Coping with COVID: How prAna used watercolors to overcome a pandemic-era challenge

The activewear brand is differentiating itself this year by not using photography to unveil its newest line.

This is the first part in a series of three stories highlighting the creative ways outdoor businesses have pivoted during the pandemic-era. Their solutions may seem small, but the ideas have huge impacts. Read part 2 about Selk'bag here. Read part 3 about United By Blue here.

catalog page with watercolor on left side featuring Black woman in blue pants, striped tank top, and boots

Instead of staging in-person photo shoots to create its 2020 product catalogue, prAna found a socially-distant and beautiful solution: watercolors.

When prAna couldn’t hire fit models at the start of the pandemic in March to photograph the brand’s fall 2020 line, the creative team went to their drawing boards to devise an imaginative solution. Photography is their normal method of showcasing products for retailers, media, and even customers, but these weren’t normal circumstances.

Diego Chamorro, prAna’s creative director, had been wanting to use illustrations in other types of communication and he saw an opportunity. Chamorro even had an artist in mind who was already skilled at capturing textures and patterns in a painting.

“We thought illustrations would be a great way to differentiate the products and highlight their details,” Chamorro says. “The solution presented itself in a very elegant way.”

Catalogue page featuring water color of man in rust colored T-shirt and shorts

Feedback on the watercolor images, created by artist Kasiq Jungwoo, has been so positive that prAna will continue to use them through 2021.

Right away, prAna started working with Kasiq Jungwoo to give life to the brand’s newest sweaters, yoga pants, and other activewear. The creative team explained how each garment was supposed to fall and fit on the body, and they offered suggestions for their favorite poses.

Jungwoo, from Seoul, Korea, got to work. In about two months, prAna had a stunning collection of art pieces to include in their workbook. Each new fall 2020 garment has its own watercolor with realistic shadows and folds in the fabrics. Chamorro says this type of illustration is usually seen in the fashion industry, but it’s a first for the outdoor industry and for prAna.

“I’ve been talking to my teams about the results of these great ideas and these great processes, and the most important thing we’ve learned is flexibility,” Chamorro says. “Another thing that I learned is to use the creative resources that you have.”

The response has been so positive that prAna is planning on using illustrations for their fall 2021 line, whether or not social distancing is required. It’s about the same cost as photography, he says. “We’ve had fun stretching ourselves creatively and bringing new energy to the team,” says Chamorro.


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