When we set out to create eight pieces that would bring out the best of both Chaco and United By Blue, we knew there were a couple things we had to bring to the table: Every piece had to be both land and water friendly, and made with the outdoors in mind. We chatted with Chaco’s Color, Trend & Design Associate, Tori Williams, United By Blue’s Head of Design, Brianna Nieman, and United By Blue’s Production Coordinator, Bastianna Mene, about collaborating on a mini collection that celebrates long days on the ocean.
STEP ONE: CREATING A CONCEPT
“Our collaboration was definitely inspired by our shared appreciation of our waterways and being outdoors,” explains Bastianna, UBB’s Production Coordinator. The United By Blue team played with some of their signature designs, including mountain ridges and topography lines, before settling on a wave pattern with a hint of earth tones to communicate the land-to-water connection.
Early iterations of the jacquard webbing
Tori Williams, who’s on a Chaco’s team that develops over 600 webbing designs a year, took the wave pattern and ran with it. “The wave webbing was probably one of the most minimal webbings I’ve made, but also one of my favorites,” she said. “I took a lot of inspiration from the water story that both UBB and Chaco share, but wanted to evoke some nostalgia by spinning it in more of a summer camp glyph type style.” The end result: A design that’s familiar, simple, and fun, but most importantly relevant and wearable.
STEP TWO: PICKING A PALETTE
Collaborating with Chaco, a company known for colors that stand out — even after trudging through sand and water — gave the United By Blue team an excuse to experiment with brighter colors than usual. For the women’s color palette, Brianna pulled hues from limestone rivers (particularly the bright blue water contrasted with gray rocks).
Image: Martin Kraft
The men’s sandal draws from temperate rainforest tones: deep green moss and ferns mixed with blue streams and rivers.
STEP THREE: MAKING THE WEBBING WORK
Chaco’s iconic webbing, which is constructed from woven jacquard threads, is strong, quick to dry, and ideal for sports sandals. However, it makes for a somewhat tedious design process, as the Chaco’s team has a restricted space and a maximum of eight colors to work with. “It’s not really a grid of pixels. They look more like geometric pill shapes that are staggered, and each space represents one stitch in the webbing weave,” explains Tori. Organic, flowing designs (like waves) require a lot of trial and error to get right — but are often the most rewarding to create.
STEP FOUR: BUILDING AN OUTFIT
Once the webbing design was finalized, United By Blue’s product team challenged themselves to build two looks (one for men, one for women) around one pattern. The boardshorts were a natural fit, but the tee required a little more work. “One of the original designs used the same pattern on the tee, but we took a step back and realized that our customers wouldn't be able to wear the tee and boardshorts at the same time,” reveals Bastianna.
After undergoing a few iterations, the team settled on a hand-drawn canoe design that incorporated the water pattern but also added another dimension. Since the first Chaco sandal was built in a river guide’s garage, it felt like a natural fit to pair them with a paddling tee and hat.
STEP FIVE: ADDING FINAL TOUCHES
Since the webbing design was the starting point of the entire collab, the product team found ways to incorporate it throughout the collection. Bastianna swapped out the straps of our Summit Convertible Tote in favor of the collaboration wave webbing. The adjustable strap on the 5-panel hat is made using webbing, too.