Slowtide has infused artistic direction and design into a taken-for-granted product. We caught up with the brand that was able to transgress the mundane, and aims to “own the towel market”
When thinking of a beach towel, what comes to mind? The average, striped number? The “I-stole-this-from-the-bathroom” type that’s always much too short? Or the out of the box bedsheet? Whatever you’re thinking of, it’s not Slowtide.
Slowtide is intriguing by any measure, but the most obvious has to be the fact that they’ve reinvented the beach towel. The towel brand was able to see beyond the ordinary, and create a product that is infused with the founders’ love for the beach, surfing and artistic expression. Slowtide launched in the fall of 2015, and since then have collaborated with artists, photographers, shops- bringing their vision to life, and they hope, to a beach near you.
Transworld Business talked with Kyle Spencer, Slowtide co-founder and director of operations, about what sets Slowtide apart.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a bit about Slowtide's origins and background. How has the brand's journey progressed since its launch last year?
Slowtide was created by Dario Phillips, Wylie Von Tempsky and myself, Kyle Spencer. After many "Why isn't anybody doing this?" questions to each other, we realized there was an opportunity to disrupt a product category that had been pretty stale for a while. We launched Slowtide in October of 2015 as a side project for all of us and quickly realized we were onto something big. Since our launch, we've been focused on improving our supply chain and product quality as well as sharpening our pricing to help align with our distribution strategy. We're constantly striving to collaborate with our favorite artists, photographers, brands and other personalities. We've brought on an amazing US rep force and partnered with a couple international distributors. We're continuing to expand our product offering in our SS17 collection with different types of towels and blankets as well a range of price points.
For most people, until now a beach towel wasn't a medium that you could use to express your personality. How do you feel about Taking what used to be mundane and elevating it to a place of artistic expression?
You pretty much nailed it! A towel is such an essential accessory in everyone's day to day life, so why not have something fun and exciting that expresses your personality? It's such a perfect canvas for art. It's particularly interesting in a time where fashion has gotten very toned down and simplified; a towel (since you're not wearing it) is an much easier product to rock some more expressive art.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
We're all traveling pretty often, which is a constant inspiration. There's nothing quite like being in new environments and cultures. Surfing, music, friends and family are daily necessities that keep us inspired to create and to keep the hustle alive.
What inspired you to create a towel brand? How did you identify the niche in the market, where others didn't?
The beach and surfing are a part of all of our everyday lives. We'd go to the beach or pools and wonder why everyone had such boring towels. I looked around in some shops and online just to try and buy some cool towels for myself. When I couldn't find anything that I thought was that interesting or cool, I knew there was an opportunity.
There are so many amazing brands out there making great clothing, eyewear and other products. We really wanted to create something unique that there was a need for in the marketplace. A towel is an item that people use everyday, and somehow it just been overlooked and was a pretty uninspiring product category. It was just really ripe for innovation. We really wanted to create a new canvas for artwork.
We love the fact that a towel isn't just limited to one market and to one gender.
Many of your towels are the product of artistic collaborations- how do you choose which artists to collaborate with? How do you think these collaborations represent the soul of the brand?
It's really just been lot of relationships that we've developed over the years. Artists like Mark Oblow and Tyler Spangler, photographers like Nick Lavecchia, and brands like Stussy and What Youth were friends of ours that we thought their art and design aesthetic would look rad on a towel. The collaborations are an important part of the brand and allow us to give artists a new medium to share their work. We're lovers of art and to be able to work with so many talented artist is one of our favorite things we get to do.
What's your take on e-commerce, and third-party retailers? How do you see it affecting how you distribute your products?
Our ecommerce has been an integral part of our business plan and continues to grow. For towels, we're not limited to sizing, genders or seasons so it's a natural fit for the online market. It's a great opportunity and provides valuable insight for a us to have a direct interaction with our customers. We would never try to compete with our retailers by price online.
We've been pretty cautious with third-party retailers so far. There's a plethora of businesses exploring ideas for online retail and we've chatted with our fair share of them. I think there is some opportunity there but our strategy now is to grow our wholesale and vertical ecommerce.
Your blog has a series of pop-up shop posts- you've appeared at the Said Space in Encinitas, and the Kilter shop in Culver City, to name a few. What kind of value do you see in bringing these pop-up shops to life? Can you tell us where you'll be appearing next?
Pop-up shops are a great way to showcase our entire offering and really bring the brand to life. We are working with the new Capsule Beach concept at Platform in Culver City for the month of October and plan on putting together another pop up in Hawaii soon.
What's new for Slowtide in the next 6-12 months? Any collaborations or upcoming products we can look forward to?
Lots! We have a bunch of new collaborations lined up that we're really excited about. Kassia Meador, Push, Life Without Andy and Banks are just a few that we can talk about. Continuing to grow in the non-endemic space is a key focus for us. We're also constantly striving to expand and segment our product offering and really cover the gamut of all the different types, shapes and sizes of towels. We want to own the towel market; plain and simple.