Introducing, Brother Brother
by Ian Peterson·
At LIKELIHOOD, we are always looking for special brands to carry so that we can share their story in a special way. This passion is one that is shared with our friends at Brother Brother and why we are so excited to introduce them as our newest arrival. Their co-founders Gregory Okawachi and Gary Indjian, who are from Long Beach & Inglewood, CA respectively, opened Brother Brother as a retail space in Los Angeles 3 years ago.
The two were nice enough to sit down and dedicate their time to an interview to chat about their roots, 3rd anniversary, inspirations, and what lies ahead. Below is the interview in its entirety…
When was your first Brother Brother moment and when it was founded?
GO: It's hard to identify a singular moment that served as the crater of life for Brother Brother. When Gary and I first met, it was instantly & abundantly clear we shared many interests and a vision for what great retail could look like. "Let's grab a coffee," quickly became, "What's for lunch?" Which turned into, "What if we had a shop?" In the most authentic way.
GI: Outside of the “first moment” - a cherished memory I have had shortly after we had already started setting up the store and getting it ready to open up. Our friend Tim helped us out with the brand identity and our first graphic & brand identity. I wasn’t expecting our first round of shop merch to be ready for a while but, Greg surprised me and said “our shirts on the way in an Uber.” This was the first time I saw our shop name on a piece of clothing and I think that turned on a switch for me.
One of the missions you’ve shared is that Brother Brother aims, “to provide a natural selection of goods in a laid back environment," and your tagline is, "A Natural Selection." Can you explain more about how this approach leads you through your design process of both retail spaces as well as products?
GO: The retail environment is such a critical aspect of our business. From inception we wanted to create an environment that felt: familiar, aspirational, and (above all) welcoming. Something like your best friend's living room, or your rad older brother's bedroom. We considered every aspect when crafting our universe. How it should look, smell, and sound. I'd like to think that even the smallest details deserve to be scrutinized. The tagline "a natural selection" was a cheeky way of sneaking a double entendre into our brand identity. Exploring both the offering we present to our customers, and leaning into the Darwinian (is that a word?) idea of existence through evolution. We invest a lot of value into the idea that brands or businesses that can evolve and move nimbly will survive– hence the cheetah motif. I'm grateful that we're able to make decisions and react at such a swift speed all while maintaining our original vision.
GI: The Brother Brother goods are always supposed to be complementary to the goods that we carry. The aim of the shop from the beginning was filling it with brands and products made by friends or brands that we admire and being able to tell their stories our way. We are both nerds at the root of it and are obsessed with the details. The FW22 collection was a pure reaction to goods we wanted on our shelves and silhouettes we have found success with.
What kind of influence does LA have on your brand and what you create?
GO: As a landscape and environment, LA has a massive influence on the brand and offering. From a design perspective, it provides some constraints as to fabrics we decide to explore or styles/silhouettes we really want to get behind. Nothing too heavy or overly technical. Despite what the grumpy ex-New Yorker turned Angelino will tell you, it does in fact get a little chilly here. Enough to coax the stacks of mohair and light outerwear out of summer hibernation. But that's about where it stops. I'd like to think we're one of the few shops striving to deliver a better dressed LA...or we're a beacon of hope for the unwashed masses looking to ditch their long scooped hem tees, skinny jeans, suede chelsea boots, and brunch hats. Those who call the later staples need not shop with us haha.
GI: There’s a quote that can be taken in a few different ways but, it's from the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” and we feel that in our space - between fashion/culture/music/food - the flow moves to LA every few years but, being from here we have seen it all - all versions of it. I think that influence allowed us to see what we want from the space and what we don't as well. Los Angeles has a perceived value that usually comes from those that have never visited it or have spent too much time in the ‘tinsel’ regions but, our Los Angeles is different - cross cultural, community oriented, and passionate.
Who (or what) are you inspired by?
GI: My influences definitely pull from a global perspective, mixed with the cultures and enthusiasms that shaped my youth. I've been fortunate enough to travel and live in some incredible places. Time spent away from home generally helps guide a new way of looking at work. I think most could benefit from looking at the puzzle from the other side of the table. Whether intentionally or subconsciously, I think my half Japanese-Mexican cultural identity influences the scope of my work. Growing up in Southern California, I found my comfort zone at the surf spots up and down our coast. Sometimes clarity and inspiration comes at the price of sunburns and water logged sinuses.
