When he’s not teaching surf lessons in Hanalei, managing six rooms in an ohana-style complex in Kapaa, or considering the dimensions of the half-pipe he’s planning for his back yard, Sean Mccrink is busy creating designs for his clothing company, Elephit.
That’s in between all of the other shirts he’s printing for businesses like Wake Up Café, or events on the island like birthday parties and car races.
All of those ventures go toward supporting Elephit, which gives 7 percent of profits to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for saving African elephants.
TGI sat down with Mccrink in his Kapaa studio while he was printing the newest logo for Elephit, to hear about how the brand got started.
TGI: What made you decide to start a clothing brand?
Mccrink: I started it in 2012. I moved here in 2010 and I didn’t have anything — just a bag of clothes, but I moved into a place here (in Kapaa) from Atlanta, and one day I got bored and had to go let off some steam, so I went out into the yard and I found a laptop in the bushes.
I brought the laptop to the police station and they kept it for a week, but nobody claimed it so I got to keep it. But then nobody could crack into the laptop, so I just left it in my bag for a while and I moved up to Hanalei and Wainiha for two years.
I found this guy on Craigslist who said he could fix anything with computers and he happened to live three houses down from where I was staying in Wainiha, so I took it over to him and he put Photoshop and some other creative programs on it.
So then I started messing with Photoshop again, and I came across a picture that I had made a while back where I took a photo of Kramer from Seinfield and put the head of an elephant on it. I called the photo Elephit. So that made me think about elephants and I started researching them.
I wanted to start my own clothing brand but it was because I liked designing and the creative aspect of it. I wanted it to be more than just a clothing brand, too. I wanted to be able to give back.
TGI: Why did you choose elephants?
Mccrink: I was looking into kids and orphans, but I found out about orphaned elephants and their parents are being killed off for the ivory trade. So, I went on a full elephant journey and fell in love with them.
They’re animals that push forward and they never leave another elephant behind. They’re a great symbol for helping out the community and kids, especially, that don’t have parents or someone backing them up.
I always say it’s about building up the captain within, and they work really well with that concept, too.
Elephants never forget either, that’s a saying, but really they never do. They’ll walk past the bones of a dead elephant and mourn. They remember things and they work together as a tribe. They’re smart and they’ve always seemed almost like fairytale creatures to me.
TGI: What’s your main logo?
Mccrink: The marching elephant — that’s the main logo — and that means all steps forward. Forward motion.
But I’ve got a bunch of logos. I come up here and work on a design to print out and I usually design about 15 other things while I’m in the process. I don’t mean to, it just happens.
We have other artists that come in and mess around too, and that’s the beauty of it. We’re able to print whatever we want and see what sells and what doesn’t.
The newest is a simple design. It’s just a face — basic and simple.
It’s not just shirts either, it’s hats and socks and other stuff. We’ve got a whole bunch of different things out there.
TGI: Where do you sell your products?
Mccrink: We’re mostly online right now, but we have one outlet, HSA (Hawaii Surf Adventures) in Hanalei. We do well at art walks, too.
TGI: You’ve mentioned the brand is more of a means to an end. What else do you do with Elephit?
Mccrink: With a brand you can plug into the community and really get involved. You can host things and sponsor things and really send a message.
So this is about getting kids stoked and saving the elephants and having an outlet for my creativity.
We have a couple of riders that we sponsor too, so we get involved in the skate industry. I’m really into the lifestyle sports industry, so it’s good to be able to sponsor guys.
And in the future, well, I have a few ideas of what I want to do with Elephit.
I’ve got a few products that aren’t on the market right now that I’m looking at, but I don’t want to give away too many details on that.