Fashion design is much more than a notebook sketch you wish to see on a T-shirt – just ask STRATA Clothing. The Mayport-based apparel house has become one of the more recognizable brands in Jacksonville fashion.

Perhaps you’ve noticed their blacked-out van, featuring a king chess-piece vinyl, cruising beachside. Maybe you’re familiar with a member of their team, which consists of local surfers, skateboarders and artists. And while you didn’t survive it, there certainly exists photographic evidence of your attendance at their annual Florida-Georgia tailgate. Although relatively young, STRATA has forged a distinguishable foundation in the Jacksonville community, with plans to only expand its design, production and presence.

The company’s founders, Jason and Jerry Rodriguez, are two strongly knit brothers who have fashion and business stitched into their genes. The Rodriguez family hails from Peru, where their grandmother had her own clothing line and their grandfather owned the business in charge of her line’s distribution.

In 2009, Jerry conceived the name “STRATA,” aiming to provide forward-thinking clothing for your outmost layer. One year later, Jason booked a one-way flight to Peru, where he spent six months exploring design, fabrics and clothing production. It was then and there that STRATA began on its individualizing direction.

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A unique creative process is key to any brand with hopes of succeeding in the apparel marketplace. Jason cites his actual transportation and lodging for his yearly trips to Peru as early inspirations behind STRATA’s designs.

“I actually built lines from the second I left Florida, to when I arrived in Peru. I’d see what people were wearing in the airports and on the plane,” he said, adding once in Peru, his accommodations supplied even further influence for the company’s designs. “I’d stay in my buddy’s hostel – where I met a lot of people from different countries, mainly Australians and Europeans.”

It was there that Jason first observed longer, scoop-necked T-shirts – a style and fit that remains present in STRATA’s clothing, today.

One of the major fabrics that STRATA works with is Pima Cotton, a superior blend of cotton, noted for its durability and softness. Brands like Ralph Lauren, Lacoste and Armani also source this textile for their clothing, and Peru is one of the few places on the planet where this high-grade cotton is grown.

“Design is the method to all madness. It can be an organization of visual elements, the composition of a photograph or painting, the structure of a building and the space within it, the shirt you are currently wearing and even this magazine and the layout of words you’re reading right now. Design is a beautiful marriage between form and functionality, and it is literally… everything around you. – Matthew Obrero, STRATA Art & Design Director

Raw denim is a naturally vintage-appearing material that STRATA has incorporated in their jeans since day one, although they are now beginning to focus on the use of more lightweight denim. “The sales in denim in the whole U.S. have gone down,” said Jason, while sporting a slim cut, yet loose-looking pair of camouflage pants.

The fashion-forward cofounder explained that these are “jogger pants” – sharp, casual bottoms that have hit California and are now making their way toward the East Coast. “People notice the cut on them, and the fit is on point,” he said. “They’re something that will definitely be in our upcoming lines.”

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One the most-prized aspects of STRATA’s design process is the coordinating of colorways for their tops collection. STRATA favors both uncommon and pastel colors, which they successfully matched in split-tone tank tops and pocket tees. The brand’s artists have contributed T-shirt graphics that divergently cater to holidays, and you can definitely expect threads influenced by the Jacksonville Jaguars in their holiday collection, which premieres this fall.

STRATA Clothing is successfully introducing trends to an increasingly radical clothing market in the Southeast. With an eye on California, a needle in Peru and an expanding distributor list up and down the East Coast, consumers and tastemakers can expect progressive, seemly wearables from our city’s most identifiable clothing brand, for many seasons to come.