While Mike Quinones and Matt Davis are far from rookies in the streetwear world, the ongoing joke amongst the two Comune-veterans was that they were perpetual “Runts” in the industry.
“We were always the little guy in the office as far as ownership, yet constantly had to work the hardest and were infinitely more disposable than those above us,” explains Quinones. The term became a nickname between the duo and their larger group of friends, and has now evolved into a full-blown brand: We Are Runts/WAAR.
Davis, WAAR’s VP of sales, and Quinones had long talked of launching their own side project as a departure from their previous work, something they could truly call their own, and the new brand is definitely a fresh take on menswear. The line of domestically made apparel made its debut at this winter’s Capsule trade-show in Las Vegas, and its capsule line will hit stores in late May before the full line drops in July.
We caught up with Quinones, WAAR’s co-owner, brand manager, and creative director, from the Costa Mesa office they share with BROKEN HOMME, to learn more about the new brand, the benefits of producing domestically, and getting picked up by such cutting edge retailers as Black Bird, American Rag, and Redeem.
What’s included in the first line and how would you describe the design aesthetic?
Fall 12 is our first full collection, but we’ve put together a soft launch delivering late summer which consists of knits, swim shorts, and wovens. Our full menswear collection in fall will offer wovens, knits, outerwear, sweaters, fleece, pants, shorts and swim shorts.
Our aesthetic is pretty simple; we love typography, desaturated colors, and a strong consistent visual message. I wouldn’t say we are in the ‘less is more’ ideal, but are more about not over designing and making clutter for the sake of content.
Is the goal to expand to women's and other categories?
We have a few other categories in the works that are new for us, both as a brand and as individuals. It’s nice to branch out and keep learning new crafts, so we are looking forward to the new categories. As far as women, we love them, but plan to stay away from designing for them right now.
Where are you making the product exactly? California and somewhere in Oz?
Our first collection is being produced in the US of A. As the brand matures we will be producing goods in both OZ and the US. We are making the product in a few different areas, mainly Los Angeles, South Carolina, and Chicago. No more overseas development for us thank God.
What's the tie to Oz? I like the idea of leveraging both continents strengths and seasons - plus it's a good excuse to spend more time there!
The trans-seasonal design calendar between the northern US hemisphere and southern AU hemisphere has long been something either overlooked, or only spoken to by large companies with huge or split ranges and licensees.
We have some potential partners in Australia that we are going to work with. The plan is to have them develop a portion of each line that speaks directly to their market, while still merchandising seamlessly into our domestic one, and will be available at the same seasonal time rather then one season behind. It all sounds good on paper, but at the end of the day we feel that the US and AU markets are two of the leading menswear markets in the world, so why not give it a go and combine them both into one range with product that can speak to all seasons simultaneously? I mean, in July/August when Fall ships in the State,s there is a large part of the country that is still 75-plus degrees daily. That’s where the AU contribution to the Fall range can come into play and be sold into those US doors that seek some late summer product. If the US partners don’t pick those styles up, no biggie, they are being produced for AU anyways.
In addition to logistics, what advantages are you seeing in not producing product in Asia?
Working in China is a nightmare, especially for a small brand. We’ve grown tired of that rat race and runaround. Sure, pricing can be cheap, but so can the product. Manufacturing in the US allows a lot more control over quality, something that is really important to us at this stage in life. I think we’ve all seen the production abilities of this country in the last few years and we are proud to be apart of that. Every brand should take a look at how they can contribute to domestic manufacturing. Whether it is simply by producing tees and basics here, or looking into capsule collections with elevated price points. It is important that we boost our apparel and manufacturing industry with US to take some of the reliance off overseas.
How about disadvantages and how do costs compare for you versus Asian made apparel?
It’s a lot more time consuming to produce in the US, but again, that is because of the control of quality. You are able to see each step in the manufacturing of the goods, because you have to facilitate it’s delivery from contractor to contractor. So from fabric, to CMT, to warehousing, you are involved in every step. Costs are obviously increased, but if you are smart with how you run your operations and back end, you can still be somewhat competitive. And again, with increased quality comes increased price, but so does longevity of the product.
Follow the jump to learn who’s carrying the brand and a sneak peek at its first look book…
I'm liking the mantra of “Pro Sulum,” or “For Everyone.” What does that translate to in practice for the brand?
We feel like we are putting RUNTS together “For Everyone,” for all of us that have stuck together and helped each other out in the past years. The initial meaning was based around something that we were putting together for us as employees in past endeavors to try and share ownership, a concept that ultimately never worked out. The mantra has just kind of stuck with us and our group of friends. We are always working “For Everyone” around us, trying to better one another and protect them at the same time. This is a project that we are really pushing to be “For Everyone,” and something that people can relate to.
What are you going to do when you hit it big and aren't Runts?
Haha, RUNTS isn’t just measured by financial success. We will always be RUNTS in someway.
Have you inked deals with any retailers yet? What's your goal as far as distribution channels, key retailers, etc?
We are launching WAAR with ten of the best retailers around the US. A few of these are American Rag, Black Bird, Redeem, and Revolve Clothing.