrounds what’s going on today, you’ll be fine. Just knowing my self-worth and that I deserve to be around some of these people.
Can you talk about the inspiration behind your SS22 collection?
This collection is the second body of work that I’ve ever done. My first collection, I put out in 2020, and within that time I moved to New York and that was one of the most stressful but eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. I had to take some time to figure out the direction I wanted to go and as honest as it could be. I had a lot of ideas, but I felt like it was trying to be too close to what was going on in fashion at the moment.
The inspiration behind this was taking environmental trips and freestyling and being fluid. With all of my work, I want it to be fluid. Whatever I feel in the moment, I just want it to flow. In the end, it all has a similarity and looks like it belongs with one another. For two of the prints, I told myself I wanted to incorporate some of my dad’s work because I wanted to be as honest as I can. It took me a while to get it together and I still have more that I wanted to showcase. It was supposed to be an eight-piece collection but I cut it down to six.
With the introduction of the GS Jumpsuit, you mentioned that the print was largely inspired by your father who was an oil painter. Can you expand on how important it was to incorporate his work into your garments?
Growing up my father always tried his best to teach me his way of art. He was an oil painter back in the 90s, making a name for himself as a black artist amongst a predominantly white audience. During his time as an artist he faced a lot of adversity because of it, and unfortunately didn’t get his true recognition.
Since I’ve found my outlet of expression I knew it was time that I honor him and his craft the best way I knew how. I knew I wanted to use one of his paintings so I reworked it so it made sense for my aesthetic.
What sort of materials or fabrics do you mainly work with?
I mostly work with a lot of mesh because I want whoever is wearing it, whether you’re wearing a small, medium, or large, I want them to feel out what they’re wearing. A lot of the time with structural pieces, it’s like you buy one size and you might be able to fit in it or you might not. With materials like stretch, you buy a medium and say that you’re large, you can still fit into it. I usually work with mesh because I feel like it’s more flattering. There are some tougher pieces like leathers and silks that are more luxury-esque, but still useful. I want our generation to feel comfortable buying pieces that fit them.
As the youngest designer growing up in a seemingly boundless generation, in what way does your youth work towards your advantage as an artist?
Especially in our generation, I feel like I’m a bit more privy to who’s hot celebrity or influencer-wise. That definitely works to my advantage because I do see a lot of older designers who might not be and stick to one style or don’t try to drive in the direction of the consumer. Yes, I’m a designer but I also have to think business-wise. Who’s my target audience and who’s going to make sure that my designs get out there? Any designer, I believe wants to see everyone in their piece. Older designers may not catch on to that concept.
Which brands or designers do you dream of collaborating with one day, if any?
I really would love to work with Telfar, they’re killing it. He’s one person I’d love to work with because I love where he’s taking the brand. I would love to not even just create a bag, but create some honest pieces with him whether that be a corset or dress. Another favorite of mine, especially as a kid, is Christian Louboutin. I would love to create a special shoe curated around my brand and theirs but make it limited edition.
What advice do you have for other aspiring designers out there who are looking to start their own label?
Anything worth doing takes time and because something doesn’t work the first time, that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to stop. Value the opportunities you have and in the beginning, don’t say no to opportunities because sometimes you’re not in a position to say no. When I started out, I took anything I could do whether that be my first job in fashion at the Brooklyn Museum. It’s a lot of work and to get to the point where you work with a LaQuan Smith or Kim Shui, those are things that I had to do first.
You have to learn as much as you can and stay true to yourself. Don’t look at what anyone else is doing and keep going. The last thing I would say is have fun because as stressful as it may seem, you can still have fun and put pressure on yourself.
In other fashion news, Marshall Columbia, the eponymous label founded in 2020, unveils its third collection.