An 18-year-old Californian climber by the name of Mike Graham arrives in Yosemite to join a bunch of buddies who had begun clambering the pitches of the National Park. The Stonemasters - as they would come to be known - spark the adventure and action sport craze which we know today.
As pioneers of the sport, the Stonemasters develop their own style of climbing, creating what will become what we now know as modern big wall climbing. They are among the first to perfect free-soloing, the art of scaling sheer rock faces without any ropes or harnesses, and make climbing cool, setting records and scaling with swagger.
Mountaineering had long been a pursuit of military-esque styling and animal fur. The Stoneheads had style and pushed the peaks of rock ascents with the occasional trip into psychedelic bounds. Free spirited climbing culture was born.
Mike Graham starts to manufacture portaledges in his friends' garages and sell them within the climbing community. A type of portable tent that can be secured to a cliff wall, which he calls Cliff Dwellings, Graham’s innovative porteledges are designed for overnight use when scaling mountains and to be as compact as possible to carry when collapsed.
Graham is unable to find shorts tailored specifically to climbing boulders, so he designs and makes his own. The shorts feature innovations such as a gusseted crotch and integrated belt, and will change the outdoor clothing market forever. Made from un-dyed fabric, offering a blank canvas to invite the creativity and individuality of the climbing and surfing communities, Graham gives the shorts to his friends and starts his own clothing company.
Gramicci is born and the brand is monickered after Graham’s nickname in the Stonemasters. The nickname was adopted by Graham during the group’s involvement in the first all-Italian ascent of the famous Half-Dome peak at Yosemite. As none of the members were actually Italian, they made up Italian sounding names and hence Graham changed into Gramicci.
Gramicci launches the G Pant, which quickly passes into lore to become a must-have among the climbing community. Using Graham’s unique design, with a gusseted crotch and easy cinch/release nylon belt, the pants provide deep front hand pockets to keep smaller items in place and velcro closure back pockets for compass, knife and awl. Made from organic cotton twill fabric for hard-wearing comfort to stand up to knocks and scrapes, and ease of movement, the pant is designed to offer everything modern climbers need.
Gramicci expands its range to offer four-season performance that incorporates the comfort, function and technology required by outdoor devotees and extends its reach into hiking, biking and trekking. As the style of countercultures which had been forming through the 70s and 80s - including the graffiti, skate, surf and hip hop scenes - begin to meld, Gramicci’s ethos, attitude and stylish yet functional products sees the brand become enshrined in the DNA of streetwear.
Gramicci hits a rocky path with ownership changes and a loss of core vision. A few patchy years follow and Gramicci is in danger of wandering off into obscurity. The next few years will be make or break for the brand if it wants to climb once again to the top of the outdoor clothing market.
Yosemtie’s Camp Four, the former unofficial home of the Stonemasters during the 70s and early 80s, is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the growth and development of rock climbing during the golden years of pioneer mountaineering.
Gramicci appoints a new president, Marty Weening, who helps the brand to dust itself down, refocus back to its roots and harness the spirit of freedom and innovation that made it so popular to begin with. The reinvigorated brand which emerges midway through the naughties is infinitely stronger than it was at the beginning of the decade.
The 2007 Gramicci catalogue launches and includes a collaboration with illustrator Nicholas Kulakoff whose works had featured in media as diverse as the Sci-Fi Channel and Rolling Stone magazine. Kulakoff fits Gramicci. Inspired by nature, his whimsical, yet energetic approach to design incorporates a wide palette of colours in ink drawings, clip art-style illustrations and psychedelic-style ornamentation. If Stonemasters were art, this was it.
Gramicci launches a range of clothing designed for cycling, the Urban Biking Line, which is designed specifically for urban and commuter cyclists. The range combines Gramicci’s signature casual/technical style with innovative fabrics such as the brand’s own Epic QD, which is a breathable and quick drying nylon weave with cotton-like feel and built in UV protection.
Haggar Clothing Co., makers of Haggar branded casual and dress apparel, acquires the master license for the Gramicci brand. While Gramicci’s Californian based team retain creative control over product design and development, Haggar provides access to increased sourcing, manufacturing, logistics and marketing resources which allow Gramicci to thrive. Another company, Itochu, acquires the master license for the Japanese market.
Gramicci appoints a new Director of Design, James Sowins, who has previously worked at Missimo and Puma, to spearhead development of technical fabrics. Sowins gets to work and helps the brand to develop its innovative Natural Performance Technology (NPT) collection.
As the brand turns 30, Gramicci releases its G Movement line which introduces NPT fabrics. A blend of the earth’s most durable and organically grown natural fibres combined with Gramicci’s free thinking flair offers a casual choice for all environments. G Movement is designed to offer a distinct style to both high performance outdoor sports enthusiasts and the urban wanderer alike.
Gramicci is hugely popular in the Japanese market and blends the preferences for fit and materials of the country’s streetwear community with its experience of outdoor comfort and technical wear. The Gramicci Japan line that follows in the coming years is the perfect combination of innovative design with contemporary streetwear styling.
Gramicci launches a footwear collection in Japan. Designed to combine urban style with outdoor technical features, the range suitable for use in a range of environments and is sold at specialist outdoor retailers as well as fashion focused boutiques.
After originally coming together in 2012, Gramicci continues its collaboration with nonnative, a Japanese streetwear brand, to release a special edition of Gramicci’s climber pants, strengthening a relationship between the two brands that has continued to see the release of capsule collections to this day.
Gramicci teams up with mastermind JAPAN to release a collaboratively designed climbing pant featuring the high-end Japanese streetwear label’s signature skull and crossbones logo. Itochu, which already holds the master license in Japan, also completes its acquisition of the worldwide master license for the Gramicci brand.
Gramicci Japan launches a new collection of casual wear that combines traditional garments with technical details and materials, taking some of the brand’s most iconic styles and reworking them for broader appeal.
In collaboration with Stüssy, long-time neighbours on the skate and street scene, Gramicci drops a special edition of its cargo pants in striking Camo and Clay colourway which features zip off lower legs to transform the pants into shorts. The brand also teams up with Australian streetwear icons Deus Ex Machina to release a range of Gramicci x Deus pants and shorts.
From its free spirited roots in the late 70s to the modern era, Gramicci has always offered something a little bit different to many other brands. Its pioneering maverick spirit and sense of adventure are clear in every product, whether worn to climb the peaks in Yosemite or navigate the contemporary urban landscape.
The Gramicci Japan assortment is now the base for hard wearing sweatshirts, multi-pocketed shorts and laid-back smocks. The modern interpretation of the legendary Gramicci climbing pant and its offspring of inspired chinos, smart trousers and sports leggings can easily be traced back to the brand’s revolutionary first model that changed the outdoor clothing scene forever.
The introduction of technical nylon and breezy linen alongside their traditional hard wearing cotton twill has extended the grapple of Gramicci still further. More than just a garment, Gramicci is particularly well loved in Japan where ownership of the brand now resides and the fashion buying populace love a good story. And Gramicci clothing sure has the tale to tell.