Back in 2011, Steven Tiller relaunched a long-dormant brand of sneaker called SeaVees, a piece of Americana fashion that found new life through retailers around the world and the company’s online shop. SeaVees started churning out batches of shoes at a boutique factory in Asia and was holding down a small corporate presence on Ortega Street, but Tiller — a veteran footwear designer with stints at Cole Haan, Sperry Top-Siders, and Keds — itched for a Santa Barbara storefront. He and his team of 35 local employees have finally made it happen.
“Opening up a flagship store has always been a dream of mine,” said Tiller, “a place that embodies all things SeaVees. The right space presented itself in the heart of the Funk Zone, and 24 East Mason came to life.” Alongside the brand’s full array of men’s, women’s, and kids’ shoes ranging from $68 to $178, the place sells an assortment of SoCal merch, including Apolis tote bags, Camp Collection T-shirts, and OP shorts. With a tin roof and polished concrete floor, it has that carefully curated but easy-breezy beach feel, complete with longboards along one wall.
We recently chatted with Tiller by email.
How do you start designing a pair of shoes? Where do you draw your inspiration? I draw inspiration from our heritage — looking back at the original SeaVees ads from the 1960s is a regular touch point for me. We are extremely passionate about the multiple benefits of an authentic vulcanized sneaker, from the obvious greater durability to the magical little nuances that happen in the oven. We focus on being both classic and contemporary with a reverence for 1960s California cool.
What styles do you personally like to wear? What’s on your feet right now? I love them all, but you will most often find me in the Legend — the silhouette featured in the original SeaVees ad campaigns from 1964. Currently I’m wearing the Legend Sneaker Cordies in Red Ochre.
If you had to pick a pair that best encapsulates Santa Barbara, what would it be? The Baja — an easy, coastal, everyday shoe in men’s and women’s that evokes casual, California living.
Any new stuff you’re excited about? We recently launched our fall/winter collection, which is now available at 24 Mason and online. Coming soon we have:
• Liberty: Five of our favorite styles made with two 1960s archival prints from Liberty™ Fabrics in their premium ribbed cotton.
• Goodlife: A collection of Goodlife terrycloth and our hairy suede in an assortment of new colors.
• Mariner Boots: A reissue of a style known as “swim shoes” or “coral creepers” by Naval sea cadets during the era.
• Slippers x Huckberry: Available in three felted wool colors, and inspired by the Time Magazine 1967 cover story featuring the original playboy, Hugh Hefner, and the blurring of the boundary between work and pleasure.