Studio Visit : Gradeworx – Bene Culture

Studio Visit : Gradeworx

We interviewed Cal Risin and Josh Williams of Gradeworx about their brand, Manchester and what they've got planned for the future...

So..what is Gradeworx?

GRADEWORX was formed through our passion for design. Drawing inspiration from working class culture, informed by our own upbringing, we use a graphics led approach to communicate a visual language that leans heavily on an industrial aesthetic. This is visible in the collections we design, which are a representation of our journey so far, past, present and future. 

How did the brand come into existence?

Josh - Initially we met in Uni 7/8 years ago. Cal started the brand under “gradeninefive”, I really liked what he was doing and expressed an interest in working together. We became partners and we’ve been working on GRADEWORX in some capacity ever since.
Cal - “gradeninefive” was almost an experiment without me realising, I literally designed things I knew my friends would buy without any real thought process or development - almost fast fashion I guess. Once me and josh had began our working relationship I soon realised we needed a fresh approach to the design process, that’s how the rebrand happened. 

What brands/people influenced you at the start?

Josh - I think for me a big influence was Kanye and the Yeezy Season’s, I remember watching season 3 in the Lowry with Cal and almost being in awe. Being from a graphic design background, those shows really introduced me into new world of fashion.
Cal - I was introduced to streetwear in college through artists like Mac Miller, FBZ and A$AP Rocky, they were covered in brands like Supreme and HBA back then. Growing up in Wigan, outside of the city meant that a small minority of people even knew what this stuff was, that was my original inspiration. But by the time we reached GRADEWORX, I think M+RC Noir and Geo Designs are a big influence, and a more personal inspiration from Sampaix.

Who do you think people should be watching for 2020?

Cal - We both agree that we have to go with Sampaix Studio, a fellow Manchester brand. We were able to spend time with the brand towards the end of 2019 and we spoke about plans for the future, so all we can say is keep your eye’s peeled.

What was your favourite moment since you started the brand?

Josh - We took part in a pop up event in December last year, our first event of that kind. It was the first real opportunity to get the brand in front of our target audience. We’ve had some really good feedback off the back of that, that’s got us even more motivated for what we could do in 2020. So I’d have to say that.
Cal - Also, shout out to AK and the Gramm team, they hosted that event and gave us our first real platform to showcase the brand.

What's your favourite product you've released? 

Josh - To be honest I don’t personally look back at anything we’ve released as a favourite product. I’m more interested in what each customers bought and why that’s their favourite product.
Cal - My favourite product from 00:00 is the “THANKS FOR WATCHING” Tee, although I’m more excited to produce the new pieces we’ve been working on recently, these are my favourite designs so far.  

What was your background prior to the brand?

Josh - We both studied Graphic Design at Uni, I finished uni and got a job at a Graphic Design company designing awful bingo posters, then after about 18 months I went freelance, which is what I do now alongside the brand.
Cal - After studying Graphic Design with Josh, I went on to work in a number of creative roles - predominantly Graphic Design - that didn’t work out. I worked in and out of fashion based retail work and now I work for a Film and TV Studio called [un.titled] Studio whilst working on the brand.

What music do you feel relates to your brand? 


Josh and Cal - The best way I could summarise it would be Soulection radio, perfect studio soundtrack every time.

What's in-store for Gradeworx in 2020 and 2021?

Josh - We’re taking part in another pop up, again hosted by Gramm on the 29th February in Liverpool at Sevenstore. But overall more frequent drops, more conceptual products, more cut and sew pieces. As well as our own standalone pop up’s and exhibitions. Just new levels in general.

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