Look who it is. Jason Mraz, is that you? Justin pulls up a chair to our table as Grason takes a jab at his friend’s hipster hat. Our round table is crowded. It’s quaint. Lo sits neatly nestled under Grason’s arm, And that shirt, are you bringing salmon back?
Alright, I deserve it, I’m late. Justin orders a mezcal from the waiter and suddenly we are sitting next to mismatched family members for dinner rather than entrepreneurs for an interview.
That might be the most fascinating part of the three BARE business partners – it is hard to tell what comes more naturally to them, family or business. We’ve always just been partners. We have a complimentary skill-set. Grason is the creative. Lo is the businesswoman. My job is to expose them.
Having grown up in Boulder together, Justin and Grason were always thinking of new ways to build a business. I remember back in high school, we started a business called ‘D-liver’. We wanted to be a delivery service for lazy college kids – beer, food, weed, whatever. Justin laughs when he recounts this, filled half with nostalgia and half with guttural chuckles, We were always pushing boundaries… mostly social… some legal too… we knew early on we wanted to work for ourselves.
Meanwhile, in New York, Lo was living her life as a self-described “workaholic”. From gaining employment at McDonalds to accepting a job as a movie producer, she let her work ethic serve as her career-compass. I’m Armenian. We don’t work to live, we live to work. But, somehow I always knew I would work for myself – something about it… you get to learn on a daily basis. Your days are your own. Somehow, this has always been my dream.
In a time when entrepreneurship feels more and more like the best path to an authentic life, in a place where entire districts of Denver are dedicating themselves to the arts, it is no stretch that this trifecta of talent has the stark potential and positioning to innovate their way to the top.
The concept of BARE came up almost as organically as their relationships. When Grason’s Dad returned from a trip to Costa Rica, he gifted his son a burlap coffee sack. Grason recounts:
I remember looking at the material and thinking, wow, what a story. I showed it to Justin. Lo was on vacation. I started watching online sewing tutorials on YouTube, maneuvering Lo’s sewing machine and next thing I knew, we had a proto-type.
Lo remembers her reaction to the concept of BARE, I was laying on a beach in Italy when I kept getting pictures of Grason hovered over my little sewing machine. ‘Do you like it?’ I loved it. It was our business. This is our business. And what a business it has become. With articles in InStyle, Vogue, Glamour, People, US Magazine, The Denver Egotist and more, the trio has waltzed into the fashion industry, making a less than quiet entrance.
Still, the best part about BARE is not the melt-your-heart-story about how these friends came to create a socially responsible accessories label, nor their Hollywood connections (Justin’s sister is Jessica Biel who is an investor in the company). It’s not even the fact that one or all of them are gorgeous and charismatic enough to sell you something you already own. No. The best part about BARE boils down to one word: quality.
BARE’s first collection, the burlap collection, is terribly unique. Boasting on their site that “no two BARE bags are the same”, online buyers have only the choice of which style bag to buy and the pattern is, to a large extent, a surprise. It is as if these three visionaries have relocated the authenticity that manufactured and mainstream fashion has lost. Every bag is art. Every time. Or as Grason would put it:
Not to toot my own horn, but if I pick something, I give my whole heart to it. This is so hands on and interactive. I want to make the best, most interesting products in the world. I want people to do something outside of their comfort zone when they wear our products – our pieces push the boundaries, so do the people who wear it.
And the ideas don’t stop at burlap. In March, Best Dressed Denver was honored to be one of the few attendees at the pre-release party for BARE’s latest collection set to launch at the end of April. Impressed not only by BARE’s ability to throw a good party (what can we say, there was free whisky…), we were taken aback by the creative shift that seethes from the new bags. Using the same canvas that billboards are built from, there is no questioning whether the new line is durable. But as well-thought the material is, the design is even greater. Each bag is hand-painted by an artist, with colors that will shock you into Summer time. In our hands, we could see and even touch the strokes of the paintbrush. It was all we could do not to walk right out the door with our favorite bag because, you guessed it, no two of the canvas bags are the same.
By the end of the interview, there was something in the air. There was this feeling, and it wasn’t the mezcal, and it wasn’t the rush of getting to interview a company that has articles posted in Vogue, it was the raw electricity that comes from the shared ideas of true innovators. The people who will not accept the standard, and who will spend their talents making sure it shifts. These three people see a hole in consumer production and they want to set artistic design where manufacturization currently sits. It is wise to keep your eye on BARE. After all, you don’t want to miss a movement.
Best Dressed Denver would like to congratulate Lo and Grason on their recent engagement.