Monday, April 9, 2018

As you are walking down the block, the sunbathed gray pavement on which you are stepping is quickly overshadowed by the concrete and brick residential buildings; as you pass by the flower shop you can hear the poignant spoken words of community empowerment. There is a store painted in a bold blue. As you look inside the window you are captivated by the graffiti inside the shop. You step back and written in red letters, in the shop’s window: Bronx Native—a Brand Based on the Bronx.

Founded in 2016, Bronx Native is a brand that highlights the Bronx through apparel, art, and media.  It was founded by two multi-faceted individuals, siblings Amaurys and Roselyn Grullón. The Bronx Native is not only a brand that represents the Bronx as a borough, but also their words and actions provide a platform for the Bronx’s artistic community, entrepreneurs, and its residents.

The Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) interviewed one of Bronx Native’s co-founders, Amaurys Grullón, who has had a love of the arts since his youth and has a background in graphic design, photography, and videography from the School of Visual Arts. The co-founder, his sister, Roselyn, studies Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design; and together, they turned their passions into a brand. In the following interview, which has been edited for brevity, we inquired about how Bronx Native marries their art with business and how they have impacted the Bronx’s cultural community.

After exchanging a warm hello, we got down to business…

Amaurys, we watched a video showcasing an event your business organized for Bronx Jazz Night at the Bronx Museum. Please tell readers how you formed the art and business partnerships you have today?

We are heavily involved with things that are happening in the Bronx; in 2017 we decided three things: meet with everyone—any creative, any entrepreneur, any designer; go to every cultural event that happens here in the borough; and we said we were going to accept any opportunity that came our way. One of the opportunities that came our way was to sell our merchandise [at the events] at the Bronx Museum, which is great. After attending many cultural events there, [the Bronx Museum] invited us to host an event. We had spoken words artists, vendors, rappers; we did two events like that, the third one was Jazz Night, as there is no place in the Bronx where you can hear that. We had Bronx artists [such as Marcus Tirado and Keren Abreu] playing live jazz, and we had people enjoying live music in general.

Social media connected us to a lot of the moments and owners that do things out here. A lot of the events we go to, we meet a lot people, we do a lot of collaborations with restaurants [such as Bronx Native x MottHavenBar], art institutions, friends that are musicians [such as the recent Bronx R&B Night performances by Pierre, and more]. Right now we are going to start, at the shop, a series of live music events which will be more curated.

That is awesome! Now, let’s talk about Bronx Native as a brand; how did it turn into a company and how does it relate to the arts?

I went to school for graphic design, as it was mostly digital, I started a design career in 2014 and created Bronx Native in 2016—which was a way to combine art and have something that is sustainable, something that we love. We started a brand that embodied what the Bronx is; we wanted to showcase the history and culture while creating something that was visually appealing. The issue was that there was no merchandise, no clothing that had any of that. I remember me and my sister were browsing clothing online that repped or highlighted the Bronx. It was crazy how we do not have something like that—when you look at Brooklyn, [the Bronx] does not have as much stuff as them and the other boroughs. The Bronx [is] a birthplace of culture, and we don’t have as much [merchandise], so we tackled the problem.

Our designs integrate concepts—of course the Bronx is at the center of it. We design all of our stuff and manage social media—we wouldn’t be where we are now if it weren’t for high quality images, graphic design, [and] the way we connect with our [social media] audiences through our art. We are more about the experience and our influence. [For example], we curated an exhibition called The Boogie Down Bronx which is an installation where people could experience where hip-hop was created, as people used to have parties in apartments. So, we basically transformed an apartment space into a scene from the late 1970s; then we had young South Bronx artists showcasing their work [graffiti artists such as Edo Monster, poet Josue Caceres, and others]. You know, our art expands into our clothing, our events, and our shop. In our shop we wanted to create an atmosphere that entrapped the experience.

I tell everyone Bronx Native has been a win-win in all fields because we are doing something that we are passionate about, we are expressing ourselves creatively, creating change, and creating capital.

What is the future of Bronx Native, or tell us about any current projects that you have going on right now?

We are always working 24/7, we are trying to make it happen, put the Bronx on the map, and just highlight it as much as we can. We also have the shop now, which is permanent, so we are not only selling merchandise, but using the shop as a cultural hub, throwing a lot of events here. We recently had International Women’s Day on March 8, celebrating the Bronx’s women. Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, came by the shop on Saturday [March 10], which was amazing; so we are definitely continuing to do community outreach, community events, but also cultural events like live music and other performances. We are coming forth with our winter collection in April and we’ll host more creative events for people to enjoy.

The teamwork the Bronx Native engages in is inspiring for the community that is seeking the appropriate representation and platform they deserve, as well as for any artist or entrepreneur who wants the freedom to present their work in the inclusive spaces the Bronx Native has created. Thank you, Amaurys!

Follow Bronx Native on social media, so you can get down and boogie with them, and check out their shop to be on the lookout for their upcoming winter collection.