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5 Minutes with Tyler Way of Sebago

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tylerway-presenting Following the launch of Sebago at size? we caught up with Tyler Way, Men's Product Designer, to explain more about the brand and his time working there. Can you tell us a little about your background and time at Sebago? I started in footwear by custom-designing sneakers out of my dorm room in college. During Christmas break, I networked my way into an NBA arena and was able to introduce myself to the players after the games, which jump-started my small business of creating high-end custom sneakers for professional athletes, including Chris Paul and LeBron James. During this time, I learned the importance of being able to tell a story through the details of a shoe. A couple years later, I discovered that Sebago’s parent company, Wolverine Worldwide, Inc., was headquartered in Rockford, Michigan, which wasn’t far from where I was living (and still live) in Grand Rapids. Wolverine Worldwide had just opened a small boutique shop near my art studio. I spent so much time visiting the store that the manager asked if I wanted a part-time job working there 1-2 days a week. I knew I wanted to evolve myself and my work, so a few months after I started working in their store, I was able to get my portfolio in front of the Design Director at Sebago. Soon after he brought me on for a few projects, and over three years later, here we are now. What was the first project you worked on? The first project I ever worked on was a Chukka boot as part of the Nantucket collection. It only sold for one season in Fall 2013, but being that it was my first, it meant a lot to me. I even have a sketch of it hanging in my house as a humble reminder. What considerations do you take into your design approach?  Much of our design process is a balance of being aware of the current market trends and analyzing the forecasted trends while still staying true to our brand heritage. Every season we begin with Product Briefs, which outline the needs for that season’s product line. From there, we compile and pull inspiration from all around us that helps create our theme for the season. Once our seasonal theme is set, then we focus on each package of shoes. As we sketch, we visual the end-consumer, analyze their lifestyle and their needs and wants, what wearing occasion and style of outfits they would wear, and so on. sebago-sketching-productbriefs Do you look through the back catalogues for influences? We have a stack of old, weathered and worn product catalogs in our design workroom that we reference and thumb-through every season. We especially pulled influence from our past for 2016 as it will mark the brand’s 70th Anniversary. What interests do you have outside your role and do they influence your work? I love design, from footwear and fashion to furniture and interiors and everything else in between. Those influences always play a role of inspiration into design work in a variety of ways. I also appreciate the ability to tell stories through design. Within each seasonal Sebago collection, we build different stories through color, materials, construction-types, wearing occasions, etc. Are there any new materials or updated features you’ve incorporated into the shoes? Each season we select a handful of different materials that include some of the best leathers around the world, washed and dyed textiles, and more recently, even some a bit more tech-inspired. For example, in Spring 2015, we introduced Sebago Ariaprene Docksides, which utilize a breathable neoprene-like material on the upper of a timeless Docksides pattern and outsole unit. Being such a heritage-rich brand, we have the ability to update classic patterns through material and color, which is always a challenge we enjoy tackling each season. How long in does the whole process take from pitching an idea to construction of the shoe? Typically, it’s about an 18-month process from when we first begin working on a season up until the shoes are available in-store and online, but we’re always working on certain projects that might require shorter turn-around times to make it into a season. There’s a mixture of long-term planning and development each season, but then there’s usually always some last-minute adds as well, which keeps things interesting. sebago-factory-workroom Has a design ever been changed through feedback? There is rarely a shoe that makes it through the entire development process without being changed or altered in some way, for better or for worse. As a brand sold all over the world, we have multiple milestone meetings throughout the development cycle that enables our international partners to see and work with the protos and samples. We are always open to their feedback so that we can provide the best product to fit within their markets, which may lead to some level of change whether it’s minor or a whole redesign. Tell us a little about the Jobson silhouette? The Jobson model is a shoe pulled directly from our archives from the 1980’s. They were a genuine collaboration (long before there were collaborations like the industry is flooded with today) with world-class sailor, Gary Jobson. Over the past couple seasons, our UK team continued to get requests for Sebago to bring the Jobson’s back, so here they are in their authentic, original form. $_3 How much does the end retail cost come in to your thought process when designing a shoe? Before we even begin sketching, the end retail cost is determined in the Product Brief. There are a few special projects that cost may be flexible if we are using a very special material or particular technology, but overall we build the line to coordinate with our customers and their needs. What’s next for Sebago and how do you keep your heritage but keep moving things forward? This year marks Sebago’s 70th Anniversary from when the brand first began in Maine, USA. We’re able to build upon our heritage by creating what we like to call, “modern classics,” which utilizes the same hand-crafted techniques we’ve become known for but with a thoughtful, modern twist of color, material, design details, and/or technology. Over the past couple seasons, we’ve really focused on making some of our classic styles even more comfortable by adding Ortholite memory foam in our footbeds as well as specific EVA formulas into some of our outsole units. At the end of the day, our goal is, “form-meets-function.” We believe that’s what our customers need and want from Sebago -- timeless classics that meet their needs for daily wear, both on and off the boat. sebago-factory-lasting Sebago's latest Collection, including the Jobson, Dockside and Campside, are now available online and in selected size? stores.

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