We sat down with RVCA founder Pat Tenore and Birdwell Creative Director, Natuas Kaupas for an exclusive interview about the vision behind this collaboration.
What was the shared vision for this collab?
NATAS - RVCA has such a great knack for adding creativity and art to thier own product, I was really open to see what RVCA would come up with, and genuinely looking forward to seeing how they would tweak our longstanding Birdwell pieces. For me the shared vision was seeing how we could make the best looking product we would both be proud of and stand behind, that was the goal.
Pat – The shared vision was combining two American apparel pioneers to create a classic collaboration where we could both contribute to a redesign of an American classic product like the boardshort and the jacket.
Who do you see as your primary audience for this capsule (what group of people do you envision being the most stoked on these products)?
NATAS - Maybe a long time Birdwell fan looking for a fresh take on a product that is over half a century old, or a RVCA fan wanting a more classic look and feel to board shorts and jackets. I’m really stoked to see how the younger crew has responded to the collab. I was never really focusing on an audience, I was focusing on the product, kind of a Birdwell thing I guess.
Pat – It was more about the product than the customer. We wanted to work with a great American surfwear brand to create the best product possible that represented the RVCA brand.
Which retailers are you working with to roll this out? Has working together introduced Birdwell and RVCA to new accounts or spaces that you woulnd't have previously touched? If so what has that been like?
Natas - This is all happening on RVCA’s end, so we’ll see what the reaction is once the product gets out there.
Brian Cassaro – We have great accounts like Thalia and Icons of Surf that have embraced the collab and we are excited to be doing business with them now. Jacks and Surfside are also carrying it. In Japan, Ron Herman, United Arrows and Fred Segal have ordered the collection…so we are happy that it has been placed with and embraced by top tier accounts.
Which product from the collaboration are you most excited about sharing?
Natas – I like the whole idea of a genuine collaboration, that’s what I am most excited about. Fusing RVCA’s respectful vision and Birdwell’s history, sewing machines and knowhow.
Pat – The collection is complete…a handbag, a jacket and trunks all crafted from Birdwell materials. Plus, the addition of a high quality towel a trucker and a tee…the entire collection is exciting because it so complete.
Did you learn anything from this process that inspired you to proceed differently with your company in the future?
Not really. We manufacture our board shorts and jackets in our factory, a lot of that isn’t going to change. We did like RVCA’s check pattern, which reinforced some of our thinking of how we can incorporate art into our product, so no real seismic change, we are pretty set in our ways.
Brian Cassaro – Birdwell was really easy to work with…not only on the concepts but with marketing the line and creating the story. And its nice that they are right up the 55 from us.
What piece of advice would you give to emerging companies in our space that are trying to establish themselves for the future?
NATAS – Be clear on your purpose and stick with it. Birdwell has been making a clean looking, durable product since day one. RVCA has supported artists and shown a vision for creativity and performance that has been resonating with people for a while too, so there’s a consistency there that is really helpful. It’s not about never changing, but having a true north to guide future progress and growth.
Pat – Have an original and clear vision and believe in what you are doing.
Any future collabs planned?
NATAS – Ha! We have to recover from this one! Nothing concrete- but we have met a lot of talented people that have been Birdwell fans for a long time, so stay tuned.
Pat – Yes…but we can talk about it now.
What insights have you gained from working with a much older company? What are some of the key business takeaways you've garnered from this?
Pat – I have always respected the Birdwell company and what they stand for. They were great to work with collaboratively because we could put our spin on a historic product and they were very open to our input. So, it wasn’t like we were working with an older company…just one that was like minded and excited to collaborate. And we like the fact that they produce their own product, in their factory, in the United States.
How do you think your product or company culture might be altered had you been founded in your collaboration partner's era, e.g. the 1960's?
Pat – Probably not far from our culture and beliefs today. The positive would have been that it would have been less about marketing and making money and more about making great clothes. The 60’s was a great time for surfing because everything was new and exciting. So, it would have been a much simpler RVCA, but we would still strive to work with strong, polarizing personalities to develop the brand.