Rebel Field Brings a Modern Twist to New England Traditions

rebel fieldRebel Field's signature product is the Freedom Flag, inspired by the hand-stitched banners that predated the stars and stripes.

“This is all new to us,” Rebel Field cofounder Gabrielle Brennan says with a smile.

She’s seated in the sunny Somerville living room of friend and collaborator Jessie Rogers, where the two are taking a break from fulfilling orders from their brand new company to enjoy coffee and croissants. “We’re bootstrapping,” she adds. “We’re building the plane as we’re flying it.”

“Over the water,” Rogers interjects, grinning. “At night.”

The pair of born-and-raised New Englanders launched Rebel Field—an apparel and home goods company inspired by the region’s rich history—just last month.

“We both have a love and a passion for New England,” says Brennan. She grew up in a family steeped in New England traditions; her uncle, for example, made Shaker-style, wicker-backed furniture. “And we both are pseudo-makers, in our own way.”

“Total wannabe, spectator craftspeople,” jokes Rogers, gesturing to a coffee table book of Shaker furniture that rests on the table beside her.

While they love New England and have always eagerly learned about the area, Brennan and Rogers say they don’t necessarily consider themselves makers or even history buffs. They do, however, share a certain rugged individualism, a sense of adventurous confidence that recalls the spirit of early American pioneers.

rebel field

Rebel Field’s wool watch cap (as modeled by cofounder Jessie Rogers). She says she wears it “literally every day.”

Never afraid to set out on their own, they’ve been working together since they were in their early twenties. They founded an entertainment website called Tea Party Boston (back before that was a politically charged term) for which they profiled local musicians, wrote restaurant reviews and more. They eventually moved on to other pursuits—Brennan took an event planning job while Rogers went to work in marketing—until about a year ago, when Brennan heard the call of the wild.

Feeling restless, the Arlington resident quit her corporate job to spend more time with her three-year-old son. Her favorite thing to do was to take him to her favorite historic places in the area, and the duo could often be found running around the battlefield at Lexington or exploring Concord.

“I was super inspired by the imagery and the ethos,” Brennan says. “I was starting out on my own—figuring out what I wanted to do—and I identified with that spirit of independence.”

Specifically, Brennan was inspired by the Continental Flag, a pre-stars and stripes banner that was flown by American forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill. She wanted one that she could hang in her home, but couldn’t find one that was handmade or stitched from quality materials. She thought she’d try to make one herself, which turned out to be a little ambitious.

rebel field

A rendering of the Continental Flag, also known as the flag of New England.

Eventually, Brennan reached out to Chicago-based illustrator Michael Adams to ask if he might help her design a flag inspired by, but slightly different from, the Continental Flag. The result was what would become Rebel Field’s first product: The Freedom Flag. It’s a modern take on that traditional pine tree design made in collaboration with Buffalo’s Oxford Pennant, which prints and stitches banners right here in the U.S.A.

Rebel Field is truly a passion project for this pair, who are excited to be collaborating with one another again. They’re taking their inspiration for their hats, pins and patches from early Americana and folklore, and they’re especially inspired by the role of women in early America. As they ready to launch more products this spring, Rogers says they’re drawing inspiration from gardening and farming traditions. (She’s a huge fan of Mass Audubon.)

They also plan to continue collaborating with artists and illustrators. “That’s what we’re good at,” says Rogers. “We’re good at trying to pull people together.” She sees that as part of the early American spirit, too, a reflection of an earlier time when people often had to work together to succeed or even survive.

That’s part of the reason she and Brennan were excited to launch the business in Somerville, the home of the American flag we fly today, with its own storied past and vibrant community of artists and makers. They hope the company can serve as a jumping off point that inspires others in the community to delve into New England history.

“I love the story of Rebel Field,” Rogers effuses. “That idea of, ‘I want something, and it doesn’t exist, so I’m going to make it.'”

Brennan modestly brushes off her friend’s praise.

“I just wanted a flag,” she laughs.