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Business: SeaVees

S.B. Shoe Company Creates California Styles


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

California inspired shoe line SeaVees opened its new showroom in August and has already made a footprint in the Santa Barbara retail scene. The SeaVees brand was founded by the rubber company B.F. Goodrich in 1964 and was inspired by the California dream of the ’60s era — surfing, the Beach Boys, Dustin Hoffman, Steve McQueen. “These were things that were established in the ’60s but they live on. Sixties were the definition of modern and so that influence is always there,” said current company owner Steven Tiller.

The brand was dormant for 40 years and when Tiller, who was working with Sperry Top-Sider, discovered SeaVees in 2005 he was able to re-launch it in 2010. With SeaVees’ tagline, Authentic California, there was no place better that symbolized and captured California quite like Santa Barbara.

Moving a block down from its original location to Ortega Street, SeaVees has been experiencing a lot more foot traffic. With its Parking Space Sessions, the shoe company opens its doors to musicians passing through Santa Barbara and invites them to play short pop-up sets — bringing together the combined love for independent music and just having a good time.

“It’s just our love and our consumer’s love for independent music and just supporting that hungry artist who is pursuing their love — getting them before they break, before they pop — at that very special moment where its just all about passion and passion for their craft,” Tiller said.

Tiller plans to host more pop-up shows throughout the year, some being publicized and some on a whim by simply inviting a passer-by in for some music and a welcoming atmosphere.

The open, intimate setting surrounded by walls of shoes and photographs is calm and inviting. A series of photographs line the walls of the fitting room, these are called the California Stories. Every 4 to 6 weeks SeaVees will feature a local artists’ work on the wall telling their own unique California story. Right now, photographer Cara Robbins’ work is featured — showcasing her visit up to Ojai shot in film.

“It gives people the chance to tell their own unique California story from their work and their images,” Tiller said.

Another feature that came with the new space is SeaVees fitting room. By appointment-only, each customer is able to experience a personal fitting, learn about the company and leave with a better understanding of their SeaVees shoe. They can then go online and purchase the shoe, ruling out any doubts they may have about an on spot purchase.

The fall line for SeaVess this year was inspired by the book, Mountain Drive: Santa Barbara’s Pioneer Bohemian Community written by Elias Chiacos. Mountain Drive began in Montecito pre-dating the hippie movement of the post-war years of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Photographs in the book feature locals with their adobe houses hot tubbing, wearing flowers around their heads and just having a good time. Although there are only remnants of Mountain Drive left, its spirit continues to lives on.

“What’s cool is you see camouflage and certain military aesthetics in this book…these pictures capture this really cool mixture of this bohemian, almost like a hippie culture, yet this influence of utilitarian military,” Tiller said. “You’ll notice in this collection we did things like bomber-jacket leather, boiled wool has a very military-grade body to it and so that whole Mountain Drive is what inspired this whole collection.”

As far as the future goes for SeaVees, this is just the beginning. A seasonal garage sale is in the works bringing like-minded brands to the fitting room incorporating leather goods, clothing and more from local merchants and with its 50th anniversary coming up next year who knows what is next for the local retailer.

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SeaVees Fitting Room is located at 118 E. Ortega St. and is open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 770-2633 for appointments.

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