INSPR’s Chantel Waterbury on Why Influencers Are Here to Stay
Sag Harbor’s own Chantel Waterbury uses her proven track record to work with some of the fashion world’s most popular influencers on their own collections via her company, INSPR. The charismatic entrepreneur tells The Daily Summer about her latest collab, and how she’s changing the way we shop.
Tell us about your professional background.
I spent most of my career climbing the corporate ladder, working for many large retail corporations as a buyer and a merchant — at Target, Macy’s, Gap Inc., and LVMH — knowing that one day I would launch my own business. By the time I made that leap, the shift from in-store to online and the influence of social and mobile made me change how I approached building my own brand. So I launched my own brand, Chloe + Isabel, which was based off a direct-to-consumer model and was completely social. All of a sudden, I had people living in a small town selling $100,000 per year in jewelry, which isn’t something I’d see a jewelry brand do in one store in my previous life.
Did that change your view of the business world?
I realized that people look for an authentic connection. They don’t want to be marketed to. They want you to tell them the truth; they want to know you’re listening to them, and that you actually do things as a result of those conversations. It became important that anything I did going forward should be truly collaborative.
What’s the gist of your company, INSPR?
We celebrate the creator, the maker, the visionary who dreams of the brand she wants to build and the products she’d like to create. Then, we transform that vision into reality. Since launching last September, we’ve created limited-edition collections with Natalie Lim Suarez, Brittany Xavier, and Tessa Barton, and we’re launching a collection with Nicole Williams this month! Each collection is truly unique because it’s driven by the collaborator; we simply execute their vision as a business partner across product development, marketing, and merchandising. We’re about to expand that vision into supporting designers who are already building businesses, and highlighting why we think their brands are exceptional.
What made you decide to collaborate with Nicole Williams?
We realized shortly after launching that one of the best ways to ensure that we’re selecting a creator who is inspiring to work with is by allowing our community to recommend them. While I am sure many people recognize Nicole as a model and star of the reality-TV series WAGS, and wife of pro athlete Larry English, we became interested in working with her because of the incredible things we kept hearing about her from people within our community.
From Nicole’s overwhelming support for her friends’ ventures, since we’re all about collaboration over competition, to her active role in animal rescue and cruelty organizations, to learning about how she is a prime example of a “self-made” woman who had to work hard to get to where she is. The first thing I noticed when I met Nicole was how kind, humble, and thoughtful she was while having extraordinary ambitions. I was surprised and impressed to see the range in her designs! Each look in her collection is inspired by, and named after, a place she either lived in or spent extensive time.
Why is the company called INSPR?
Because I wanted a daily reminder that our mission is to find ways to inspire people — whether through the people or brands that we highlight or work with to events and workshops that we create to educate and bring like-minded people together.
Tell us about your success working with influencers. How are they moving product? Is this the future?
While each collaboration is visually so incredibly different, the common thread is that they’re all creating something with the goal of sharing their creative vision and style with their communities, at accessible prices. The collections are largely shopped via social channels. I think the element that most reflects the future is the power of communities and their role in deciding how and where they want to discover fashion, while forcing transparency and authenticity to gain their loyalty.
How do you choose your INSPR clients?
We look for someone who we believe has a strong creative vision for their personal brand. We can’t give someone creative control for a period of time unless they know what to do with it. It’s also important they care about using their influence to create a positive impact, whether by educating others on being more socially responsible with their fashion decisions, or supporting a charity or a cause that has special personal meaning. I want to work with someone who is inspiring in a multitude of ways.
Are influencers here to stay?
I think influencers have always been and will always be. They’re simply people who have influence because they have a large audience that is listening to them. The difference now is that you can create that for yourself versus trying to get “discovered” or knowing the right people.
How did you collaborate with 21 Buttons this year?
We held our first “Inspired: Beyond the Influence” workshop with them, which brought together creators, brands, and retailers to talk about what goes into building a personal and professional brand and business, and how all these worlds should collide to deliver authenticity and value. It was amazing. People shared stories that were raw and real, and they also delivered content that allowed people to take immediate action.
You have a place in Sag Harbor. What do you love about the area?
I can feel the history of Sag Harbor when I’m walking around the village there, from the harbor to what was once old watering holes of literary greats. I feel like Sag attracts a lot of artists, designers, musicians, writers, and chefs! There are amazing restaurants, antique shops, and local designer boutiques. I like that I feel like I’m supporting local business owners when I’m there. It’s a true year-round community.
You come out East all year long. What are your favorite off-season activities?
Fall is by far my favorite season out East! There’s the Hamptons International Film Festival; pumpkin and apple picking at Hank’s Pumpkintown or Seven Ponds Orchard; Wölffer Harvest Festival; and the Halloween parade in Sag Harbor. In winter, we go to the HarborFrost Festival in Sag Harbor, with incredible ice sculptures, fire dancers, and a fireworks show; and eating and drinking by the fire at Baron’s Cove. The kids love sledding at Pierson High School. We also do several holiday tree-lighting events! In spring, we usually go to Topping Rose House for Easter brunch and an egg hunt; Elizabeth A. Morton National Wildlife Refuge for nature walks and bird feeding; and shell collecting on the beach.
Rosé is popular in the Hamptons, but what can we find you drinking at 6 p.m. on a Saturday?
Aperol Spritz has become my jam. I feel like after many sessions with my favorite mixologist friends, I have mastered the art of making one. Hint: It involves lemon rind! [The drink] feels so refreshing and is a great pick-me-up. I mean, it’s practically nonalcoholic, right?
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