Meet Jason West. His actual title is “Design Director” (fancy, right?) but around the office we just call him “that good looking guy from Florida who designs our apparel.” Whatever you want to call him, Jason has an eye for design and is quick with a quip. After a vigorous game of foosball here at Superbrand HQ, we sat down with Jason to see what makes him tick…
What led you to become an apparel designer?
Given my background as an industrial designer with varied experiences across a number of product categories, I felt that I had a unique voice and could bring something fresh to the apparel category. I call it “sartorial frustration” but one of the biggest factors was a personal failure to find brands that scratched that itch of the perfect product and storytelling.
Throughout my career one of the largest sources of inspiration has been menswear. So even before I started down the road of designing apparel I was vicariously following the arch of a number of menswear brands. Starting out as a more technically driven industrial designer helped sharpen my eye for detail and build my appreciation for precision. The time I spent working on softgoods and accessories gave me tremendous experience working with big brands that had powerful identities like Diesel, Skullcandy, Hurley and Puma. That said, the opportunity to work with Superbrand and bring my design experience to their apparel line was a perfect alignment.
What are your favorite items to design and why?
Boardshorts are definitely the most gratifying from the perspective of being able to make a technical change, put on the sample, test it and feel like we are doing our part in the industry to collectively drive the category forward.
What are the main challenges to designing apparel?
Speed to market, and, currently, the overall climate in our industry. We are always working to clean up our design and development to make sure we are bringing our best product to market at the right time while also leaving margin to work on future innovations.
With regards to the climate of the industry, a good portion of driving new design or innovation is about taking chances. When things are tight everything becomes a little more calculated and risk is overly mitigated. Balancing this is important to both help our retail partners without losing our way of driving new design and innovation.
Regarding boardshorts, what trends are you seeing now?
I think finding that delta of style and function is where the industry has been heading. The ongoing trend of streetwear pulling alongside sportswear has helped make technical functionality that is understated and wearable something to be expected. Specifically in boardshorts we are finding that not everyone wants a neon stretchy supersuit, but on the other hand, some of the most styling shorts lack the functionality we need in the water. Being able to bring that high level of technicality into a piece that has the right style, fit and feel is what we are always working towards. Innovation is paramount but if it’s at the cost of looking like an astronaut or a rodeo clown we aren’t into it.
What were your favorite surf brands growing up and how did/does that influence you?
I was the youngest of four boys so for a long time I didn’t really get a say. I have good memories of my first neon Victory wetsuit, wanting my neighbors Vision skatedeck and as I got a little older, really getting into what Stussy was doing. We’re in that unique spot where what was happening when my generation was growing up has made a complete return. Call it nostalgia, lack of progression, or just the fact that those graphics, prints, and the story telling were just so on point that they still work.
If you were stranded on a desert island with a perfect wave on it and could only pack five Superbrand pieces what would they be? Don’t forget surfboards!
The beauty of this is five items in this scenario almost seems excessive. I’d have one of our short sleeve wovens for those classy Friday night BBQ’s I’d be throwing with my imaginary friends. Two pairs of boardshorts; the Toy X for the passing cruise liner photogs and a pair of Peyote elastic volleys for those happy hour tiki hut hangs. In the water I’d have to have a Fling for the everyday swell and those summer doldrums and a PigDog for some tube time when the swell is there. Honorable mentions would be any of our killer hats to keep me from looking like a shriveled piece of leather satchel and some of our cozy graphic tees to impress the sand crabs and chickens.
What do you think we’ll be wearing in five years? Ten years?
I think less will be more. As much as I wish I was the kind of guy who could stick to a uniform, I’m not, but some level of consolidation and commitment to a tighter individual style will be welcomed. This leads me to believe that versatility of pieces will continue to grow and technical materials will drive innovation. Smart fabrics, dry fabrics (think about surfing in a super soft t-shirt that doesn’t get sopping wet, stretch out and stick to your muffin top) will continue to evolve and get better. Not to mention Superbrand will be the benchmark of both quality and style for surfboards and apparel.
For examples of Jason West’s handiwork, stay tuned for the upcoming Fall 2017 Superbrand apparel collection. We’re stoked on his work and think you will be too!