American Native Aprons
A few minutes from Fayetteville, Arkansas’ historic town square, Clayton Chamberlain is sewing in his garage, crafting an heirloom quality denim apron. Stich by stich. Rivet by rivet. He’s mild mannered, with a bushy beard and long black hair swept back into a bun atop his head. His eyes smile behind his glasses. Happy to have the company while he works.
“My dad’s very self-made, DIY. He’s a fix-it man because he has to be a fix-it man,” Clayton tells us. Clayton and his brother Bobby grew up an hour away from Fayetteville in Jay, Oklahoma, a farming community where he learned to raise chickens and plant green beans during the long hot summers. I grew up doing things with my hands and fixing things,” he says, with just the slightest hint of a southern accent peeking through. “I’m very similar to my dad. If he grew up in my era, this might be something that he would do. I think he gets it.”
Clayton left Oklahoma to become a graphic designer. “I’ve always been a creative,” he says. At 27 years old, Clayton is young to have such a devoted following for his products. He ships his wares all over the world. A peek into his Instagram feed shows an impressive penchant for artistry. Last week he shipped an apron to Hong Kong.
A few years back, he was working in graphic design, spending a lot of time online researching, when he became fixated on the selvedge denim American-made movement. A back and forth with his brother Bobby ensued and eventually the two developed the concept for American Native during a roadtrip from South Carolina back to Arkansas in the fall of 2011. A few months later the two brothers enrolled in sewing lessons from a local woman and learned how to make a pair of jeans.
“With that class we both constructed a pair of jeans. They’re pretty wanky,” he laughs. “They’re not that wearable for us, but hey, at least we made a pair. Then later we thought we’d subsidize the jeans business by doing some leatherwork.” Ultimately, for the two brothers, the leather work became their main business. Out of this they hit on the idea of crafting aprons, and slowly the brand developed in that direction.
American Native’s design elements are fabulous. No doubt due to the fact that both brothers are uber creative. “I’m driven more by that old school motorcycle era…the café racer crowd,” Clayton confesses. A poster on the wall showing a goggle-clad 1940s racer confirms this. “Jon Contino is a huge inspiration.” American Native sources its raw materials from historic US based leather and denim companies – the leather mainly from Hermann Oak out of St. Louis (since 1881) and Horween in Chicago (since 1905), the denim from Cone Mills out of Greensboro, NC (since 1891).
The American focus is strong. “We’re both from Oklahoma and both have Native American Cherokee blood,” Clayton explains. “It’s all focused on the native heritage and the fact that we’re also native to America.” He looks around at his shop with an intense stare – willing his little company to grow. It may be small, but American Native just may be one of those Arkansas made companies that has lasting power. The kind of brand that’s still going strong 100 years from now. The ‘maker movement’ may be a buzzword right now, but well made goods never go out of style.
MakerAmerican NativeLinkamericannativegoods.comEst2012CategoriesDenim, ApronsLocationFayetteville, AR, USA