GO: Every once in a while Greg and I will go back and forth about a piece of clothing we were obsessed with from 4-8 years ago, a brand that doesn’t exist or maybe doesn't exist in the way we want to remember it as. These are moments that I pinpoint as inspirations to our brand and our shop’s identity. A small love letter to all the things that helped shape this space. Personally, I want to always draw inspiration from my Armenian and Lebanese roots as stepping stones for the brand and mindset. Greg and I both come from backgrounds full of grit and I think that encapsulates a lot of what we have already achieved and set out to foster.
You celebrated your 3 year anniversary last month in conjunction with a collaboration - can you briefly highlight some peak moments in those 3 years as well as details of the collabs that you've enjoyed producing?
GI: It has been difficult to set time aside to appreciate everything we've accomplished, but seeing new faces along with the familiar ones always puts a smile on my dial. For me it really doesn't get much better than when a new customer mentions that the shop feels like it was "built specifically for them" or that it lovingly "reminds them of someone close". We naively took this chance 3 years ago, and I can confidently say my expectations have been exceeded. As our universe continues to grow, so does our appetite for bringing ideas to life. Earlier this year we worked on a couple incredible bags with Chicago based 1733 and we've got another one coming soon! Gary has an incredible network built over years of awesome experiences. So when he pitched collaborating with his pal Greg Cordeiro at EasyMoc, I was psyched at the potential. Teaming up with them was such a blast and exactly how I hoped our first footwear collaboration would go.
GO: In the three years, I think the biggest highlight is the community we have created. We hear stories of people running into strangers wearing BB gear and sparking up a conversation - connecting people through our brand around the world outside of our space - that's a wild feeling. As far as the collaboration, I've known Greg from EasyMoc for a loonnnngg time - never would I think that one day we would collaborate on BB's first footwear piece together. Once we linked up with him a few months ago, Greg and I knew it would be a great partnership for the brand. Still kind of pinching myself and stoked for him and his team's work on these loafers - they really are special.
As you look beyond your 3 year celebration and into the future what lies ahead for Brother Brother?
GI: Growing the business in a responsible way will always be a priority. In this increasingly digital landscape, we need to be conscious of our local audience, and how we can better serve them at the street level. Building up compelling event programming and activations that highlight our physical shop, all while continuing to connect with our national/global audience.
GO: I try not to look too far into the future and look at the opportunities we have in the next few months. Greg has done a great job growing our wholesale business and now it's time to celebrate that and continue growing with our partners in different regions. Spreading a little bit of our BB experience throughout the world. Along with that, just continue building the fan base and introducing our brand and new brands we are carrying to anyones that wants to participate.
Finally, Brother Brother is now available in select retailers; how important was branching out of your own retail space? Can you describe how you grew the brand to this level and your roadmap to this stage?
GI: We're lucky enough to have some incredible friends and family. Those two ingredients felt pretty critical in arriving where we are. Some of those friends have incredible retail spaces, brands, and showrooms. More than anything they have experience. Experiences that they graciously shared with us; paths they pointed us in or cautioned us against. We hadn't thought too much about firing up the wholesale machine until we began fielding stockist requests. From there, we relied on our friends at Lite Year who put on an incredible showroom every market season and bring in the best accounts from all over the world. Branching out of our own shop was an important decision. It allows for like minded retail partners to apply their edit to our offering and share with their customers what they really love about the work.
GO: It’s a network we want to connect throughout the world - each of our partners so far are all unique and different but, celebrate our brand in their own way. Big shoutout here to the team over at Lite Year for allowing us to branch out further than our four walls and a parking lot and allowing the BB collection to work within their showroom space. The biggest next step for me is that we continue to create spaces where everyone feels expected and welcomed. The roadmap felt reactionary in the beginning but now I feel as if we are paving paths for growth beyond our space - into other regions of the world, finding new opportunities within our fashion community & highlighting our friends as well. Just gotta keep moving forward and doing our thing and hopefully people want to participate in our space or outside of it. Here for it!