Subscribe to Candid Magazine
Tapping into nostalgia with SeaVees
May 28, 2018
Described as ‘The Master of California-cool’ it was no surprise that when SeaVees re-founder Steven Tiller touched down in London, so did the heat.
The forgotten gem of Americana from the 1960s hit the UK with full fanfare just as the mercury began to rise. In the early hours of a busy press day, we sat down with Steven to chat nostalgia and the entrepreneurial spirit. Read on to find out what happened after Steven found a pair of 40-year-old SeaVees in a Tokyo vintage shop over ten years ago.
How has the journey been reviving the brand?
Amazing. I don’t think I ever expected it to be easy. It’s kind of my nature but if there was an easy road and a challenging road, I would always choose the challenging one. I would never have anticipated the difficulty, that it would take so much will and perseverance. The brand has such a great heritage but no one truly remembered it.
If somebody walked into my corner office at my old corporation when I was so disenchanted with the corporate world and offered me a crystal ball into the future of what it would look like if I were to set out on my own… I’m actually glad that I didn’t know what it would look like because I’m not sure I ever would have done it. Not to say that it’s not rewarding or extremely gratifying, it’s great to help with this comeback and to have success.
You relocated and never looked back. Who went?
My two kids, wife and dog all made the journey. We sold our home and our car and headed west to Santa Barbara.
When people hear my story, they assume that I wish I’d done it sooner and that’s not necessarily true. I think that I had the right combination of experience and frustration to muster the courage to really go for it. It’s certainly following your heart and chasing your dreams, but I see that all my previous experiences paid off and everything that preceded this added to the experience. It’s about finding something that you’re passionate about and finding a way to get paid to do what you love.
SeaVees was the first brand to introduce casual sneakers outside of the gym. How has this changed?
When the old brand set up SeaVees it was ‘the new way to go casual’. It was about teaching men how to go smart with trainers, whereas today our responsibility has been flipped. Everyone knows how to do casual. It’s about teaching men how to do the opposite. wearing a sport coat with sneakers and pulling it off with sophistication and class.
What’s the craziest shoe in your range?
We play it really classic – inspired by modern nostalgia from the 1960s, with style. But as far as materials go we take every liberty. We have a collaboration right now with LA-based designer Trina Turk. She does apparel and mines that mid-century Palm Springs vibe. There are lots of florals, palm prints… she’s print crazy!
Besides your current collab with Trina do you have any dream collaborations?
I’m really proud of the first collab we did which was with Pantone. I was researching colour and before I knew it, [I] found myself on the phone with Lisa Herbert – the daughter of Pantone founder, Lawrence Herbert. We were able to get into the archives of 1963 and we reissued the first collection in the original seven shades of the Pantone colour palette, limited to 1963 pairs to honour the year. And that was how we relaunched SeaVees in 2008.
The world is moving at a frenetic pace; outside of the SeaVees line, how important is nostalgia and ‘stepping back’ to you?
In times of unrest we all long for stability and familiarity. If you’re able to go back every single day to 1964 and tap into some of the creative things that were happening then – there’s a reason we always go back – it keeps us grounded… Modern Nostalgia is this movement where young people are looking for some depth, something with soul and SeaVees is a part of that.
What is one luxury you couldn’t live without?
My mobile device… certainly not unique but anything other than that just wouldn’t be true. I’m never too far from it, whether I’m using the Spotify or Netflix apps!
What do you see as the next menswear trend?
We are all just kind of stylists ourselves… and we all just remix our own things. Things that are timeless, mid-century Americana, have truly never gone out of fashion. So, I think that’s the next evolution. I really don’t think people are going to start getting super-dressed up again. Today we furnish entire wedding parties in SeaVees!
Learn more about SeaVees and check out the full range here.
Read more fashion features on Candid.