Photo courtesy of John Segesta

Ed. Note: the Wattie Ink. Streetwear Collection launches today, and we sat down with Wattie Ink. founder Sean Watkins to talk about his creative process, brand development, and how to produce a photo shoot when you're thousands of miles away.

What were you aiming for in terms of feel for this collection?

Our goal was to capture the essence of the brand: on-trend colors, bold but not aggressive lettering. It's taken from street culture and we wanted to bring that feeling into the endurance space, where we don't see as much of that look. That's really my goal with the brand as a whole: bring something edgier to endurance athletes everywhere.

To whom or where did you look for inspiration as you were working on this collection?

I follow a lot of the street brands. In particular, Off-White is a company that I'm really into. I mean, obviously Supreme is one of the first that have gotten there. I also like to follow, I don't know, other designers. I'm a big fan of Louis Vuitton, I'm a big fan of Marc Jacobs, to name just a couple. But I really look at what they're doing in streetwear, because I think what streetwear does the best, is it takes from the runway, brings it to the street, and gives it a unique twist. My goal with it is to be sophisticated but edgy, skate meets surf meets runway. It's a weird combination, but that's what streetwear does. I just want to do it for the endurance space and show people, "hey, you can wear something other than an Ironman finisher t-shirt."

Were you on this shoot and directing it?

I was not, and that was interesting with the Coronavirus pandemic. I'm used to being there for a big shoot, and this was challenging for me. I had to be diligent about building storyboards and directional boards for John Segesta, who shot it. To his credit, he nailed it. It was right in line with everything that I had sent him. And I was nervous because we were working with models I'd only met a few times during Ironman Arizona. Two of them hadn't done any kind of modeling, so I wasn't sure what would happen once John got them in front of the camera. That said, I think the photos tell the rest of the story: they absolute crushed it! But beyond the models, not being present was hard for me.  I wasn't there to say, "Put this on this and have it go with this." There was no art director on site, essentially. But it came out better than I could have imagined.

Wattie's story board for the shoot

One of the resulting proof sheets

That's something we talked about with Rach McBride about the new Super Kitty kit: they backed off from the design process and let their designer do her thing, and it resulted in something they never could have imagined and they loved it.

Exactly. I worked with designer Chris Ybarra to develope the look and feel of the collection. Similar to what you're describing with Rach, he and I kicked ideas back and forth about color and design, and that collaboration provided the driving force behind the collection. 

You've been doing a bunch of brand development work during the pandemic, which has resulted in some collections such as this. Can you tell us what you've learned about the process of developing and nurturing a brand?

I think the biggest thing that has come out of the brand work is that I've been pushed to examine our "Why?" What is different about us and what are we trying to make in the world? Thinking about that and looking at it has clarified for me a lot of the things that we do, and has helped shape collections like the Streetwear Line. I haven't finished thinking about our "Why," but I know it has something to do with empowering athletes, which is what I've always tried to do, going back to the early days of the brand. I want to help people—from beginners to the best in the world—be the absolute best they can be.