Cleon Grey is a 20-something fashion blogger, photographer, overall creative, and friend of TheCreativeRoutine. He’s previously authored the website The Aveder Outfit, but has recently launched his newest project: Layonbone. I recently sat down with him to discuss his creative projects, inspirations, trends in blogging, and the 2012 presidential election. (By sat down, of course, I mean that the entire interview was conducted over the internet during the span of weeks. We first started our conversation on Dec. 25th, the day Layonbone and The Madbury Club 2.0 dropped online.) The interview is a little lengthy, but worth the read. Trust me.
Itoro Udoko: Is this what you call a preview haha? In this cutthroat blog-eat-blog world it’s hard when you have to do something like drop a new site/project on the same day as the launch of Madbury 2.0. But I’d say you pulled it off. The design is still Aveder Outfit, yet something else entirely. And the idea behind it. It’s unreal. I can’t wait to see what comes next. I’m still floored from the visuals still.
How collaborative is this project going to be? Will most of the content be done by you, or will there be occasional contributors? Also, where’d the name Lay on Bone come from?
Cleon Grey: Thanks man, I really appreciate it. Never expected to be launching the same day as Madbury 2.0, but luckily as far as content and audience are concerned we are in diverging lanes. Ultimately, I may be most proud of the fact that the whole site to this point, Bodega Chic and all of Social Studies, were entirely shot on $10 disposable cameras.
And for all intents and purposes the site is now live. I originally intended to preview only 2 projects and then drop 4 or 5 on the 1st, but shoots, re-shoots and my meticulous obsession led to making slightly altered plans. Definitely still beta-ish, but it will grow as we go along.
It’s really all very humbling to me, honestly. I went into all this with the intent of creating a space that I’d be proud to have associated with my name. Wherein I could push the boundaries of online style-related content as well as my creativity while appealing to a more involved audience. I never envisioned, and still don’t expect this space to be widely popular because I made it for a certain audience with a certain level of connoisseurship. It’s riddled with references and experimentation which requires effort on the viewer’s part to fully appreciate. So the fact that you or anyone else appreciates it is absolutely great news. Sometimes you sort of get consumed by your own world.
And you’re correct. This will be a somewhat collaborative project. The majority of the content will be done by me, with occasional friends and contributors featured for their different talents. However all ideas from inception are mine; I just know when to delegate.
The name for the site came about completely organically one day in mid-November. It’s all in the phonetics lol. Layonbone: (what we) lay on (our) bone(s). I felt that it made sense due to the nature of the site and the subject matters explored. It’s raw style, fashion, culture, creativity, stories, critique. All things that without would leave us bare as individuals, but also people. And of course, the literal laying of clothes on our bodies, the overlooked intimacy of the act.
IU: I get where you’re coming from, as far as your comments about the niche nature of the site is concerned. I guess in the ever growing universe of fashion genres and blogging content, your site would fall under “street style”. But it’s definitely by no means your everyday street style blog. It’s as if you’ve taken all those photos of stylish, unknown personalities in the streets and given a voice to the culture behind it. (It’s street style from the viewpoint of the street? If that makes sense…)
The blogging culture we’re engrossed in doesn’t at all penalize sites that are ultra-niche. If anything, it encourages the creation of new sub-genres. Now within the general sphere of “fashion blogging”, you have street style sites, the Tumblr #menswear community, street fashion culture blogs like Madbury Club, and hybrids like yours or mine.
Is it just me or are you noticing what I’m saying? I mean at this point, you’ve been featured in the GQ Eye a few times for your work on the Aveder Outfit, and you also just got a solid nod from Complex Mag for 2012. Niche doesn’t seem to be an obstacle when it comes to content. It seems like we’re definitely in a culture that we’re commenting on as we create. A year ago or two ago, distinctions like “#menswear” blogger would have made no sense. Now honors like “Menswear Rookie of the Year” are being tossed out. Not that any of this is bad. But movements are definitely being defined as they happen.
CG: I wouldn’t consider, or readily associate the site with street style, honestly. Style and fashion, yes. But the typical on the street, one photo a day, new person, new place thing-not really. But I like your idea of street style from the viewpoint of the street. And I definitely agree with you on the points of blog culture not penalizing the ultra-niche, and the fact that we’re commenting on a culture as we create it.
