Quinlan Wilhite is a Tucson, AZ creative and is the unique visionary behind the brand QMULATIVE. You may have seen him live sewing the very much loved pocket-tees at local events or markets.
Starting his journey in fashion through streetwear graphic tees and hats to now merging into made from scratch garments, Quinlan is aspiring to create an architecturally inspired, complete collection as he continues to evolve the brand. In this brief yet informative conversation, Quinlan tells us how he initially became passionate about sewing, where he finds his fabrics, what he's learned along this creative journey, and more!
When and how did you find a love for fabrics and sewing?
Some of the reactions I get are interesting/funny but I take them in stride! A man sewing isn’t something common but it’s what I love to do right now. I actually talked with my buddy Max about this recently; he’s spearheading an upcoming project on the gender construct called “Masc/Mask”. I got into streetwear in 2007, your typical hat and graphic tee introduction. Three years ago I had an idea for a pocket shirt, brought that idea to my grandma (figuring she would make it because grandmas are just good). Then she offered to teach me how to sew. It was game on from that point! It was crazy to have an idea and then have it and hold it thirty minutes later!
Is there an evolution to your work from when you started to now?
Obviously, quality - just getting better with the sewing itself! Everything from better blanks to making sure the placement is right, details like that. For me, the pocket tee’s are pretty simple. I’ve done enough of them now that they’re super quick and clean. Having done Tucson Fashion Week (in some capacity) for the past three years, designing is definitely something I want to shift more towards - a complete collection and garments from scratch. I’ve taken some clothing construction classes at Pima, and am currently in Flat Pattern Making 1.
How would you describe your brand? And what is it that you strive for?
I would describe QMULATIVE as a sewing-centered lifestyle brand. It started as an online feed, drawing inspiration from skateboarding, cars, music, and art. It was a mix of my interests and what I was involved with growing up. At the core of my brand’s aesthetic are these four. I strive for all my projects to be new, unique, and cross-disciplined.
Where do you find all your fabrics?
I’ve had some of my own fabrics printed and SAS is a great local spot! There was a lady at the Phoenix Flea Market back in November selling fanny packs made from one of my brand’s most popular fabrics. It’s cool to see how different people interpret things. I’m sure those did really well. I would love to check out the textile/fashion district in LA. Their scene is massive and I’m sure it’d be completely different from what I’m used to!
You’re very collaborative when it comes to events and other local brands. What’s your dream collaboration?
Probably something with architecture, somehow. When I first did Tucson Fashion Week in 2014, the premise/prompt was to design something based off the interior of a Puma shoe store in New York and I thought that was such a cool concept! Each of the designer’s garments were super different and really well done. Furthermore, the textiles themselves are getting more and more innovative and technologically forward – something I need to stay versed in and incorporate!
What is your favorite project to date?
Definitely my collaboration with WalkWith and really, any project with philanthropic ties. At the time, they were raising money to build a multi-faceted community center down in Guatemala. Moving forward, I’d love to get more involved with their movement, more so than just the shirts themselves. I was honored that they trusted me to help with the identity of said project/ organization!
My apprentice, Saige, got me onboard with the U of A’s Public Health Brigade for a similar project here recently. For the past two years over spring break, they’ve traveled down to Nicaragua to facilitate hygiene education and infrastructure work! Granted my contribution (a trip shirt design) was a relatively simple one. It was awesome to see the QMULATIVE logo alongside ASUA’s as a part of something so impactful!
Also, I’m very excited to be working with Ben’s Bells in August. Stay tuned!
What do you feel sustains your business?
I just try to be as consistent as possible. It’s what I pride both myself and my brand on. You can accomplish a lot online these days. If I feel that our vision/aesthetic might align, I will always reach out! You can never substitute a handshake, though. It’s imperative to get out and network. Not everything has to be collaborative per say. Even if it’s just running some ideas by someone or getting some mentorship/advice from someone you look up to! It can never hurt and will, at the very least, be constructive.
Have you ever experienced self-doubt as an artist? If so, how’d you overcome that?
Occasionally. For example, when you’re getting questions from someone that genuinely cares about you regarding a sustainable career path. I push to talk less and simply give everything I do a full-time effort! I am absolutely confident in my brand, and have been dialing in the balance of thinking about the bigger picture without getting too caught up in it.
What would you say are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned that perhaps you’d like to remind yourself of in the future?
Even when things weren’t on the up and up, what worked for me and what continues to work for me, is being consistent – before product, maybe a new sticker colorway or blog post. Although it is tough at times, I’ve learned to not overthink things and rather, roll with and seize the circumstances you’re given. The last pointer would be to always continue to network, potentially with people that have nothing to do with what you do. Their perspective can be equally as valuable! I’m intrigued by what makes people tick and why they are the way they are. Consistency, keeping things in context, and network!