Interview: Talking towels and the birth of ‘Slowtide’ with Dario Phillips

The founders of Slowtide L-R. Wylie Von Tempsky, Dario Phillips and Kyle Spencer

Interview by Beau Flemister.

Sometimes, the answer’s just been right under our noses the whole time. Stance saw it with socks, Vissla pretty much saw it with wetsuits and Costa Mesa/Hawaii brand Slowtide saw the need with beach towels. (Nobody was making rad ones). So surf-skate industry creatives Kyle Spencer, Wylie Von Tempsky and Dario Phillips teamed up to found and launch Slowtide, a line of stylish, functional beach towels that are custom dyed, painted and designed in collaboration with like-minded artists and photographers. Now sold at a number of classy joints from General Admission to What Youth’s website – and even right here at Haydenshapes. We sat down with Dario Phillips to pick his brain about starting a new brand. We love it when people go out and create cool shit…


Dario, what have been you and your partners’ paths within the industry?

I grew up skating and surfing in Vancouver and my first real surf career job was running the marketing for Quiksilver in Canada, then moving on to global HQ running the Americas marketing for them. Once the new CEO came on board he started cutting the team and some of my original mentors left, so I decided to pull the plug and started at HUF as the global marketing director. I met Kyle while I was at Quik (he was design director at D.C.) and Wylie was head designer at Nike SB.

Why towels?

The original idea came from my partner Kyle and his wife Alana. It was really born out of necessity, after not being able to find cool towels for the beach or home. Kyle mentioned the idea to Wylie and I, so we decided to jump at the overlooked opportunity and create a brand around unique art-inspired towels.

Moblow’ towel pictured with a matte/gloss plunder in store at Haydenshapes – available on our site. 

What are some mistakes and what are some intelligent moves you’ve learned from partners starting brands along the way?

Every new brand makes mistakes but as long as you learn from each mistake you’re on the right path. I’ve learned that most of the bigger brands try to do too many things and not focus on what they are good at, and that is part of the reason we are sticking to our category.

Makes sense. So, how do you guys set yourself apart from any competitors?

We have built amazing relationships from working in this industry for the past 10 years or so and have the benefit of working with very talented friends who happen to be amazing artists, photographers, filmmakers, models, surfers and skaters. We also are focused on creating quality product that stands out in terms of price, function and style.

What kind of challenges did you guys face starting a new brand?

We face new challenges everyday and most of them come down to time. Our team is pretty small, just the three of us. From product development, marketing, sales, accounting to trade shows there is only so many hours in a day but you just need to prioritise each task. We are also challenged by a smaller budget but it really doesn’t slow us down as it motivates us more to be creative.

What constitutes good “style” to you, and how do you translate that into your product?

I think style is somewhat subjective but we believe in taking risks but also respect history and style basics. From collaborating with artists like Mark Oblow and Takashi Murakami to creating a classic striped towel is how we incorporate style into our product. Our creative director Wylie is also an incredible designer so it comes out in the final aesthetic.

Where is Slowtide based and how has that shaped the brand?

Slowtide is based in Hawaii and California. Our main office is in Costa Mesa and our 2nd office is at Kyle’s house on the North shore of Oahu. Kyle and Wylie both grew up surfing on Maui and I grew up mainly a skater in Vancouver but got into surfing around the age of 16 in Tofino. Our backgrounds in surf/skate culture truly helped shaped the brand, but mostly from who we were able to meet and travel to.

What does the surf world lack in terms of style or fashion?

I think the surf world is missing originality sometimes, mainly from the corporate brands, as they all look the same but recently I have seen some rad products from Banks, Richer Poorer, Octopus and Epokhe to name a few. I feel like smaller brands are more in touch with the youth and involved in surf culture.

Do you guys to plan to branch out from towels and brand any other pieces?

With Summer 17 we are expanding the line with new sizes, materials and introducing a hand/fitness towel, a bath towel, a Turkish towel, beach blanket and changing poncho (one that you would feel comfortable wearing).

Hayden pictured with Slowtide’s ‘visions’ towel.

You can purchase Slowtide on our site in Australia here and in the USA/Worldwide here.

Follow these guys on the gram @slowtide or visit their website for more.