25 year old Robin Waters is a fly by the seat of her pants kinda gal. Go where the wind takes you, cash your paycheck and wander, come what may. This is the beauty behind her clothing brand, Don’t Blow The Illusion which she describes further as “it’s used furniture, hot dogs in microwaves, the way you feel when you first set your eyes on a part of the planet you had never been, past due bills, open roads, roadside motels and that chill that moves through your body when something you had only imagined is brought to life.”
The motivation behind her line came to her on a road trip from her native Canada to Southern California, in what some would call an aha-moment She imagined herself selling tanks with her photos on them out of the back of her jeep. Why not? In 2012, she put the illusion to reality and created a line that both highlights moments in her life and accentuates the small businesses she works with, achieving a completely sweatshop free product.
Her photos aren’t just portraits of the beautiful and interesting, they are fleeting moments compiled during what looked like late night outings, sunsets on rooftops, and early mornings before your teeth are even brushed. It’s these moments we identify with and feel kin to. And beyond tank tops, Waters created her line of what she calls “Hotcakes” (which is really just another word for bikini bottoms) made with photographic highlights like Joshua trees, highway signs, tattooed men and candy, of course. (duh) We desperately want to hang out with this girl, Broad City style. Let’s go, Robin, where’s our next adventure?
Apparently it’s Costa Rica. Yup. That’s where our reach extends as we chat it up with Robin Waters. We ask a few questions about her life and her line.
I love your photography. Tell us your background in that field.
Photography was always in the back of my mind and I kind of kept aside as something I would “get around to”; Until I was almost finished school and realized the last thing I wanted to do was work for anyone, needing to seek approval for ideas.
What inspires you when you’re shooting?
Ultimately, the model and whatever I see in them determines the theme shoot and of course a touch of my lust for the nostalgia of the 60’s.
I love the diversity of your models. When it comes to your brand, what makes you want to choose one model over another?
Most of my models are friends first and foremost. Some are friends from college, some from my hometown. I met most when I used to take photos in the clubs on King West in Toronto. Some come and go quickly but I always have that one photo to remember. Some of them have become huge models and artists since we first shot together. I think we intuitively seek each other out and make things happen for each other. What could be more incredible and inspiring? The images come out as they do because I have a connection with the person/people I am working with and the photos turn out honest and as surreal as the moment shared with that person.
That’s a great question. Well I am currently living on a mountain side in Costa Rica. That $20 would be great towards a 4×4 to venture out and see more of this gorgeous country but will probably end up being spent on a case of Imperial next weekend.
What were some obstacles that you’ve hit along the way whilst bringing your brand to life and what has encouraged you to keep going?
Money is obviously always an obstacle for any young person trying to make something out of nothing. I’ve let Don’t Blow The Illusion grow organically thus far. It’s been kind of like watching paint dry as they say, but I am proud of the fact its almost entirely been funded by my photography gigs. The one other thing has been finding my style and sticking with it. I’ve tried to switch up the style of photography for the campaigns and come to realize I had it right the first time. None of these obstacles have been nearly enough to make me want to quit though, it’s all minor. I have tunnel vision when I pursue things and quitting literally has never entered my mind.
If there was one particular thing that motivated or inspired your photography what would that be?
If there were one thing that motivated/inspired my photography it would simply be the ability to tell a story and to share it. Self expression is the best therapy.
Do you have a background in fashion?
I never went to school for fashion or photography if that is what a background would entail. Fashion to me is just another expression of self and anyone could potentially say that they have a background in fashion if they dressed themselves today with some sort of intent to represent their mood through what they are wearing.
Where did the term “Hotcakes” come from?
Myself and Makane were sitting at a cafe in Kailua eating hotcakes for breakfast and we were talking about the next move with my brand and my plans to collaborate with Lisa Jackson of AMARA swimwear that following Spring. Makane’s a genius.
We love the fact that the clothes are made sweatshop free. Tell us more about that decision.
It was a subconscious decision to be sweatshop-free. I don’t remember ever having a moment where I made that choice. I just knew I definitely didn’t want to use stock T-shirts for my tanks and crops when I got started, I wanted it to be taken seriously. I work with a manufacturer in Canada who cuts and sews my designs and a boutique business in NYC who prints the images on them. All swimwear is made in NYC’s garment district as well. I ultimately just wanted to own a top quality label if my name and photography were to be tied to it. Top quality while also being ethical and conscious about our imprint and impact.
Tell us about life in Canada. What brought you there and what made you leave?
I’m born and raised in Ontario, I grew up on Georgian Bay off of Lake Huron. I never left til I was 23, that being a huge reason why I left it behind, not to mention a natural lust for seeking out the unknown.
Tell us about your plans for the future. Where do you hope Don’t Blow the Illusion goes in the next 5 years?
Plans? I really have none. I just want to continue to create with the same hunger I had back home. If DBTI does well, that’s awesome, either way I will continue to take photos and aspire to share a story with the world, as I am already living out my dreams.