GROWN UP: Returning home to create

GROWN UP: Returning home to create

The allure of the Maine coast does not discriminate.

With more and more outsiders discovering the beauty of Maine and the culture of Portland, so too are native Mainers returning home. Many leave hoping for a more exciting life someplace new and discover a restlessness that only Maine can satisfy.

“It wasn’t until we both left Maine for college that we felt how strongly connected we were to our home stomping grounds,” said Blair Griffin.

Sisters Hayley Griffin, 28, and Blair Griffin, 25, are quintessentially Maine. They grew up in Cape Elizabeth, are the daughters of a lobsterman and together they created Eklund Griffin.

The brand started as a creative outlet and hobby for Hayley in 2011, who studied graphic and fashion design and has worked creating textile and fashion collections. She sold nautical jewelry and hand-sewn cotton pouches on Etsy.

But Hayley longed to create her own product line and the timing was perfect: Blair was graduating from college in a business and entrepreneurship program. The two became business partners.

Hayley is the force behind the company’s product development and brand image, while Blair focuses on communication and business logistics. While each sister brings her skills to the company, their real strength is in their teamwork. Starting a company ensures there’s no typical day and at every step of the process, they’re working together. They’re best friends.

The brand was officially incorporated in June 2014, with the sisters converting the guest bedroom into office space in the house their father grew up in that summer. And now they’re working on a collection of luxe leather bags inspired by their home and coastal roots.

They have four products that are in the final stage of development. They are going into production this winter and will have products available next summer.

Eventually, the duo envisions building out their brand to include accessories, home products, fashion lines and collaborating with other brands to create new products.

But it’s more than just leather. The sisters also created Sea Salt + Chambray, a blog that serves as the voice behind the Eklund Griffin brand. It’s their way of sharing their inspiration and process from sketch, to production, to final product. Sea Salt + Chambray is the place for them to offer behind the scene sneak peeks of their growing brand, a forum to share their brand ethos, post interviews with fellow creatives, as well as share fun trips and tricks.

“The blog is also where I have my opportunity to be wordy because it won’t all fit on a hangtag,” Blair said. “We have a lot to say about what informs our design decisions and the concepts behind the design.”

And speaking of tags, Eklund Griffin’s tagline is “American Handmade,” driving home the importance of artistry here in the states.

“We both feel strongly about contributing to the economy, and supporting American industry and taking advantage of the amazing skill and craftsmanship that is available to us in our own backyard,” Hayley said.

And from a logical standpoint, it’s easier to communicate with vendors and craftsman that you can drive to or call directly.

“We want to build a company that is based on strong relationships and shared values with all of our partners and we feel like that is easier for us to create within a tighter geographical circle,” said Hayley.

It all comes back to Maine.

“Growing up on the coast, camping on the lakes, lobstering with our father during the summers – we saw and continue to see spectacular and miraculous beauty surrounding us every day,” said Blair. “There is a purity and ether about this place. Maine is everything to us – it’s our color palette, our work ethic, our backdrop, our context, and our support system.”

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