Ever wonder how brands come up with seasonal campaign and product direction? For YORK Athletics, creative director Elizabeth McGarry guides our look and feel and vibe. She is creative AF. But how does she do it? Where does her inspiration come from?
Elizabeth talks about shooting our latest brand campaign in her home state of Oregon, the spiritual connection between ourselves and our environment and the rewards of creative collaboration in this week's Out of Step journal post…
I’m a bit of an introvert. When in new surroundings, I tend to take a back seat, taking it all in - the environment, the people, the sounds. If the ‘new surroundings’ happen to be a party or work-type thing with mostly strangers, I get pretty anxious, especially when these events are indoors. It feels crowded and my insecurities rise to the surface. I can tap into my meditative practice and play the part of a comfortable person, but small talk and casual pleasantries can be strained and awkward at best.
I feel most myself when I’m alone and exploring a new place. I can spend hours in solitude, happily wandering city streets and small shops or breathing in the open air of a forest or coastline. For most people, these times provide a much-needed respite from work-life. For me, it’s when I feel inspired and motivated and refueled. I notice the small things. The big things. I take photos of these moments. The colors, layers of textures, the negative space, the intimate perspectives, the grand gestures. I take tons of notes, too. Little snips of ideas and of the interactions that may happen in that environment.
Last summer, I took a trip back home to Oregon to visit friends and family. We spent a week in Portland and a week at the coast. I found myself re-engaged with the magic of Mother Nature. Driving the 101 with my husband and two boys in the car took me back to being an 8-yr old kid driving that same stretch of highway with my parents and four siblings in our penny-colored Toyota minivan. Situated between my two younger brothers fighting out their Batman vs. Superman battles - my older brother and sister in their teenage brooding and aloofness - I used to gaze out the large side window, playing out my rescue scene differently around every bend of the road. Each new turn brought a varied landscape in which my escape plan would play out. Nearly three decades later, I was calling out in awe after every turn of the 101. “Look at those cliffs!” “Look at the size of those trees!” “See the whale spout?!”
I suddenly felt so small. So grateful in my wonderment. So connected to this place. Hence the venue for YORK’s Fall / Winter 2016 campaign was realized.
One of the best things about my role at YORK is that it gives me this easy intro to people who’s work I admire. Remember my crippling introverted awkwardness? Being the Creative Director of YORK allows me to reach out, introduce myself, and gush over how inspired I am by someone’s photography, or athleticism, or art. I still have to put myself out there by sharing my vision for how to capture a message or brand or bring a particular product to life. I risk feeling inadequate among these people who I respect, but the risk versus reward is just too sweet. What starts as creative collaboration, what goes through the inevitably clumsy stage of a business transaction, usually results in a full-on love fest and transcends to ‘family’ status. Jon Humphries, Cel Jarvis and Nicholas Wilson are amazing photographers to work with, and when it comes to brand ambassadors, it doesn't get any better than Anna Farrant, Whitney Hull-Benson, Jordan Bowers & Jay Kelly.
For the Fall / Winter 2016 collection, we drew inspiration for the Henry material and color updates from nature, and we ultimately returned to these environments to shoot YORKs minimal trainers on our family of athletic ambassadors. Mostly city-dwellers, we plucked them out of the comforts of the gym, ring, or studio and asked them to use the environment to train. We explored the rocky islands of the Columbia River Gorge; hiked deep into the woods along the Lewis River in Washington State; we found the darkest streets of Southeast Portland at midnight; we had a 4 am call-time at the Oregon coast to catch that perfect morning light; and we felt the summer heat of Sauvie Island. Our goal was to capture the spiritual connection between ourselves and our environment. We wanted the product to disappear and the fighting spirit to emerge.
Elizabeth McGarry is the co-founder and creative director at MCGARRY&sons, a product, strategy, design, and activation studio in Boston, MA. She is also married to YORK CEO Mark McGarry.
Check out Jon, Cel & Nick's work here: