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.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

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.

Related

person in black puffy snowsuit standing in a snowy field with trees in the distance

Coping with COVID: How Selk’bag’s founder visited Asian factories—without traveling

This is the second 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 1 about prAna here. Seeing and feeling a new product in person ...read more

United By Blue's flagship store in Philadelphia was transformed into a neighborhood mini market, selling the deconstructed ingredients the brand used to make meals in its café.

Coping with COVID: Why transforming into a grocery store helped United By Blue survive the pandemic lockdown

This is the third 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. Be sure to read part 1 about prAna and part 2 about Selk’bag, too. United ...read more

A brown and gray t-shirt, rolled and wrapped with rafia twin laying on another beige t-shirt

How prAna squelched polybags

In 2010, an employee at prAna’s Boulder retail store snapped a photo that depicted a room littered with mounds of polybags. The capture—and the astonishing amount of plastic—represented the aftermath of unboxing a single day’s shipments to the shop. When the photo made its way to ...read more

Untitled design

How retailers are managing inventory challenges during the pandemic

"If there's any pattern to all this, it's to expect delays. Which categories, brands, or products—that's anybody's guess. It's best to just assume everything will be delayed and end up pleasantly surprised if it's not." That's Eastside Sports owner Todd Vogel's take on the state ...read more

prAna's Spring 2019 catalogue

PrAna issues apology over cave photo in Spring 2019 catalog

Update at 4 p.m. MST Thursday: prAna has since updated the digital catolog on their website, removing the cave photo of Chris Sharma climbing and replacing it with a message from the brand's president. A page from prAna's Spring 2019 catalog has outraged cavers and ...read more

Closeup of the Marmot logo on a maroon rain shell

Marmot is adding XXXL and other plus sizes to apparel line

The average American woman is 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighing about 165 pounds with a waist circumference of about 38. That's a pants size 16 or 18—sizes that most outdoor brands aren't making and retailers aren't selling. Marmot, and many others, stop at size 14 or 16 for women. ...read more

Queena delivering poetry for prAna Dream Job Promotion

Poet gets "promotion of a lifetime" from prAna

What would you do with $100,000? Queena Bergen, a software engineer turned poet and motivational speaker, said she would quit her job to travel the country "to bring motivation, inspiration and poetry to the forefront of any conversation."  "I want to help people believe that ...read more

Illustration of the new primaloft bio

Roots of change: How brands are going green

Four years ago, when a product manager at PrimaLoft asked in the midst of a research and design meeting whether they could make a jacket that would break down if buried in the backyard, people laughed. But that's exactly with PrimaLoft did. In fall 2020, PrimaLoft's ...read more

Person skiing with a blue jacket and backpack

This winter accessories brand created a silver bullet for sales reps during the pandemic

The pandemic has not been kind to independent sales reps. With in-person meetings cancelled for months on end, reps have had to navigate business in 2020 without (arguably) the most powerful tool in their professional arsenal: the ability to show products directly to potential ...read more