I’m Max Wastler.

I have spent the past 17 years building the brand equity, strategy and storytelling for companies like Speedo, J. Crew, Madewell, Patagonia, Gitman Bros., Basil Hayden’s, Maxwell House Coffee, Airstream, Lands’ End. Today, I am the Vice President of Brand for Aparium Hotel Group.

More than ever before, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance that community and relationships will play in keeping businesses alive and healthy. For any brand to succeed, it needs to have an immediate and lasting connection with its audience. Any brand, whether it is a start-up or a heritage brand, needs constant tending to be imbued with a level of relevancy and authenticity. From my first job after college, when I was thrown quite literally into the deep end of the pool, I have overseen strategic partnerships with brand ambassadors, influencers and like-minded companies as well as the development and execution of purpose-driven, strategically-considered content meant to provide customers with something new, something unexpected, something valuable. It’s in this alchemy that I make magical, meaningful things happen. 

I’m a big picture thinker, focused on the 10,000 foot view, and I often find myself facilitating as the acting or interim CMO or CCO (Creative/Communications). I specialize in brand development: creation of the brand book; internal and external communications; PR; overseeing the creation of the brand’s look, feel and verbiage; shaping the mission, vision and values; aligning with cause marketing efforts; exploring potential brand partnerships; developing and overseeing the hiring and training of additional roles related to brand, communications, design, marketing and additional creative roles as needed; crafting of enticing job descriptions; developing org charts for existent and future organizations.

I am also known to be excellent counsel to senior leadership and investors, adept at providing guidance and oversight as to brand potential, strategies and extensions. I’m a strategically-minded, holistically-approaching idea guy. I can come in and quickly stretch a brand, unearthing realms previously unthinkable. I’m not a full-time executor, but I am an excellent manager of execution teams. 

I began my career at Speedo as a creative concepts consultant. It’s a role into which I fit naturally. Conceptualizing brand campaigns and directing the execution of concepts is old hat for me. While other boys my age were trading baseball cards, I was redesigning pro sports team logos or designing parody logos for my friends. In the years that followed, I wrote, directed and often starred in homemade commercials for the toys, clothes, and gear I loved. In my years as a brand concepts developer, I’ve learned to lead with a constant pressure on consistency, on clarity, on simplicity, and I do everything in my power to ensure every element of creative aligns with strategies and with the intended tone across every touchpoint. I’ve delivered on brand pivots following intense testing and the development of innovative approaches to engage with consumers at several points of contact: everything from disparately related points of interest directly to point of sale. 

After Speedo, in 2006, I was part of the creative team at J. Crew and Madewell involved in virtually all the ground-up efforts to see Madewell’s successful launch in 2007. I helped shape the brand partnerships program that became known as “In Good Company,” a first-of-its-kind partnerships program that many in the industry view as a game-changer.

Experiences since at companies like Jim Beam, Kraft Foods, Lands’ End, Caterpillar, Airstream and Maritz saw the development of my leadership abilities in the overarching creative strategy, positioning, as well as in the development and execution of key creative materials to establish campaigns across a myriad of platforms.

I help companies break through the din with work that leads to massive growth: highest YOY growth for Maxwell House Coffee in over a decade and fastest growing spirit in its category for Basil Hayden’s.

I have proven myself to have a solid grasp of the societal movements, the political climate, the cultural zeitgeist and the ability to synthesize market testing, data collection, data analysis, content development and content execution to reflect that grasp and speak directly to consumers, grabbing their attention and incurring their desire to spend. 

One area of interest that has escaped my grasp, though not for lack of trying is the entertainment industry. I possess a sincere love for film, television, streaming entertainment, reality… filmic storytelling of all kinds. I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since 1999, my freshman year of college, when I ran a Criterion Collection film club that would eventually see attendance of over 1/10 the student population gathering together on a weekly basis to watch and discuss meaningful cinematic experiences. I was an early Hulu subscriber. I was early to YouTube, and I’ve been a follower or subscriber of several additional streaming platforms, but the voracity of my love for the entertainment industry began much, much earlier. I have been an ardent fan and intense follower of the industry since I was at least twelve years old. I have been a Variety, Premiere and Entertainment Weekly subscriber since middle school. Even as a tween, I would pore over industry-heavy articles, following the careers of Eisner, Geffen, Katzenberg, Littlefield, Arledge, Iger, Ovitz, Tartikoff, Wells, as well as producers like Stephen Bochco, Peter Lassally, Norman Lear and Aaron Spelling.  Owing to the fact that I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, it wasn’t in my worldview that I could have had the opportunity to pursue a job in the world of entertainment. Eventually, I did spend my final two years of college attending and reporting on the Sundance Film Festival for my college newspaper and CCTV channel. Graduating with a minor in theater from DePauw University, I was awarded a cash prize and the Don Campbell award, given annually to the male and female students who contributed most to the theater in their four years. I put my prize money towards the tuition for the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, a highly competitive acting conservatory that only accepts 75 students into its first year program and welcomes back 25 for a second year intensive. After two years, upon graduating with honors, while I found a modicum of success acting on and writing for the stage, I found myself preternaturally drawn to the creation and development of stories for brands: first in the apparel industry and eventually for heritage brands and start-ups. With the branded content series Made Right Here as well as with much of my work with Basil Hayden’s, I was able to synthesize much of my training as a broadcast journalist, an actor and a screenwriter. To keep my tradecraft fresh, I currently host a podcast called Know First.

