By Kevin Assam
Quirky prints. Repurposed fabric. Wearable art. Schuyler Brown is the eccentric founder of clothing brand Seaplane. With stores in Palm Springs, Provincetown, and recently, Key West, Schuyler and his team are on a mission to make the funnest shirts at the party.
Why the name Seaplane?
Seaplane is the spirit of adventure with friends. It’s all the colors and the sky. It’s a glint of sun on a winter sidewalk. It’s perfect for life in the islands, desert or city.
Do you remember the first shirt you ever created?
It was a men’s French cuff shirt for my first apparel venture, Fabuloid, launched in San Francisco in 2002. With Fab I learned how to source leftover yardages from other manufacturers. My first shirts were intense, always the best shirts at the party. They were the product that worked best at Fab. They also taught me the importance of going direct.
You focus on button up long and short sleeve shirts and tunics. Why shirts specifically?
Shirts are forgiving. Through features I perfected, reverse pleats for instance, I created original sizes. Ensuring the right fit is critical and we did. Thanks to the eight unique sizes we developed. We dressed almost 30,000 people to perfect these sizes. I know that Seaplane shirts fit. If customers doubt this I ask, “what do you think is so strange about your body that my shirt won’t work?” There is no such thing as a strange body. Our sizes make people feel normal. It’s not always about someone’s weight. There are other factors to consider like height and broadness. My clothes make people feel happy and that is why customers buy them.
Why was it important to manufacture in the USA?
My mother’s father was a successful textile manufacturer in North Carolina. His business model was eventually outmoded by the shift to producing overseas. I wanted to create a US made product because I remember how devastating the loss of my grandfather’s mill was for my family.
What is the process behind the stories of each shirt’s design?
It’s all a spark. There is no process. I get inspiration that may not always be sensible and develop outrageously funny stories behind equally hilariously named shirts — Cornish Hen, Death by Hot Dog, German Sense of Humor. Often, the stories are rooted in present day events and references our shared culture. The stories and designs bring people together.
What is your 96.7% rule?
Endless meetings achieve little. I founded a company to set my own pace. I realized that 96.7% of everything we choose to do can be a total waste of time. This idea is based on countless experiences with things that didn’t work. In marketing, everyone thinks they have a great idea but most of it is trash. Most cost too much without yielding a result. The 96.7% rule trains you to smell a waste of time. When you’re starting a brand, you don’t have much resources and no one will give you money until you’re successful. You have to make sure everything pays for itself or better.
What stands out about your store locations?
We do best in far flung locations where our customer feels free to express herself — Palm Springs, Provincetown, and recently Key West. The most exciting moment at our newest location was opening night. We had a number of people who were immediately connected to our inclusive message. There was no hesitation. There was a constant flow of great people through the store.
Is there diversity in the customer base of Seaplane?
Seaplane attracts the broadest range of fans. We believe that our republic is rooted in the experiences of all the cultures that have made contributions. We’re the world’s smartest country thanks to everyone who has come to build their lives here. Our customers understand this and so we celebrate the beauty in every person because we believe that diversity is what makes America so powerful.