In London for his pop-up with Basement family, Dukes Cupboard, we sit down with sneaker stalwart and creative polymath Sean Wotherspoon to talk about, well, all of it.
Picture it. It’s March 2018. Maybe it’s sunny, maybe it’s not (I’m too lazy to look it up). Drake’s somewhere in the background sharing “God’s Plan”. We’re riding the boundary-breaking high of Black Panther as it becomes the 5th film in the Marvel franchise to gross $1billion at the box office. The PTSD from seeing that obnoxious Supreme x LV monogram everywhere is starting to wear off and ALYX is yet to change names to some unnecessary GPS coordinates. Life is good.
But for Sean Wotherspoon? For Sean Wotherspoon life is great. His now canonised Air Max 1/97 with Nike is about to drop and catapult him into the sneaker hall of fame and cement him as a cornerstone of global streetwear and sneaker culture. His duo of Round Two consignment stores on the US coasts are going from strength to strength. It’s definitely sunny where he is. All in all? Issa vibe.
Although that was the last time Nike really did something for Air Max Day, Sean has impressively ridden those rainbow corduroy waves since, spinning his success in Nike’s ‘Vote Forward: Revolutionairs’ competition into a global portfolio of high-profile sneaker collaborations with successive brands including Asics and Adidas; a growing empire of Round Two stores across the states; an upcoming Porsche partnership; and another project of his own under the moniker The Car Company. But what makes a Wotherspoon? Is it talent? Viral fame? A single-minded focus on the bag? Ahead of his pop-up with Dukes Cupboard for The Car Company and Wotherspoon Designs, we got familiar with the man himself to find out that the answer is relatively simple: love what you do and just fucking do it, no matter what.
First up Sean, what brings you to London?
I’m in town doing a pop-up at Dukes Cupboard with Milo and Ned and all the guys here. I was traveling to Germany doing a project with Porsche and I was like, ‘man, instead of coming back to the US, let me see if I can plan something in London.’ So we hit Milo up a month or two ago, planned the whole thing out, shipped out our products: The Car Company gear and some custom Wotherspoon Design stuff. And here we are, open today until 12th March.
When you're in town, do you notice a difference between the streetwear scene here versus in the States?
Yeah, I think there’s a big difference. I mean, just speaking to the vintage world, there’s a lot of differences in what the customers are buying and what gets people excited. But also, for every difference there’s a similarity. It’s pretty cool. I feel like with the growth of the digital world and social media we’re all just becoming one big circle. Continuously coming together more. It’s nice coming out here and talking with the guys at Dukes to see what’s selling best, telling them what’s selling best over in the US, and then kind of tailoring our stores that way. We get a lot of customers from London in Round Two, you know? So it’s nice to have some pieces in our store that they’re like, ‘oh, shit, we’re hyped on this!’
The US is so much more vast geographically – do you notice a difference even between the two coasts in terms of what products and brands the clientele fuck with at Round Two?
Yeah! We have two stores in LA, two stores in New York, two stores in Chicago and then one store in Miami, and we see a lot of differences. I would say the New York store and the East Coast is a little bit more similar to London style. The West Coast is just completely different. People are looking for more surf/skate, you know? Sunny weather type stuff, so we curate the stores a little differently.
Round Two is where it all started for you. What was the OG vision?
We never knew it would become as big as it is, but we just didn’t really want to work for anyone else so were like, ‘let’s just start a store!’ It was cheap then, you know? All the stuff was from thrift stores or personal collections. It was just a fun way for us to work with our friends and not have to listen to somebody else. So yeah, that was really our goal: to be happy and make a little bit of money on the side, and it just ended up growing so much. We opened in like 2012, 2013? Shit, I think we might be 10 years old this year.
Same age as The Basement! What are some of the biggest struggles you've had over the years?
