The plant-based food company has brought on the Round Two founder for its first vegan clothing line.
It’s 9 a.m. on Melrose and Sean Wotherspoon is already hours into his day.
While the timestamp and locale may sound like a Drake one-off, it’s routine for the Round Two founder who rises before the sun’s up. For years, Weatherspoon’s schedule has started at the same time TNT airs Charmed reruns, sacrificing sleep for moonlit errands dating back to his run in Richmond.
His secret? A plant-based diet.
“Because I started eating vegan, I was able to wake up at 5 a.m., hit all the flea markets and thrifts, then go to the store at 11 a.m. and do buying all day,” Wotherspoon told Boardroom. “I’d leave at 9 p.m., go home and stay up until 2 a.m. and then do it all again.”
Cleary the notion that Virginia is for hustlers proves true. All that grinding helped turn Wotherspoon into the consignment king, highly humble in his success yet highly sought after by power players like Nike, adidas, Porsche, and Guess.
Moreover, all that good eating not only fueled said success, it paved a path for a multi-year partnership with Beyond Meat.
Announced Tuesday, Wotherspoon will design a vegan apparel line for the plant-based food company, merging his eye for retro fashion with his earthy approach toward life.
In a sense, it might be the most ‘lifestyle’ clothing collaboration that ever was. However, while marketing mantras like ‘sustainability’ and ‘creating a conversation’ often land like virtue signaling at big brands, the tale of the tape shows Wotherspoon’s story is far from cap.
“Besides owning Round 2, being vegan, and being in a relationship? There’s nothing else I’ve done for 10 years,” he said.
Veganism: A Love Story
Though his day might start before the sun comes up, Wotherspoon’s plant-based journey started years before coming into the limelight.
Yup, when it comes to keeping it vegan, he is far from green to the game. The story starts 10 years ago, when his girlfriend hit him with an ultimatum that could easily turn into a reality romance challenge.
“I don’t know if I can date someone who’s not vegan,” she said.
Feeling the heat, Wotherspoon went vegetarian immediately, cutting all animal meat from his diet as a means to meet in the middle. Weeks into his dietary ascent, the couple traveled to DC, where they watched the doc, Cowspiracy.
“It changed it all for me,” Wotherspoon admitted. “I’m in the movie theater eating cheese pizza and this whole documentary is telling me how absolutely disgusting the milk is on it. In the moment I said, ‘I’m never consuming dairy again.'”
From that point on, Wotherspoon went full-vegan. Eating habits aside, he noticed a new connection to the Earth and a new appreciation for all forms of life. Not only was he picking up spiders and setting them outside, he was experiencing the benefits of newfound energy.
This sort of spiritual revolution is celebrated in bohemian circles and even acclaimed in sport. However, while much is made of Chris Paul’s conversion to a plant-based diet and how it’s kept him healthy on the court, it’s seldom discussed how that same spark in availability connects to Wotherspoon and his creative explosion.
Consider this: in 2012, Wotherspoon went vegan. In 2013, he opened Round Two. By 2015, the Virginia vintage shop expanded to Los Angeles, and by 2017 he had arguably the most influential Nike collaboration of the decade.
Not a bad first five years of being vegan, with the resume attached to the second half of that stint looking just as strong.
“My internal sustainability of my own energy — both mental and everything? It’s increased tenfold, it’s insane,” Wotherspoon said. “I took on a workload that was more than I’d ever experienced in my life, but I was dietarily prepared for it.”
By cutting out cravings and consistently fueling his aspirations, Wotherspoon found his focus and his stride. Now formally backed by Beyond — in both fridge and factory — Wotherspoon has full reign to create and color outside the lines in a manner his former fashion backers wouldn’t allow.
“A lot of the ideas that I’d brought to the sneaker and streetwear design that have been pushed back on? Beyond is like, let’s go,” Wotherspoon said. “There’s a handful of dreams that I’ve wanted to bring to life and I think it’s all going to happen with Beyond.”
For a man that sleeps three hours a night, he has surpassed even his wildest dreams.
