Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oak + Oar | Interview

What’s your name and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chris Watchorn. I’m a University of Manitoba Graphic Design grad who was fortunate enough to get an internship opportunity with New York based company 3sixteen following completion of my Honors Degree. The internship confirmed my passion for design and allowed me the opportunity to get some hands on training in all aspects of running a successful business. From there I decided to move back to Winnipeg and start Oak + Oar alongside my full time job as a designer/product developer at FXR Racing (action sports outerwear).

What is Oak + Oar?

Oak + Oar is a creative outlet for me built around graphic tees and fleece. The name in particular stems from a failed outing on the lake with an unpredictable 9.9 Evinrude. I won’t bore you with the whole story but it’s on the blog if people want to check it out.

Oak + Oar also serves as a platform to put forth some of the stories, music and products that I am inspired or interested in. One of the highlights for me this past year was our Homegrown video series that I put together with friends of mine at Nice!Productions. I encourage people to check it out on the website.

Where and what does the inspiration come from?

Pretty much everything in the collection has come to fruition during weekends spent at our family cottage in the Whiteshell out on the deck or the water. With that said I draw inspiration from just about everything. From the creative people I surround myself with to the photos you guys post on Instagram.  I like to think inspiration can come from even the routine and mundane.

Before doing Oak + Oar, did you gain experience or knowledge from other activities and projects?

I have never been one to be content with just sitting still and always like to have some sort of project on the go. For me it started with a charity event called Face Off for a Cure. Essentially an event I planned where a crew of us raised money for the Canadian Cancer Society while temporarily securing a spot in the Guinness World Record book for longest street hockey game.  This led to an art show I put on in association with Vans called the 1 of 1 Project, which raised money for the Children’s Hospital of Manitoba and featured the likes of Mark Dean Veca, Blaine Fontana and Phil Annand.

But of all the experiences I would say the most influential stemmed from having the opportunity to interview a couple of the industries most respected which included Ben Shenassafar and Bobby Kim (The Hundreds), Benny Gold and Greg Rivera (Mishka) for a University assignment. It was during my interview with Greg at Magic that I met Johan and Andrew, owners of 3sixteen and Self Edge New York, who let me tag around with them for the weekend before offering me the opportunity to work with them for a 6-month internship in their New York office.

One of our contributors (Brennan), used to follow your old blog “The Life After Midnight” which is now the name of Fall/Winter 2012 line-up. What does that mean to you and how does it relate to the clothing that you put out?

Thanks Brennan. I started that blog the night I interviewed Bobby Kim. I got back to my hotel and started transcribing the interview for my class on the Monday. As I began, I started to research the people and brands he mentioned in his interview and realized my knowledge of art and clothing was only the surface. Through the blog I began documenting the products and people as a visual record of the stuff I was inspired by.

I always wanted to build a collection around this theme though. For me personally the hours after Midnight are always the most productive for me. It’s the time when I can focus on my creativity a bit more freely. The best stuff and ideas for me always come after midnight. The theme seemed to be a no brainer transitioned into lake life. The hours after midnight always seem to be the hours when people let their true colours and personalities show, which in turn seem to generate the best stories and memories.  

What are your favourite pieces from this current collection?  

I don’t know if I have a one specific favourite. I am a big hoodie guy (sorry bunny hug), so I would say the Life After Midnight hood. It was penned by our homie Sergey Shapiro who is one of the most talent typographers/calligraphers I have ever seen. I definitely take pride in the quality and fit of our hoodies. That and I was really stoked on the pocket tees and the tonal Oak + Oar stuff.

What can we expect to see in the upcoming collection?

I kind of take it in stride. The nice thing about just selling primarily through the online store is I can really leave it to last second and create pieces I am really into at that specific time instead of designing product a year in advance and trying to forecast what I might be into in a years time. This summer though I think I will take cues from everyone’s favourite cabin pastime…and no it’s not drinking.

I have heard that you donate some of the profits to organizations, who have you guys been involved with in the past?

 I understand that people can spend their hard earned money on a million different things and support hundreds of other brands. So when people decide to support Oak + Oar it only seems right to further extend this support to something greater then a t-shirt. This year I partnered with and cut a cheque for the Masicgine Children’s Home in South Africa. I had the opportunity to spend a couple weeks there and it seemed like a very fitting first partnership. They do incredible work. I am still looking into options for this year but I am leaning towards taking the proceeds and invest them directly back into the local community. Not sure how this will look quite yet but have some ideas.

It must make you proud seeing people support the things you put out and I don’t know if our readers have seen but “The Life After Midnight” Fall/Winter 2012 was posted on Complex. How did you manage to get on their website?

That’s just one of those lucky things I guess. I sent out a couple press releases and had a few sites post it. I am always reading Complex Fashion blog and Matt Welty always has his finger on cool products so I sent him a message on Twitter and he must have checked it out and thought there was some merit to it.

Like Oak + Oar, there are many companies entering the market. Do you have any advice of how to survive in the dog eat dog world of the fashion industry?

As redundant as it sounds you have to design for yourself. If you aren’t compiling a collection of stuff you yourself would want to wear you won’t have any fun doing it. You really can’t concern yourself with what others are doing. That and take care of the small things. Fit, quality and details go a long way. Any way you can differentiate yourself while staying true to your vision goes a long way. I guess an example of this is I wanted to put something small in with every order. In the end I went with a guitar pick. For our group it seems that the guitar always makes its way out around the bonfire so best to be prepared.

Where can people purchase your clothing?

The full collection is available at and also stocked in Winnipeg at The Urban Bakery.

Who is your celebrity wifey?

 My real, born in Saskatoon - former Evan Hardy Soul wife might not approve but I am a fan of Kate Beckinsale’s “acting” abilities.

Top three favourite sneakers? 

I am a Vans Era/Authentic guy. I have this thing where I hate wearing socks so I don’t feel bad when I have to toss a pair of these away. Something about a fresh pair of white Eras.

With that said my top three sneakers would be 1) Ronnie Fieg Asic Gel Lyte III Salmon Toe 2) Parra x Patta x Nike Air Max 1 3) Concepts x Nike SB Dunk Low 'Red Lobster'

Favourite beverage?

Arizona Green Tea

Favourite movie?

Happy Gilmore. That is a cabin must have.

Favourite midnight snack?


Favourite clothing brands?

3sixteen, Wings + Horns, Reigning Champ, Benny Gold.

Chris, I know in the past that you make the odd trip to Saskatoon. I am curious about the things that you do and the places that you stop at while visiting.

Saskatoon is one of my favourite cities. Seems each time I am back the city has expanded ten fold. We have a lot of friends and family in Saskatoon so most of our time is spent visiting and though me make frequent trips they always seem to be short ones. My wife's family is over in Erindale so I usually make point of stopping in at Momentum off Attridge which usually leads me over to the 8th street spot. Asif and the team at Momentum really have one of the best curated shops I have been into so I love to swing by there and harass him, check out what's new. If it's winter I usually try to take in a Blades game as well. Next time I'm hitting you guys up for a taste of the town.

Any last words?

Thanks for the opportunity. I am a big fan of the blog so it's cool to finally connect. Thanks to everyone in Saskatoon for supporting the brand. Listen to Saint Kris haha.

Thanks to Chris for spending time for us and stay tuned for a contest that we will introduce this weekend!

You can follow Chris on Twitter and Instagram at @OakandOar.

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