Wild Ingenuity™: Lauren Yates of W’menswear

If you’re not already following Lauren Yates as either the person behind Ponytail Journal or in her role at the stellar retailer W’menswear… you need to get on that right away. She is a force of nature and a progenitor of both style and goodness. We’re absolutely thrilled to feature her in this week’s edition of Wild Ingenuity™! So let’s get to it.

NATURE (Fig. 1 W’menswear SS20 shot by Eric Kvatek)
Tell us a bit about yourself, your company, and how nature is woven into your product strategy?
I’m an art school graduate, I’m interested in how things work, I like to cook, and I’m the creative director of W’menswear. At W’menswear, design is a balancing act between order and chaos. Chaos is mother nature’s brutal selectivity, and order is that which emerges from it. I would argue that this model repeats itself in every sphere of life like nature, the inner self, and society.

CULTURE (Fig. 2 W’menswear SS20 Research Board)
Where do you go for inspiration? What out there is creating the most interesting vibes to motivate you?
Despite being a good research tool, I steer clear of the internet for inspiration. The parameters of your search are too wide, and at the same time, one risks misinterpreting meaning from a meme-of-a-retweeted-retweet. The likelihood of regurgitating something is too high for my liking. 

I’m always looking for the hidden trail that takes us to a new place. It’s a process that requires a kind of openness, a gut feeling, and curiosity. Inspiration mostly comes from sensory experience… I sense recurring patterns and I follow them down wormholes. For example, I might read a new idea in a book; then spot something related at a flea market. It might present itself in art, or in music, and I might embody that thought perhaps while fishing or cooking. It’s almost like a feeling of deja-vu. That’s when I know I need to dive down the wormhole. Sometimes they lead to dead-ends, but I think…
a lesson
to be learned
e v e r y t h i n g.

FUTURE (Fig. 3 W’menswear cottage industry fabrics woven in Roi Et, Thailand)
Without giving away trade secrets, what trends are you seeing and tracking right now that are helping you and your company plan for the future? And what traits are you banking on your future audience having that are informing your decision making now?
We have no trade secrets! Right now, I find myself listening to a lot of psych rock, probably because I want to figure out why 60s counter culture resonates with our ideas right now. I love this album called ‘Forge Your Own Chains’, a collection of really rad psych rock ballads from 1968-74 released by Now-Again records. I’m also re-reading Tom Wolf’s ‘Electric Kool Aid Acid Tests’, published in 1968, an account of the scientific LSD experiments that led to a radical counter culture.  It’s all about seeing the world with a new outlook, and I’m trying to embody that to see a new perspective on the fuzzy new world, post-pandemic.  

My intuition told me there was something coming on the horizon but I couldn’t imagine the scale at which chaos would rage. The collapse of Western culture as we know it, with the internet catalyzing the death of mainstream media, Donald Trump, Brexit, Australia’s worst bushfires in history, a power-hungry society that is so polarized, and then the pandemic, and then the anarchy. We are standing on the edge where chaos thrives. Where do I look for balance?  I look to the East, which is a very different narrative. Here in Asia, the story leading up to now has been one of growth. The West has seen a decline of the middle class, whereas countries like China, India and Thailand have witnessed the largest expansion of the middle class in history. Hungry for consumption, this formidable middle class will lead the new world order of the 21st century. 

What traits am I banking on my future audience having? I’m banking on the new world order based on a value system not of a ‘power’ but of ‘cooperation’. From where I stand in Thailand: I’ve witnessed the revival of cottage industries; a wave of small businesses flourishing and focused on sustainability; a burgeoning contemporary art scene; large corporations investing into the economy during the pandemic; and localized grass-roots systems responding to millions of people who have lost their incomes in the past months. It’s a very different picture from where I stand over here.  

What am I paying attention to right now? I’m watching Thailand pioneer a new industry based on two radical cash crops: industrial hemp and medical marijuana. I’m looking forward to working with hemp products grown and produced in Thailand in a much bigger way.

Follow all of Lauren’s creative contributions to Ponytail Journal and W’menswear on Instagram.