Those in the collectible clothing game know that Wotherspoon’s name rings off with a weight only on par with the likes of Virgil Abloh, Tremaine Emory, and A$AP Rocky. If that’s hard to believe just reading this, trust, it’s even harder for Wotherspoon to grasp.
“I never thought I’d work with Nike or adidas, it was never in my trajectory,” admitted Wotherspoon, who’s designed sellout sneakers for both brands.
Winning Nike’s Vote Forward Air Max design contest not long after making the move to LA, Wotherspoon’s corduroy kicks easily flip for thousands of dollars and are favored by everyone from LeBron James to Travis Scott. Both Kevin Durant and Kevin Hart have pairs in their respective sizes, with Foot Locker locations around the world selling spin-off styles inspired by Wotherspoon’s counter-culture perspective.
Though ’70s shades and unorthodox materials made Wotherspoon’s shoe pop, flavor and fabric were just the surface level story of the sneaker.
“When Nike picked me up, I realized I had a unique perspective in being vegan and being plant-based,” Wotherspoon said. “But Nike wouldn’t event let me define my product as vegan at the time because they didn’t want backlash, because as a whole Nike wasn’t a completely vegan-friendly company.”
Afraid of call-out culture, the Swoosh silenced Wotherspoon’s plant-based branding in fear of outcry over products that weren’t.
Much like Wotherspoon’s shoes on the aftermarket, values famously flipped.
“In the last five years, brands won’t even consider the rest of their company to market something as vegan or sustainable,” he said. “Everything’s changed and I just feel really lucky having this original point of view when I entered the design world just based on my dietary choices.”
That point of view holds value, both literally and figuratively.
Because of Wotherspoon’s eating habits, Beyond became a perfect partner to create something new for the food company that’s completely second nature. For those apprehensive about a vegan clothing line backed by an outside entity, the aim is not to be sustainable simply by feeding his fanbase leftover scraps.
“I’m heavily using my archive,” Wotherspoon said. “I have pieces that I don’t even put on Instagram because they’re so special to me. I’m going to use a lot of that as reference for Beyond design.”
Digging deep into his vintage vault is enough to put followers into a frenzy. For Wotherspoon, the fabric of this deal is deeper than cargo pockets or a Barry White concert tee.
Notably, he cites Beyond’s global accessibility as a major point of pride in this partnership. Because Beyond Meat does not use GMOs, it’s sold all over the world, which means much to a man who travels and sees the whole globe as connected.
Just as Wotherspoon has seen the behind-the-scenes creation at sportswear’s biggest brands, he’s had the privilege of going under the hood at Beyond Meat. From taste-testing product that’s two-years out from market to experiencing hospitality reserved for execs, the recruiting trip rivaled any Wotherspoon had taken before.
“It’s just as cool as being in the adidas archive, and that’s sick,” he said. “It’s cool as shit being in Germany and going to the adidas HQ and seeing the behind the scenes of the brand. And for that to be the same way with Beyond? It was dope because you’re seeing scientists in lab coats working on product. It’s the same way as being at adidas and seeing a sample and asking, ‘When do those come out?'”
The love story started by the woman who is now the mother to his children is seeing its second sonnet at Beyond. While writing this next chapter, Wotherspoon sees the need to bring new characters into his tale.
“I felt like it’s my job to share this with the world,” he said. “Because if they saw it they might at least eat vegan one day a week.”
The New Standard
One unfamiliar with modern streetwear may peg Wotherspoon as a cult icon. While flattering, that undersells his scale.
Amassing over 1.1 million followers on Instagram alone, his influence is much more than likes or hashtags. Go to any city in America and you’ll see a slew of teens and 20-somethings dressed just like Wotherspoon, all the way from their retro runners to their corduroy caps.
What’s more? This legion of kids obsessed with clothes older than they are covers every young demographic and defies labels even if logos land all over them. Even more impressive, many kids have followed in Wotherspoon’s steps by opening up consignment shops of their own.
By carving his own lane, Wotherspoon created a model for kids commercially with an approachability that’s inclusive communally.
