Steven Tiller: CEO & Designer, SeaVees

My NativeAdVantage:


Steven Tiller brings 20 years of footwear brand building success to SeaVees.  His creative vision has influenced the design direction of some of the top brands in the industry.  Most recently Steven served as President and Creative Direction of Steve Madden's Fix.  Prior to Steve Madden, Tiller was Senior VP Gobal Design and New Business Opportunities for the Stride Rite Corporation, owner of heritage brands Sperry Top-Sider, Keds and Saucony.  Tiller began his career at Cole Haan and Land's End before becoming VP Design and Development at Nine West Group.  

What do you do best?

My strengths lie in brand vision, product creation and storytelling. SeaVees has allowed me to combine these interests and fulfill my lifelong pursuit of having my own business and living in California.

What makes you the best?

I am at my best when I’m searching. I’m a relentless seeker with a hunger for depth and discovery. I have a passion for shoemaking and brand building that never wanes. And I was blessed/cursed with a serious streak of stubbornness - a trait I’m sure every entrepreneur needs in spades.

What are your aspirations?

To have SeaVees recognized by today’s global consumer as a category creator, the original casual sneaker since 1964. When the old brand advertised in Playboy magazine throughout the 1960s, its campaign was “Show up in SeaVees. The new way to go casual.” It was groundbreaking in that you could “show up in SeaVees” with confidence at a yacht club, a country club, any social affair and enjoy the comfort of a sneaker with the end-use of a more sophisticated, more refined footwear choice. It was not only the transformation of the sneaker from gym shoe to casual shoe, it was the origin of sneakers being marketed as a lifestyle - the birth of sneaker culture as we know it today. The beautiful burden of returning SeaVees to its rightful place on the top shelf of heritage sneaker brands is my greatest aspiration.

Biggest success?

That day - after nearly 20 years of a corporate career, of being successful at not being true to myself - I finally found the courage to follow my dream and start my own brand.

Most challenging moment?

Every single day of a start-up is challenging, fragile, unknown. But after becoming numb at a certain point in my career, I feel fortunate to feel again. Even when it’s pain it’s a good pain.

Favorite motto?

It’s more a quote than a motto, but since the beginning of my career I have kept this quote by Theodore Roosevelt in my desk drawer as a reminder to go bold or go home.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

Favorite people?

(I’ll answer this as Favorite Style Icons)

I’m endlessly inspired by the style of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Dennis Wilson, Jack Kerouac. For women, it’s Grace Kelly, Jane Fonda, Katherine Ross, Edie Sedgwick.

Favorite places?

Paris, Florence, Tokyo, Hong Kong, London. And my hometown of Norman, Oklahoma. But very happy to call Santa Barbara, California home now.

Favorite products?

(I’ll answer this a favorite SeaVees product)

My favorite SeaVees style is the 06/64 Legend. It celebrates the original brand’s launch in June of 1964 and is a re-creation of the shoe I found behind glass in a secondhand store in Tokyo. I feel it best defines SeaVees today as it appeals to both modern and classic tastes, with a reverence for 60s California cool.

Current passions?

Travel, live music by garage bands, 1% for the Planet, swimming, teaching my 15-year old son to drive.