The tower blocks on the Meriden Estate or a car park on the ring road may not immediately stand out as potential designs for t-shirts but two former Watford Grammar School for Boys pupils are using the town’s sights and nostalgic memories as inspiration for their clothing brand.

Made in Watford was launched by Sean Tidy and Graeme Collette in October, two friends for more than 30 years who first got to know each other on the W9 bus they used to catch from Bushey to get to school.

From its inception, the pair were clear Made in Watford would be inspired by what it means and meant to grow up and live in the area.

Sean, who runs a web and graphic design studio in Berkhamsted and has been producing merchandise for some of the world’s leading music acts including Elton John and Metallica for the past decade, had been working on some ideas to reflect the town he grew up when he approached Graeme about the idea.

Graeme, whose background is in media production and advertising, smiled: “Everything I’ve ever done has been involved with deadlines, rules and fixed formats whereas what Sean does allows a lot more creativity. This is kind of my chance to let the stabilisers off which is good for me.”

The Meriden Estate tower blocks

The design inspired by the Meriden Estate tower blocks

One of the first designs they worked on together was ‘Cassio’ which Sean is wearing in the picture below in front of the iconic Cassiobury Park tree that inspired it.

Gareme said: “The story of Cassio was Sean was thinking of doing this retro, travellers, Americana kind of design and I said what about the tree in Cassiobury Park?

“I reckon within half-an-hour of that the base design was back with me, but the wording underneath took us three days to come with. That’s mad when you think it just says Cassio, but we had so many different versions.

“We want people in Watford to look at it and know exactly what it is but without it being too limited to just being a Watford thing. It’s finding that nuance where if you know, you know, that’s one thing we like to work on, but without it being too in your face. So we spend a lot of time getting those little subtleties just right.”

As well as using the buildings and places in and around town as inspiration – Whippendell Woods and the blue glass pyramid in the High Street also feature on t-shirt designs – the pair also draw on suggestions they receive from the public.

The monkey that used to swing in the window of Gordon Scott’s shoe shop is one idea that keeps being floated by the pair, so is Watford Springs and also the town centre nightclub in its various incarnations like Paradise Lost and Kudos.

Whippendell Woods

Whippendell Woods inspired this design

“If one of us says something and the other one immediately shouts yes then we know that we’ve got something,” Graeme said. “It has to strike that right element of nostalgia that we feel people can relate to and be wearable as well.

“Who would have thought you could make the Grand Union Canal look like a Japanese river but we’ve done it. We took the elements of Cassiobury Park – the bandstand, the herons, the tree - and made that look like a Japanese garden as well.

“It’s being able to see what’s around you, know that people will get excited and relate to it and present it in a fashion that people want to wear on a t-shirt or a hood.”

Sean admitted he went through a phase in his late 20s when he couldn’t get away from Watford “but then you come back.

“You love where you come from and a lot of the people that are buying aren’t from Watford anymore. They’re going all over the world, or they’re going up north, or France or to Wales and places, but people really love where they come from.”

A selection of the pairs other Watford-inspired designs

The blue Blockbuster pyramid

Graeme added: “The ex-pat thing is crazy. We’ve sent stuff out to Hong Kong, Australia, New York, LA and the Caribbean, that’s blown my mind, but when you think about it they’re probably the people that want the reminiscence of home as much as anybody that’s living within the town at the moment.”

Although the business has been trading for less than six months, Sean and Graeme are looking to the future. They want Made in Watford to grow and evolve but not to the point where it loses touch with the reasons it was originally set up.

Sean said: “I’d really like it to carry on what it’s doing and branching out a bit. We could start reaching St Albans or Rickmansworth. It would be nice if I could spend a day a week working on it and it became part of my income, that’s where I would like it to grow to and just touching more people.

“Everything seems to make people smile and we get a lot of really positive feedback. It’s a nice collaboration between us and the people of Watford because they do give back, they do send us messages.”

Graeme added: “I love it when if we post a design and then people see it and they tag their friends in it, so you know you’re hitting that right note.

“I think both of us want to keep it so it feels genuine, we don’t ever want it to get to the point where it’s cynical and we’re just churning out generic stuff just for the sake of it.”