As my LinkedIn profile will tell you, I’m passionate about unveiling brand purpose and creating holistic experiences, hunting for insights buried in company histories to find creative and collaborative ways to develop strategies that breathe new life into a brand, its creative direction and its development into a more responsible business. I have contributed design, ideas, photography, products, strategy and writing for a client roster that includes AirstreamBasil Hayden’s BourbonCaterpillarGitman Bros., J. Crew, Land’s EndMaxwell House, Patagonia and Ralph Lauren. My work has been recognized by publications including Condé Nast Traveler, Dwell, Esquire, GQ, Men’s HealthThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal

WORK SYNOPSIS

For Speedo, I wrote the brand history for its 75th Anniversary, helped to execute their first London Fashion Week runway presentation. On Madewell’s launch team, I built the brand’s vintage archive and managed the development of brand collaborations. At Patagonia, I built pop-ups in Central Park, at farmer’s markets, a Riverkeeper event hosted by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Pete Seeger and at Farm Aid. L.L. Bean tapped me to help tell the story of their boot and tote bag factory in Waterville, Maine. With Quoddy, I developed a brand collaboration and was the first person to take photos and share the story of their handsewn moccasin factory. For Gitman Vintage I developed e-commerce platforms, websites, brand partnerships, products, product stories, fabrics, shirt and tie designs. Oxxford Clothes tapped me to develop their story, producing a short film, writing and designing the copy, designing new styles with their tailor. I established a fashion category for workwear manufacturer Pointer Brand. Maxwell House hired me to pivot brand focus on the made in Jacksonville aspects of its products. Jim Beam built the online presence for its fastest growing bourbon, Basil Hayden’s, around my well-trained eye. I was the creative force behind the brand’s first-ever website, social media accounts and experiential. Most recently, I developed a brand partnerships program for Lands’ End beginning with Airstream and Rowing Blazers. My work for Caterpillar that integrated the earth-movers and the footwear into an international Land Art campaign fell just short of the execution line owing to ongoing personnel shifts among senior management at Cat Footwear’s parent company, Wolverine

2003-2004 – SPEEDO – LONDON, UK

Product Development Associate – One of the first swimmers to wear-test the LZR suit, a now illegal material, faster than human skin, that won Michael Phelps gold medals in 2008. Member of a team that included Olympic gold medalists, assembled to developed content and strategies surrounding the celebration of the company’s 75th Anniversary. Consulted with Bikram Chouhdry on a yoga collaboration that ultimately failed to see the light of day. Collaborated with designer Melissa Odabash on a fashion line for Speedo. Collaborated with Naomi Campbell and Jerry Hall on a runway presentation of Odabash’s designs during London Fashion Week. 

2005-2007 – J. CREW, MADEWELL – NEW YORK, NY

Design Assistant – Developed practices in swimwear, button creation, and trim designs in the women’s department. 

Production Assistant, Madewell – Member of Madewell’s launch team. Oversaw the buying of vintage Madewell products to develop an archive of sorts to act as inspiration for the future of the re-launched brand. Managed the piloting of a partnerships program that ultimately led to J. Crew’s “In Good Company,” developing meaningful brand collaborations with Springcourt tennis shoes, Hunter wellingtons, and Barbour jackets, among others. Oversaw the development of their accessories practice, assisting the lead producers in jewelry, footwear, handbags and wallets. Collaborated on the design of the riding boot they now call “The Winslow,” inspired by a bespoke riding boot made in a small shop around the corner from J. Crew’s headquarters.

2007-2008 – PATAGONIA – NEW YORK, NY

Visual Merchandiser for the #1 and #2 selling stores in the company. Executed in-store and pop-up build-outs in Central Park, Union Square Farmer’s Market, Hudson, NY Farmer’s Market, Riverkeepers event with Pete Seeger and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and at Farm Aid on Roosevelt Island. Featured in the New York Times’ coverage of Farm Aid.

