Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian Wright.
Hi Brian, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
After struggling to figure out what I wanted to do with my life as far as a career path, a trip to Cocoa Beach changed everything. I have always been an artist, painting and sketching my entire life, but I never could figure out how to make this passion something that could support me. Six or seven years ago I went with my mom to Cocoa Beach on a work trip of hers. We went into a surf shop, the name I don’t remember, but we ended up starting a conversation with the man at the cash register who was also the owner. He was a younger guy probably in his 30s at this time and he told us about how he and his friends started designing and screen printing in their garage and it ultimately grew into the store we were shopping in. Something about his story inspired me. I could use my passion for art and blend it with my love of fashion to create something that I could do as a career and something that I would enjoy doing! Of course, I had no idea how to start that process, so it took some time to get started. I went to school and received a certificate in Small Business Management in 2016 so I would have the knowledge to start my own business. That’s when the wheels really started turning. That same year I came up with the name Grim + Proper in my backyard with my friends. I had written down 10-15 different possible names for my brand, and after a long night of crossing things off and taking votes, Grim + Proper was the one that stuck! I worked tirelessly to start designing, knowing nothing about designing garments or getting them produced. I spent 2 years tirelessly making mock-up designs, completing what I thought would be enough for 4 different seasons. In the end, after trying to make it happen and talking with manufacturers, and getting quotes on how much it would cost, it didn’t seem possible. When I looked back at my designs, they also didn’t reflect what I wanted to present. They were too boring, not bold enough, and they were too similar to what others had already done! I was out of my league. It wasn’t until the pandemic that things really became possible and a reality. I had taken the time in between to reflect and work on my art. Meeting my husband in 2019 helped immensely, as he was as dark and twisted as I was. He was like my muse and a catalyst in my brand becoming what it is today! He is a little more rough around the edges than I am, a little more hardcore. My vision for Grim + Proper shifted from a pretty/preppy version of gothic to something more punk, there was now more of a grunge aesthetic to it! I also started thinking more logically, starting with smaller casual pieces and working on building the inventory and later adding more products and variety, instead of my old way of thinking which was that I was going to be producing footwear and jackets right out the gate! The pandemic hit and I was fortunate enough to remain employed, meaning the stimulus checks I received could be used for something else! After obtaining the first 2 stimulus checks, putting personal savings into it as well as money from family and friends who supported my vision, it was finally feasible to start producing products for my brand! I started with two shirts, one hat, two bandanas, two socks, and two pins! But even after receiving my products from my manufacturer, I didn’t know how to go about selling them! My husband suggested talking to Liz at Dysfunctional Grace in Ybor about selling in their store, a place that we had frequently bought gifts for one another or items for our apartment! She was on board right away and it was a beautiful partnership. My products were first sold there in July 2020. That same month I started my online store through Shopify and created our Instagram presence! We started slow, as to be expected, so I worked very hard on gaining our following. We had gained 1,800 followers in less than 2 months. But then, due to my lack of knowledge on businesses and social media, I had made a mistake when setting up our Instagram and could not link it to a Facebook shop, something that I wanted to help aid in our efforts to grow and succeed! I, unfortunately, had to delete our original Instagram to fix the problem and start all over again! The new Instagram relaunched September 10, 2020, and is the one that is still going strong with now 9,000 followers! In October 2020 I started doing markets in the Tampa and Ybor area, something I still do every week to gain more of a following and get our name out there! Since we launched a little over a year ago, we have continued to grow, adding more followers, more orders, and more products each month! Grim + Proper has been worn by Lil Xan, Nathan James, and Sage Weeber! We are constantly working on growing our brand and our name and have very much enjoyed the journey so far! There are so many ideas and so many awesome things to come and I am just very fortunate to be doing what I love, which is creating art and it has been really amazing to see people interact with my art and appreciate it enough to buy it and wear it!
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I touched on struggles in the last question as far as having to restart our Instagram and really just not knowing how to get it started and grow in the beginning. There was definitely a learning curve. But the biggest struggle, which is still a struggle to this day, is that it is all me! I create the designs, they are based on my measurements that I come up with, fabric that I choose. I speak to the manufacturers, I reach out to the “talent” and the “influencers” I go to the markets, I do the taxes, I do all the advertising and social media for the brand. I pack and ship all the orders and communicate with customers as far as any questions or concerns and responding to applicants applying to our Brand Ambassador Program. I take and edit all the product photos. Not complaining at all, this is part of the job and honestly part of the fun. It’s a struggle but it’s a beautiful struggle because it helps me learn and grow and it also humbles me. I am putting in all the work because no one is going to work as hard for my business as I am!
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Art has always been a part of my life; it has always been my favorite pastime and has been one of the most consistent things in my life! It has helped me out of some dark or troubling times, being something that genuinely gives me peace and joy when I practice it! But my art has definitely changed over the years. When I was a kid, I would draw little cartoons. I would draw me and all my friends as cartoons, it was fun! Then when I got older I did more “beautiful things” I would paint beach scenes or trees or flowers, things I thought people wanted to see! But as a child born October 29, I have always had a darker vibe. I’ve always been fascinated by skeletons and skulls and the idea of death. It was never something that scared me, I actually always saw it more as something beautiful, peaceful! After high school is when my art really became my own! I was painting from a deeper place with deeper meanings! That was also when I started getting into tattoos. I had a half sleeve my senior year of high school! I love tattoos so much, and I get them CONSTANTLY! I now have over 30. My love of tattoos and the different tattoo styles shaped my art that you see today! I love its simplicity, the sharp lines, its history. Tattoos just scream “rebel” or “badass” and that’s what I wanted my art to be! I want people to wear my clothes and feel like a badass! I think my style sets me apart, especially here in Florida! Florida fashion to me is very vibrant, pastel colors with a lot of focus on shells or boats or flamingos! It’s very typical and kind of boring! I’ve always liked to shake things up so I always say I’m here to bring a little shade to the sunshine state! And there are plenty of people that love it, I’ve found that there’s plenty of eclectic and tattooed young people out here in Tampa that really resonate with Grim + Proper and that’s been really awesome to see! But I have gotten plenty of strange looks from the older crowd when I vend at markets, which is nothing I’m not used to! Hopefully, I’m blowing some people’s minds. I’m sure a lot of people go home and pray for me!
We’d love to hear about how you think about risk-taking?
I would definitely say I’m a risk-taker, I think in the industry of fashion and art if you don’t take risks, there’s no way you’ll succeed! You have to be bold because there are a million people trying to do the same thing you are and do it better! I don’t think there was anything riskier than starting a business during a global pandemic, but I wouldn’t have done anything different! And you’re always taking a risk when you put a new item out! Of course, I have some insight now that I have a year under my belt, so I know more of what people like or relate to more, but there’s always worry and doubt when I put out a new product or design because you never know if people will like it! You just have to sit back and be patient and have an open and positive mindset!
- Email: Hello@grimandproper.com
- Website: Www.grimandproper.com
- Instagram: @grimandproperclothing
- Facebook: @grimandproperclothing