It definitely encourages the specificity and in my opinion even needs it to a degree. These general all encompassing blogs just ultimately become hypebeasts or highsnobieties. Particularly why I’m very interested in how the content and feel of Madbury 2.0 comes along. How do you keep things small and fresh when your aim is to be so big?
Which sort of gets me back to what I was mentioning with regard to Layonbone, I just can’t see it honestly appealing to a large group of people who fully get or may appreciate it. There’s no expectation. Every spread is different. The posts are infrequent, and I’m constantly drawn from fringe references, and I already have some much off center shit I want to do.
Take for instance the post “Badass Soul Savage”. The whole spread is about union and the friendship among men.
The reoccurring flag throughout is the Grand Union flag. The first national flag of the U.S. and the 13 colonies. And the fox furs and quote are references to the most widely read French novel,” The Little Prince” concerning the nature of human beings and responsibilities we have to one another as people. I want folks to see, or seek out those references and ultimately grasp the entire project and not just see a bunch of cool photos.
But that’s part of the fun for me, trying to see if I can cultivate that sort following.
the last aveder outfit post
IU: Are your sights set on a cult following haha? Layonbone definitely is something readers are going to have to work a bit for. And some people probably won’t get a lot of it. I’m just not convinced that a site even as niche as yours can’t have a prominent reception. I guess the most important thing when creating content, especially for a new site, is to anticipate the kind of reactions you’re going to be getting. And you’re definitely doing that.
Aveder Outfit first came out in January 2011 right? I remember seeing a sick photo of Kadeem Johnson on my dashboard, rocking a varsity jacket. I clicked through and it took me to your site. Where did it all start? What made you begin the Aveder Outfit, and how did you get from there to here?
CG: No, no cult following haha. But I definitely want people to work for it. That’s why it’s all about time spent on the site, and not hits or views for me. I want people to take their time looking and reading-get lost, explore, think, research-just as I’ve taken my time conceptualizing, shooting, processing, writing, designing, coding and editing it all. Nothing is straight-forward.
CG: The long-term plan would be someday, hopefully soon, being able to make a living from one or a combination of these efforts. A 9-5 has never really appealed to me. How? That’s the interesting part. Just have to see what happens, but some things are on the horizon.
Ultimately, I want to have my work be considered and view as art. Gallery-worthy, photo book worthy etc. But this is a very long-term goal. It may even be a life-long goal, but having that as my frame allows me to remain mindful of my standards and pushing those standards as well. Keeps me hungry and humble.
IU: I think you and I are both alike in that regard, as far as creative standards go. It’s refreshing to see commitment to craft in a blogging culture that’s quickly becoming about imitation and hopping on the latest trend.
Speaking of blogging culture, which sites were you referring to in November 2010 that inspired you to put out all the work you’ve done so far? When I started TheCreativeRoutine August 2010, I knew nothing about fashion/blogging culture. A life-long interest in style is all I walked into with. There were a few sites (The Good Times Blog, Madbury Club, Street Etiquette, Unabashedly Prep) that I studied like textbooks to learn how to create quality content. Who have you drawn on?
CG: Mainly the Madbury Club, Phil (Annand)’s Award Tour site, Street Etiquette, the BKCircus, and honestly a gang of others. I was and still am always searching and saving inspirations. But primarily it was the Madbury Club because I hated blogs, the concept of blogging. All the ones I saw were vapid, boring and redundant. Madbury was the first thing that made me feel like blogging was worth my time or effort. It was just beautiful looking. But again that was pre-launch of Aveder Outfit.
From then I had just kept collecting and collecting literally thousands and thousands of design, photo and website inspirations and Layonbone sort of was the culmination of all that plus a bit more frustrations with the previous content. The site design was my own unique inspiration. I just imagined a different way of presenting and viewing content online.
IU: So the The Good Times Blog/Madbury Club was a major catalyst for both TheCreativeRoutine and Layonbone. I wonder how many other sites Madbury has fathered. Is that what you’re trying to do with Layonbone? Visually, conceptually, creatively. Are you trying to push people and inspire future bloggers to approach content more unconventionally?
CG: Actually Madbury had more to do with Aveder Outfit. Layonbone was literally just me being fed up with limits of AO and my previous content. But I’m sure Madbury fathered many others.