“There’s depth,” he said on his consignment start. “With Round Two, all we had to compare it to was Flight Club. I went to New York and I remember my first experience in Flight Club and I didn’t feel like I was cool enough, straight up. I was 14 and was a swagged out kid with two collar popped Polos on. I was a skate kid, and I still felt like I was cool enough. With Round Two, it was our opportunity to create something approachable where you felt like you could learn. The best thing I ever hear from people is, ‘You got me into vintage clothing’ because that means so many people came into our store that weren’t a part of this world but felt that our store was approachable enough to become part of this community.”
With his new multi-year partnership at Beyond, the same sentiment and approach to access continues.
“I want to recreate that with Beyond,” he said. “When streetwear and resale came to play in 2013, it was Round Two’s job to set a standard and say going forward how we were going to treat our store and our customers. Now? We need to set that standard for vegan brands. You should be able to be someone without any knowledge on eating vegan and not be intimidated. You should be able to hop in the Beyond world easily.”
Just as standoffish customer service — or utter lack thereof — once defined streetwear, Wotherspoon looks to erase the snootiness sometimes attached to veganism.
At Beyond, he already has ideas far more multidimensional than clothing, ranging from experiential cooking shows to activations that add energy to hole-in-the-wall city staples. Just as Wotherspoon feels mom-and-pop shops are the lifeblood of sneaker culture, he feels the same sentiment for locally owned restaurants.
“I’ve seen in the sneaker world where mom-and-pop stores went from being the cornerstone of what we knew and all of the sudden that was taken from us,” he said. “I want to shed light on the mom-and-pop restaurants to show what they’re doing in an authentic way.”
Once again, community and creativity are at the core of Wotherspoon’s mission.
“These places are the backbone of our society but they always have the most trouble,” he said. “I want to highlight them because they’re a positive part of communities. I brought up the idea and Beyond said, ‘That’s dope, where’s the first city?'”
In conversation, Wotherspoon shares ideas ranging from activations in Indonesia to dinner parties that put plant-based products in front of his famous friends — some vegan, some not. Nevertheless, it’s all about using food and fashion as a means to make the world a healthier place.
“It’s creating an access point,” Wotherspoon said. “We’re in a world now where every interest you have is transcended and moving together. What we really hope to achieve with this is making Beyond an entry point that’s approachable and you feel like is relevant to you. We want to make a seamless gateway into practicing a vegan lifestyle or even eating vegan once a week. I want to make it so cool that someone walks by someone on the street and sees someone in a Beyond hoody, they say, ‘Oh, that’s dope!’ Instead of, ‘Oh, that’s vegan.’ I want it to be so cool and normalized.”
After building Round Two from the ground up and cutting his teeth through collaborations everywhere from Nike to Guess, the challenge is grander at Beyond, yet the canvas is more malleable.
“There’s a lot of red lines and caution tape around things,” said Wotherspoon of working with corporate fashion brands. “Beyond’s not really a clothing company so we won’t have those limitations. Things I can’t push through on one side? I’ll push through on the Beyond side.”
Thus far, those ideas include a full-body flight suit similar to that of a classic car mechanic or an archival Air Jordan ad.
While the ’90s provide the universal sweet-spot for where much of nostalgia and vintage is concerned, the grassroots movement of Beyond allows Wotherspoon to dig deeper to other eras commonly attached to revolution and alternate thinking.
“An era that’s heavy for me is the ’60s and ’70s,” Wotherspoon said. “That Peter Max vibe with lots of color and hippy type shit. Woodstock vibes. I deal with a lot of textures like corduroy, cork, herringbone twill, and ripstop. These are all materials that were relevant then and I want to bring them back in a new-school way with Beyond. It’s super streetwear inspired.”
Blending values with aesthetic and interest is the next evolution of fashion as a means of expression and a catalyst for change. At Beyond, Wotherspoon has a chance to leverage the creative clout attached to his name with the beliefs and practices he feels can truly make the world a better place.
When considering he’s already uprooted the consignment space, making it more accessible and approachable, who’s to say he can’t flip another industry simply by being himself?
“I always want my partnerships to be organic and doable,” Wotherspoon said. “I’m a random-ass dude with no college education who loves meeting people and talking to them. I want people to see that if I can understand this and navigate it, then you’ve totally got this, too. I want that to shine through with the Beyond project. Hopefully people are inspired by this just as they were with Round Two.”