Talking Sustainability with Rogan

Even if you don’t know Rogan, you’ve probably seen his ride – a matte black Volvo sedan – driving around town. His car exudes a particular style: sleek, urban, yet down to earth (Volvo, anyone?). This description is also apt of the aesthetic of the fashion designer’s eponymous clothing line, and that of Loomstate – his more environmentally aware brand. Since launching Rogan in 2001, the Midwest native has been putting a socially conscious bend on everything he touches whether it be fashion, art, furniture or food. Always one to experiment creatively, for this feature Rogan proposed photographing how Montauk is evolving, through the eyes of his best friend: his dog Choncho. Because we’re suckers for anything quirky – we let him.

Why are you having your dog take the photos for this piece if it’s your interview?

Choncho hasn’t been properly represented. He represents a group of Montauk dogs that haven’t been accurately portrayed (laughs). He’s not a wild animal. He’s a city dog.

When did you first start coming to Montauk?

12 to 15 years ago. I’m kind of like Choncho in that I can deal with the city, but not unless I have somewhere to go that is wilder and not as confining. And the ocean is more accessible here than in the city. It helps me cope with the city.When did you first learn to surfI kind of started taking surfing more seriously when I stopped taking skateboarding and snowboarding seriously. That was about the time I started coming out here. Surfing might require stitches, but doesn’t require surgery.



You grew up and went to college in Ohio. What drew you to New York?

I think the eccentricity of New York. You can basically do whatever you want creatively. However you want to express yourself is acceptable.

Did you come with the city with the intention of starting a clothing line?

No. I didn’t really have an intent to be honest. I just wanted to be somewhere that I felt like I was at ease - somewhere that felt appropriate.  At that point I was making earlier work and here I didn’t feel judged.

How did the line Rogan first come about?

I couldn’t find clothing that I thought was very interesting. So I just kind of created a genre of clothing that made sense for me at the time. I didn’t have huge business aspirations in mind. I just thought I was going to make things that made sense.

How do you treat designing for Loomstate as opposed to designing for Rogan?

To put it simply: Rogan is a city-oriented line; Loomstate is my nature-obsessed line. It’s hard to do both when you’re in the city. So we have two groups for dueling lifestyles.

Is that how you consider the two lifestyles – as dueling?

They are merging more and more. The quality of life thing is becoming more important. For my partner Scott and I, we want to make people more aware of where things come from and where things are made – that’s always been important to us. I think people are getting in touch with that decade of excess and are now transitioning into a little more modesty and scale. It’s not about these giant mansions in the Hamptons, it’s about coming to Montauk, and I think people are appreciating life’s more modest activities as opposed to the real excess. I love the idea that the only thing that’s out here is fishermen, and parkland and ocean. I mean East Hampton is moving east. So that’s what’s happening now. And that’s why it’s funny to have Choncho’s perspective because from his point of view, nothing has changed.

You don’t think from his perspective, the garbage he sees on the ground or the cars he pees on are a bit fancier or different than from a year ago?

That is a good point. That’s probably from his point of view how Montauk has changed.

You have an art studio at your place in Montauk. Does this creative outlet help fuel your design work?

Yeah they all kind of feed off and on each other. When you get stuck creatively with one thing and work on another it reinvigorates and informs the other one. [My business partner Scott and I] talk a lot about quality of life. And Montauk is a big part of my quality of life. And having that balance of the city energy and nature energy. I have a garden and being connected to the earth and the ocean. It sounds cliché but I couldn’t survive without it.

Do you feel like you have to leave the city often to make living in New York still enjoyable?

I mean you can do it, but my perspective is that we didn’t evolve this way – we didn’t evolve to live in cities. For hundreds and thousands of years we lived in the woods. So it’s important to reconnect yourself.

Loomstate extends to different creative mediums like the 41 Strings show you just put on. Is that important for the brand to reach out to other creative pursuits?

Absolutely. That’s the stimulus for the whole thing. Like I was saying, Loomstate in particular is that convergence of different mediums: music, clothing, design, surf, and food. It’s all connected. Whether it is the manufacturing process or the cultural connections.

The Loomstate line is made from 100% organic fabrics. What are some of the challenges you face working with materials like this?

It’s more expensive and it requires a lot more coordination and organization, because it isn’t just readily available. You have to make it happen. Getting people to understand and educate themselves as to why it’s important. It’s a lot easier to not worry about it, and I totally get that and appreciate that. But you’re discounting the future when you do that. To us, right this second it might not seem like it matters, but to our kids, and to our kid’s kids we’re doing things to this planet that are irreparable. We need to start thinking a little bit more systemically about what we do and how we choose to consume, affects everything - everything’s connected. Whether it happens right now, or in a year or two years, all those purchasing decisions make a huge difference to the planet.

Is this something you started thinking about long before you had a child?

Yeah. I mean, it’s a small thing, but I hate seeing trash at the beach. It’s a bummer when people just don’t give a fuck. People choose how to behave how they want to, and I try never to pass judgment because I hate being judged, but that kind of disrespectful behavior is not cool.

Loomstate’s employment model began by working with a team in developing countries like Tunisia and Peru where jobs are most scarce. Is this still true today?

That is for sure a consideration and an aspiration, but things are changing constantly and people’s definition of sustainability is constantly evolving. As technology develops and things change and how economics in the world are working you kind of have to consider what I call a quadruple bottom line.


Usually a bottom line is: are we profitable or are we not profitable? And we obviously have to be profitable, but we’re also considering the environmental and social impact of what we do as part of the equation. So that’s just a way that we choose to do business. Going forward everyone is going to have to consider those things. It’s not going to be a choice anymore. Who’s suffering as a result of the decision you’re making right now. Who’s benefiting, who’s getting screwed.

Is Rogan also using organic materials in the same way Loomstate is?

Yes. Put it this way: we make relatively small quantities at Rogan, so if there’s a fabric that I absolutely have that isn’t organic cotton – meaning they don’t make it in organic cotton – if it’s only like 50 pieces, then the esthetic trumps the environmental impact. But that’s only with the small quantities. There’s a rationale behind it. In the end you need clothing, but you don’t need expensive clothing. You need food, but you don’t need expensive or “arty food”. You don’t need art. So there’s an argument that as long as you’re being responsible about it, the esthetic and the art sometimes trumps our ability to make it perfectly sustainable.

You guys did the outfits for Surf Lodge. What was the approach to the design?

I worked with Rob [McKinley] and he had a vision for the esthetics. We talked about that vision and came up with a design that he thought was appropriate given the functional considerations. So there was an esthetic component and a functional component.

Will you teach your daughter to surf?

You know, she’s kind of obsessed with water and swimming already, so I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a challenge. That’s all she talks about. She doesn’t have a large vocabulary but every other word is “agua.” She will be two in December. They develop little personalities at birth.