And in regards to the site, I’m honestly not trying to inspire anyone. If it does, that’s great. But really it’s another one of those things for me. Essentially it’s Layonbone or bust. My only shot at a different kind of life. Essentially the reasoning behind that “Chasing the Purple Cow” piece.
IU: It’s Layonbone or bust… And that’s the “all or nothing” philosophy you’ve taken to all your work, as far as applying novel ideas and creating innovative content goes.
Has all of the immediate press surprised you?
CG: Honestly, yes and no. Yes because the site is so new. And no because I ultimately know the work what I’m doing is worth the recognition. I’ve done the research, I know what is out there and it’s truly something special.
IU: Aside from Layonebone, what else are you working on creatively? Are you hoping to do any freelance writing in the future?
CG: I continually have a list of other projects aside from my main pursuits that I’m working on. Whether it’s designing a site for a friend, or shooting or working on a project with Josh and Trav or Marjon or whoever else. Kind of doesn’t end honestly.
And as far as freelance writing, we’ll have to see about that. It’s something that I’m working on. Writing has always been a headache for me in that I lack the ability to write long-form. Asking me to write a 1000 words out of thin air is almost an impossibility because I’ll be wrapped with my prose and points in about 400 and be staring at blank white spaces.
from the aveder outfit
IU: Most writers seem to have the opposite problem (laughs), making their points brief and clear enough.
Is there anyone you see in fashion, outside of blogging, that really impresses you? Any brands/designers you’ve really been digging lately?
CG: The folks who do actually are outside of blogging for the most part. But I look at so much stuff so often it’s like tumbling anyway. So I barely remember the persons or sources. I guess I’m too consumed and obsessed by my own world to be impressed by many others.
But I’d say I’m impressed with Jenke-Ahmed Tailly’s style and him just being a dope dude. Also Shala Monroque as well. She’s definitely a super stylish and intelligent woman. But this again could just be my bias as we all had dinner together a few weeks ago.
As far as brands or designers, I barely can afford what I really like so I avoid looking honestly. But I plan to make a more concerted effort with the upcoming fall/winter men’s collections to get the names downs.
IU: Okay, here’s a non-fashion question. Have you made up your mind for who you’re going for in 2012? Do you plan on voting?
CG: Oh dope a politics question. Well this is not as straight-forward an answer as it would seem. For one, I’m not an American citizen as I was born in Jamaica, and am just fine with my permanent resident status. Secondly, if I could vote I more than likely wouldn’t as I don’t believe in the electoral college (as it negatives the utility of it each vote-my vote, esp. in historical red or blue states) chiefly among many other bullshit (read ineffective ) structural facilities of our modern democracy.
But with all that said, fuck it, I’d just vote for Obama. And there goes the typical liberal answer. Still debating whether or not to become a citizen because I bet one of my professors in college that I’d make a killing on eBay if I sold it in protest of the disgusting amount of corporate funding of elections and the ridiculous and obvious conflicts of interest that are rampant. I planned to vote whichever way the highest bidder wanted me to. She was offended haha, I told her that my low sense of Marxist’s false consciousness wouldn’t be affected.
Sorry for that, nerd blackout haha.
IU: Lol I know all about that permanent resident status grind. This is the first election I’ll be able to vote in (age wise, too.) Haha I’m not entirely big on America’s electoral system. I think you were joking with Marx, but I don’t know. All my heroes are Marxist/communist revolutionaries man.
And have you seen my blog lol? You don’t have to worry about nerd blackout.
You don’t give Ron Paul a chance do you?
CG: Yeah, I’ve seen your blog. Was on it recently going through the features and photo analyses. And no, I personally am not giving Ronnie P. a chance. But most of that isn’t even his politics, because I really haven’t gone out of my way to read about what he has to say since the last election because of him not having a sincere chance. Just kind of over politics honestly. I did my due diligence with the last election expecting”hope” and “change we can believe in” and all that garbage rhetoric, but I’ve since learned.
I just simply refuse to be engaged in politics until the system and way we go about doing said politics changes. Because ultimately the illusion of choice between two parties which honestly and pragmatically aren’t very divergent from one another is pointless. Things as a whole rarely, if ever, change and we are perpetually debating the same bullshit. It’s reductive, it insults my intelligence and I rather just focus on my own made up and pointless things lol.