2009 – L.L. BEAN – FREEPORT, ME

Max’s blog All Plaidout was the first to document the manufacture of the Bean Boot and the Boat and Tote Bag at their facilities in Brunswick, Maine. Appeared as the “trendsetter” in their 100th Anniversary campaign video and appeared in the accompanying book.

2009 – QUODDY MOCCASINS – LEWISTON, ME

First blog to document the manufacture of Quoddy moccasins. Developed a canoe moc style that became so popular that you can still ask for it by name: “The All Plaidout.” That post directly contributed to introductions to develop relationships with retailers like Barneys New York, Urban Outfitters, and J. Crew. In later years, Quoddy would partner with Max and Huckberry to bring Basil Hayden’s “drinking shoes” to market.

2009 – 2010 – GITMAN BROS. – ASHLAND, PA

Assistant Designer and Sales Director – Designed and developed the “Vintage” label with the vice president. Wrote the brand story, consulted on the creation of the e-commerce platform and website, established the brand in 22 countries internationally in the span of one year. Assisted in the development of exclusive collaborations with Apolis, Barneys New York, Beams, Colette, Fred Segal, Garbstore, Len Crawford, Monocle Magazine, Opening Ceremony, Penfield, Reigning Champ, Ron Herman, Seavees, Ships, The Bay Co., Trés Bien Shop, wings+horns, and other specialty retailers.

2009 – 2010 – OXXFORD CLOTHES – CHICAGO, IL

Creative Consultant – Produced a short film. Developed an iPad sales platform for road sellers. Oversaw the creation of the e-commerce platform and website. Developed the brand collateral for 1220, their introductory-level priced line. Designed new soft-shoulder styles and narrower necktie silhouettes with lead tailor and pattern maker.

2010 – 2015 – BUCKSHOT SONNY’S – CHICAGO, IL

Founder, Owner –Established a fashion category for workwear manufacturer Pointer Brand [now L.C. King Mfg.] to celebrate their 100th Anniversary. Designed a 100% US-made baseball with Huntington Baseball Co. Carried an exclusive Nokona Baseball Glove, Developed the first-ever organic buckwheat and maple mix for the Great American Pancake Co.

2011 – 2015 – MADE RIGHT HERE – CHICAGO, IL

Developed, pitched, produced, hosted, wrote copy for a branded content web series in partnership with Maxwell House coffee. Episodes included: Stern Pinball, Imogene + Willie, Cause & Effect, Nokona Baseball Gloves, Maxwell House Coffee, Lawn Chair USA, Middleton Made Knives, Schutt Football Helmets, Martin Guitar, Homer Laughlin China, Pointer Brand Workwear and JT Van Zandt’s Escobedo Sea Dart.

2012 – 2016 – BASIL HAYDEN’S – CHICAGO, IL

Creative Director, Brand Ambassador, Spokesperson, Designer, Product Developer, Brand Partnerships Lead, Social Media Strategist, Social Media Manager, Writer, Photographer, Film Producer – Took a product that had no website, no social media and built it into the fastest growing brown spirit in the United States. Developed brand partnerships and many exclusive products that ran the gamut from work with Morris Kitchen, W&P, Sundance Resort’s Glassblower Studio, Oneida and Scrappy’s Bitters to Greta de Parry, Topo Designs, Winter Session, Filson, Ebbets Field Flannels, Quoddy, Huckberry, Imogene + Willie, Design Build Adventure, etc. Built a national campaign in cities with key accounts as well as in strategically considered locales the brand was targeting.

2013 – FARIBAULT WOOLEN MILL – FARIBAULT, MN

Designed and developed the brand’s first-ever collaboration, the Shadow Plaid, a plaid wool fabric comprising the yarns from the blankets from each branch of the military, the blankets for which Faribault is most well-known. It led to the introduction to brand collaborations withCamp Wandawega, The Collective QuarterlyandGood Beer Hunting.

2017 – 2019 – BRAND CONSULTANT – LOS ANGELES, CA – ST. LOUIS, MO

Lands’ End – Brand Strategist, Director of Partnerships

  • Developed brand partnerships strategy in keeping with company history.
  • Built relationships with Airstream, Chicago Parks, Newport Folk, Rowing Blazers, USA Rugby.
  • Provided holistic approaches to several PR and marketing strategies.

Airstream – Content Consultant

  • Conceived several web series with in-factory and on-road premises.
  • Tailored approaches to several brand partnerships.
  • Facilitated as sounding board for opportunities presented to the company’s charitable arm. 

Caterpillar – Creative Consultant

  • Scoped a program incorporating aspects of Land Art, visual art, and local food movements. 
  • Collaborated with artists, chefs, and “earth movers” in local communities throughout the world.

PORTFOLIO | YOUTUBE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | SPOTIFY | LINKEDIN | PODCAST