In conversation with Saturdays NYC
I spoke to Saturdays NYC founders Colin Tunstall and Morgan Collett for David Jones, about style, surfing, and the brand's journey so far.
Saturdays NYC has achieved cult status in the world of fashion – but it didn’t start with clothing, it began with culture. Founded in 2009, the menswear label was created to fuse the freedom of sport and leisure with an aesthetic that reflected New York City style.
The result is a brand that seamlessly combines the comfort of active wear with the design sensibilities of high fashion. Soon after opening their first boutique – a Soho space that maintains a chilled, clubhouse vibe – a cult following of Saturdays began to form.
Today, men and women alike continue to fall for the brand, attracted not only to its designs but also to its attitude, and the liberated lifestyle that the clothing represents.
KATHRYN CARTER: Where was the gap in the market for creating Saturdays NYC? What does it
bring to the modern man’s wardrobe?
COLIN TUNSTALL: That’s why we started, we saw a gap. We chose to live in New York City, but on the weekends we were hanging out, surfing, skating, snowboarding… and we thought, there’s a way to connect, not necessarily the sport essence of it, but the feeling that you get, the freedom of activity. So we wanted to bridge that gap, to be able to find a place where we could talk to both aspects. We were following brands that had a different aesthetic and seasonal approach, [things] that we weren’t seeing in sport brands that were more focused on the surf, skate and snow industries. We saw that gap and we wanted to be able to talk to it.
[At the time] there were a lot of people living and working in New York for what it had to offer – culture, style, finance – but they also didn’t really participate in it. So Saturdays NYC is kind of a clubhouse where we serve coffee, where people can come and hang out and [talk about] snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing.
KC: What are some items of clothing you never travel without?
MORGAN COLLETT: I’d definitely say our chino pants… you can wear them casually or you can dress them up which is super nice. I’d also probably say our Crosby denim shirt, it’s a stone-wash classic, so it’s always really good to travel with.
KC: If you had to sum up the Saturdays NYC aesthetic in three words, what would they be?
MC: It’s a tough one, because it’s such a dense collection. But I think diversity, consistency and quality are some really important words for us. We always put a lot of focus into making sure that our production and the quality of each garment is continuing to elevate.
KC: When designing new collections, how involved are you in the process day-to-day?
CT: We have a head designer who spearheads the look of each collection. With our spring ’17 collection, his wife was working in pottery, so he went to visit her in her studio and noticed that there was dye on a lot of materials, and it looked really nice. So he tested out dying some of the sweats in clay water, and it gave them a pinkish, salmon clay colour and that got his wheels turning. And for Mr Porter, our designer kinds of looks at our lives and notices certain things… so it feels like there’s a story behind it.
KC: Your clothing is a representation of how you yourselves dress and feel. Do you think this brings a level of honestly and authenticity to the label that other brands might not necessarily have?
MC: From the beginning, this brand was spawned out of dialogue and mutual interests; there was no focus on financial gain. A few months after starting the brand we quit our jobs and worked full time on the concept and in the store, and it was about three years before we could pay ourselves any money, so we’d have to work at night. But we were so stoked with the concept and idea, it was so true to who we were as individuals, and that came into the
CT: We don’t have any outside investors pushing us to do anything. So everything has been does that feel right? Does that feel right? [At the start] there was no business plan, it was more like building spirit.
KC: Why was it so important to you to create a lifestyle brand, as opposed to just sticking
MC: To be honest, the apparel was second. When we first opened we really wanted to create a community, and a space where people were stoked to spend time, and that happened quite quickly and organically, which is really cool. That’s what we try and do in all of our spaces around the world.
KC: Tell us about the Saturdays NYC magazine and how that came about?
CT: I always really wanted to do a magazine. I worked for a lot of different publications, and you’re given [only] a couple of pages to put all this information in, and you find yourself editing out all this stuff that you thought was great. So I wanted to do something where I could give everything the right of amount of space. [With the Saturdays NYC Magazine] there’s no advertising, and we can do whatever we want.
The idea of the magazine was [to show] ‘how are we different to everybody else?’ Where are we coming from? So we use the magazine to build that edit of these different notes, and we put them together to kind of create this different kind of music. So it’s not just surfing, it’s not just fashion – these are just some of the notes. We try to put people you would never usually see side-by-side together, to kind of create our [brand] story. So you could have Jonny (Johansson) from Acne Studios next to Francis Coppola next to a surf blogger, next to a chef who started a pizza place in New York. So it’s a real interesting mix of people, packaged together.
KC: Your Crosby shirt is one of the brand’s most classic pieces. What do you think it is about this particular style that men (and women) love so much?
MC: It’s just a really classic denim shirt…you can wear it open with a white t-shirt, there’s so many ways to incorporate it into your wardrobe. It’s a really nice staple piece. And also we put a lot of effort into fabric selection and making sure that we find the right suppliers. Finding the right kind of mill and supplier, is super important for us.
KC: Your brand was born and bred in New York City. Why do you think the Saturdays NYC style fits in so seamlessly in Australia?
MC: As we started to build the brand, there were certain countries that we started to gain traction with, and Japan and Australia were the two larger ones. And a lot of our friends are Australians, so there’s also a personal relationship to Australia [too]. Then the first time we came to visit we just clicked really well. Just [with] the people, the culture,
[and] obviously the country itself. And our interest in expanding into different countries and cities isn’t because “oh we could make a lot of money in this state or this place” it’s like “this culture and this community feels like a part of the brand” so it’s more like a natural evolution. The beautiful thing about New York is that it’s this global city of people from all over the world, and that was part of the reason why we wanted to create something that could be open to every diverse group of people in the city.
This interview was first published on David Jones's JONES blog.