Thalia Surf Interview Series Presents: A Sit Down with Seager
We started the week right by sitting down with the boys from Seager at Hidden House coffee in San Juan Capistrano to get a little insight into their brand. Seager has quickly become a common sight in some of the biggest shops along the coast and is co-founded by 4 longtime friends – Elliott Shaw, Case Anderson, Mattson Smith, and Calvin Muusse.
THALIA SURF: Let’s get started with each of your roles at Seager.
MATTSON SMITH: I focus on business development, growth, and I like to look over the finances. I also maintain relationships with our sponsored riders.
ELLIOTT SHAW: I am Co-President. I mainly focus on our overall company goals and making sure we work as a cohesive team. I also oversee our finances as well as accounting.
CALVIN MUUSSE: I am Creative Director, so basically that’s the aesthetics of Seager in every visual form –photo, video, and product design.
CASE ANDERSON: I am the Chief of Operations – overseeing product development, talking with our manufacturers, shops, networking, just making sure everything is running correctly.
How did you guys meet?
CA: Elliott, Calvin, and I went to Capo Valley High School. Elliott and I have been basically best friends since 6th grade. Calvin was a grade above us, and was “the guy” in the film department. He was the guy that brought film and photo to Capo. Then we all separated, kind of, and went to college. Elliott and Mattson met at UCSD sophomore year, and that’s when the idea came about. Elliott called me up at Fullerton and said, “Hey, let’s do this company called Seager.” But we didn’t have any creative minds at all, so we knew we had to bring someone in.
CM: I hadn’t heard that they were doing anything yet, and I remember thinking, “dang, I just wanna like, do a clothing company so I can do photo, video, and design shirts all the time,” and then the next day they called me and told me about the company.
CA: We met consistently once a week for about a year before launching the brand, just talking and molding the company. We all just meshed really well and became really good friends.
ES: People thought we were in a band (laughs). We’re basically like the Beatles
MS: We pretty much followed the path of the Beatles
ES: Exact route, exact route (laughs)
Having 4 opinions must be difficult when it comes to making the big decisions. How do you maintain a balance that leaves everyone happy when it comes to design and the overall structure of the company?
MS: I think from the beginning we’ve always had this idea that if 3 of us liked something then the 4th would have to go along with it, but we really haven’t had to deal with that that much. It’s been pretty smooth so far. We also try to keep off each other’s toes. We gave Calvin and Case the instagram handle and Elliott and I stay off of there. We realized who was good at what and trust each other.
ES: Open communication helps so much, and that’s something that we’ve been good at since the beginning. We all were taught to talk it through if anyone’s bummed out, and I’d say because of that we’ve never had a problem.
You guys recently went on a coastal trip, and it looks like you had a great time. What were some memorable moments from that trip? It was the 4 of you, right?
ES: Plus one other guy, Ben. (He filmed the video)
CM: So that was probably my highlight because usually I have to shoot the photos, shoot the video, and everything else, you know what I mean? And so we brought Ben along so I could actually have fun too.
CA: The trip was basically just us having fun and enjoying our time.
What spots did you go to?
ES: Morro Bay, Pismo, our friend Snacks house
CA: A secret spot along the Central Coast with an ocean lookout too, you could say.
ES: That was definitely the highlight in my mind. It was beautiful. You go off road and through an airbase. Remember they were training? There were full on snipers that we were driving past.
CA: A lot of the stuff we make, like for instance that thermal - we named it the Lockwood thermal because it was a street we passed along the way up there.
What would you say is your favorite piece in the fall line?
ES: The Lockwood thermal. For me especially, it’s a new category that we haven’t gotten to do yet. And it’s something that we’ve talked about for a while and we’ve wanted to do, so I’m stoked on it. I love all our shirts and hats obviously, but whenever there’s a new item, there’s a new excitement to grow and perfect the process in that category.
CA: My favorite item, which could be my favorite item ever, is the Wilson hat that Elliott’s wearing. It’s a hat that I feel we’ve mastered in the functionality of the design and materials. It came out perfectly and we just want to keep remaking it.
MS: I want to say everything, but I think my favorite is the Dorado hat that Case is wearing. I love it because it speaks to me personally. It embodies the brand the most I would say also.
CM: My favorite part of fall was definitely our video. I think we nailed it, and it was the first time I didn’t have anything to do with it, and that was really hard for me to let go of. In terms of product, I think my favorite is the Whiskey Wolf tee. It’s something we’ve never done, so it pushed us in a different direction I think. We’re so good at the simple stuff, so it was fun to get a little weird.
What were your inspirations when making this line? What did you have in mind when you started out with the design?
ES: We always pull from similar concepts in our mind. There’s a certain tone with our stuff, and I feel like we always have the same inspiration going into the design process.
CA: When we started we would say, “That’s not grunge enough” because that's our goal. We don’t want to make a “classic surf tee” - we want it to be grungey where it represents the old west better.
CM: We look at a lot of vintage signs, posters, and patches. Gas station signs and military labels. All kinds of weird stuff. And that’s where a lot of our color combinations come from as well.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a brand with their friends?
ES: Everyone and their brother seems to be coming out with a brand, and that’s what was always the weird part about it in the beginning. When you first start and it’s the feeling of telling people “yeah we’re starting a brand even though every one is and wants to.” Sticking with good friends too makes it easy. When things get tough, it’s nice having good people to rely on.
CM: I think there’s a humility aspect to it. We see some other people who are really cocky about their brands, and we are really small and try not to be like that guy. Knowing where you are is really important.
CA: We don’t like pretending we’re bigger than we are. We like that we’re just 4 guys that don’t even have an office yet (laughs).
MS: My biggest advice would be to start whatever brand while you’re still in college - while you’re young and have the time. Looking back on it now, it scares me to think if I had to start something again. It’s a lot of promotional stuff, a lot of networking. It’s not easy to start a brand, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s hard so you gotta stick with it.
What can we expect from you guys in 2018?
ES: Honestly, it’s hard to think specifically because of the stage that we’re at in the business. We’re still in a reactionary phase where an opportunity will arise, we assess if it’s something we’re able to align with, and then move from there. We obviously have numbers that we’d like to hit, or stores we’d like to be in, but it’s all in flux because it could go higher or lower.
MS: I would say, expect big things. (laughs)
ES: Yes, it definitely feels like that for sure.
MS: We’ve never ever had an office space where we can all meet all the time, and we’re about to get that in December. So in 2018 we will be able to see each other every single day and work on things. Whereas before we would see each other once a week, at most. So expect big things.
You can find Seager's products by clicking here.
words by Jackie Bowles // black and white photos by Thomas Green // color photos provided by Seager