Surf-inspired brand Saturdays NYC started in 2009 with a staunch imperative to chill, selling espresso shots and hosting hang-outs in the storefront backyard. Years later the brand has become a serious fashion player, but the chill has not waned.
When we met with co-founder Morgan Collett at Saturdays’ showroom in New York, a zen glow hovered over him from the previous day, when he watched the sun rise and surfed in Japan with one of his idols, Kohei Chiba.
A hardcore fan of Swedish design who cut his teeth working for Acne and J. Lindeberg, Collett is also still that kid from Newport Beach, California, who got a varsity letter on his high school surf team.
Read on for our interview with Collett to learn how his brand truly represents a culture, how surfing is different in New York versus Cali–and to see images of prototype shoes in Saturdays’ SoHo showroom.
Morgan Collett: I grew up surfing in Newport Beach, in California; it was part of my upbringing from a really early age. From fourth grade on, I was surfing every morning before school. In high school that was our team sport. We’d be up by 5, 5:30; at the beach from 6-10. I was a varsity letterman, which was kind of funny. Nobody had jackets actually. But it was organized; we’d compete against other schools.
Kids don’t do that in New York.
You can’t, unless you live on Long Island. Out here it’s a much more dedicated process to surf. It takes an hour to get to the beach from the city. You have to get dressed in the car. It’s freezing. In the summer, there’s similarities between the West Coast and Montauk, or New Jersey, where it’s hot and everyone’s in the water. But for waves it’s more dependent on storm patterns out here. Hurricane season is the best time. The West Coast has a window of swell year-round. There’s a lot more opportunities to surf. But right now it’s actually great on the East Coast, at this exact moment. We haven’t been surfing here, though; we just got back from Japan. This trip we landed in Tokyo and flew to Shigoku, which is an hour and a half flight. It’s this rad island and some of our friends live there. Incredible waves, super desolate, underdeveloped, quiet. Our friend Kohei Chiba who’s a legend from surf culture back in the ‘60s, from Kauai and Japan, he lives there. It was amazing. All of our travel and experiences get roped into collections we design. Just being there, there was a sense of calmness, and the Japanese style of architecture and interior design is influential to us. Everything is clean and well-done. We’ll look at pictures from the trip and revisit what we saw. To be out there with Kohei and the local crew was super special.
A lot of people who wear Saturdays don’t surf, though.
Right, but the brand is made of a lot of elements. It’s New York City. It’s our retail spaces with the backyard environment. You can wear our board shorts all year if you live in a hot area. Or a crisp collared shirt and chinos. We have a balance, offer a balance. We like to be well-rounded, it’s not just summertime or beach culture. Our magazine is a good example, inspired by music, art, surf history, blended into one issue per year. No advertising. None of our clothes, even. Just straight-up the feeling of what Saturdays is about.
Did you know when you started the company that you wanted to start a cultural entity, not just a clothing company?
It was a pretty quick evolution. We started this–Colin [Tunstall] and Josh [Rosen] and I–six years ago with nothing. Our credit cards and a little money we had saved. Our idea initially was making something we could relate to. We started with a retail store and coffee–and back then coffee hadn’t happened yet in New York. There was Ninth Street espresso, a handful of places. Now that’s a thing. But when we first opened it was about bringing in a community and getting a really good cup of coffee because you literally couldn’t find one in New York. To create that environment was super key for us. Then it was blending retail into that. Then it was a small collection of simple t-shirts. And then that evolved into a capsule collection. Then it was off to the races. We never looked back. We’re always stoked to do something new. Colin came from a publishing background, and he was like, We should do a magazine. So, sure. Two years after we started the company we started that, opening our arms to our family and friends, which is mainly who we highlight, people we find interesting and influence us. Of course we create products and clothing collections, and we’re on that cycle of retail seasons. But I want our customers to know they’re getting ingrained into a whole world.
What has surfing done for your life?
Everything. I’m 31; I still skateboard. Still surf. I pushed it away a little bit in college, when I studied in Florence, Italy, and met these Swedish kids and got into style more seriously. But when I moved back home I fell back in. Surfing and skating have given me life-long friends. It’s what I structure my life around, all my vacations. I mean, I was just in Japan and really had a moment watching the sun rise. I’m here, with these amazing people, and owe everything to surfing.
Why is the brand called Saturdays?
That was literally the first thing that came out of Colin’s mouth. We were sitting on this couch, having as casual a conversation as we’re having now, and he was like, What about Saturdays? At the time we all worked nine-to-fives in offices, working for the weekend. The word resonated with pleasure and we felt everyone could relate.
When you were studying in Florence, what happened between you and fashion?
That was a pivotal moment. I had grown up in Newport Beach, and style and fashion was Volcom, RVCA, Quicksilver, Billabong…that’s it. Which is awesome but that was all I had been exposed to. In Florence, I ended up taking fashion design classes. I was a business major but decided to make that choice; I couldn’t tell you why. I learned about Acne and J. Lindeberg, primarily Swedish fashion, and my friends looked rad and dressed well and I couldn’t even figure it out. My head wasn’t there. But I liked it. I moved back to Orange County, started working in the only boutique in southern California that sold J. Lindeberg, then got a job in L.A. at J. Lindeberg, then was like, I need to be in New York. Moved here still working for J. Lindeberg and the rest is history.
You moved from fan, to retailer, to working for the vendor, infiltrating the business from the ground level.
I was hungry. Personally I didn’t care. Never asked for a raise. As long as I had enough money to eat, I was cool. My job for J. Lindeberg in New York was receptionist. Which was fine by me. Then a mutual friend hooked me up with Acne, as a salesman. Like, OK, sure, let’s do sales. All these things helped my education process. Then we started Saturdays. I wasn’t totally green, but it was like starting from scratch, kind of. Learn as you go.
What are you working on designing now?
Optical. Eyewear. Handmade in Japan, acetate, we’re stoked. The next step is full eyewear and also footwear. Let me show you this shoe. [Goes behind curtain and produces a shoe with a wood insert in the heel; looks great.] See the wood? We’re really happy with it.