Honestly? Just learning to run a business, man. We’re still learning. It’s really tough actually, like, there’s just so much that goes into it. It’s so much more than just putting cool stuff in the store, you know? There’s so much legal stuff and financial stuff – stuff you don’t really think about. I didn’t go to college, actually, so I think there’s a lot of that stuff I’m just not super educated on. That’s been a big hurdle for us, but it’s just been about finding the right people to take care of us in those areas.
So you've worked with everyone from Nike on the Air Max to Asics, and now the Super Earth project with Adidas. Porsche collab coming up soon too! What do you kind of look for in a collaborator?
I look for someone that’s going to give me some freedom to push boundaries. I like when a brand just seems like they’re open to listening; I like seeing change happen in the moment, and I want it to be fun. I look for the chance to tell an organic story that’s authentic to me, so I try to have some kind of connection to the brand.
Which of your collaborations do you think you've gotten the most out of creatively?
Adidas, for sure. I mean, they’ve let me do so many sneakers with them already and this EQT I’m wearing now is coming up soon. They very rarely tell me no on a call, and to me that’s super important.
Back to the iconic AM1/97s. Did you think they would blow up like they did?
Not really. People kind of hated on them at first. There were, like, a lot of negative opinions about it, but then they kind of warmed up to it. I mean, you just never know what’s going to pop off, and that keeps me excited too. It’s why I keep designing, because I’m like, ‘alright,’ you know, ‘when’s the next one? When am I gonna have my next Air Max 1/97?’ It’s fun, dude.
Is there anything about the design you would change now, looking back?
Nah, I think they’re perfect. They’re perfect. They represented all my friends opinions, who helped me with them. And they represented a lot of my journey and my life at the time. I think they beautifully mark a moment in time.
Let's talk about Porsche. How did that come about?
Man, it’s like my dream project to be honest with you. We’re actually doing another post today that reveals even more of the car. I’m really fucking hyped; it’s a dream come true. I pushed a lot of boundaries with them. This is the first project ever where all their teams have actually worked on one singular build. It’s actually really nuts – shout out to Porsche, straight up. We’ve had some tough meetings, you know, trying to all get on the same page, but we’ve pushed through and what we’ve created is fucking insane. How did it come about? Through Daniel Arsham, actually. He added me to his Porsche event in Los Angeles and I met some people from the team and we stayed in contact. It’s the power of keeping friendships and having those mutually beneficial relationships.
Yeah, massively. Have you always been equal parts into cars, sneakers and streetwear?
Yeah. I feel pretty lucky because I grew up in a really diverse group of friends; tons of different races, religions, and cultures made up my closest friends, so we were actually into everything. We were into art, we were into music, we were into sports, skateboarding, cars, you name it. We were into it all: camping, adventuring. We had a lot of freedom when we were younger and we explored everything. That’s what makes me up: if there’s 100% of me, it’s like 10% Music, 10% design and architecture, 10% is sneakerhead, 10% is cars. You know what I mean?
Now you've got The Car Club, which is what the pop-up here at Dukes is focused on. How did that come about?
Speaking to those interests, I’m always looking for a way to show the world ‘hey, this is something I’m into!’ Like skateboarding for me, dude. It’s such a big part of my life, and I’ll do a post of me skating and people are like, ‘I didn’t know you skated!’ That’s crazy to me. I feel like it’s obvious – if you look at me you should know I can skate, right? So I try to upload footage here and there to [let people know] that this is what I grew up doing. The Car Company was another way for me to show people what I’m passionate about. I would try to represent car-inspired design references in my projects, but it was tough. So I was like, ‘I’m just gonna start The Car Company: collect vintage car stuff, design vintage car inspired gear, and that’s how I’m going to show people my love and interest for cars.’
Last questions, and they're big ones. Straight from The Basement Facebook group: is texting cheating?
Is texting cheating? I’d say not necessarily. It depends what you’re talking about.
Are there more wheels or doors in the world?
It’s got to be wheels, right? Yeah, wheels. Definitely wheels.
- 8 minute read