by Dawne Belloise
The Slut Strand Society is more than the brand and outerwear Elsa Watkins designs, it’s become one of the largest female ski and snowboard communities in the world. With 25,000 Instagram followers, it has become a hub for girls across the world to communicate, learn and inspire each other. “It’s been absolutely insane to watch it explode,” Elsa says.
Elsa lived here from the day she was born to parents Rob Watkins and Stephanie Allen until she graduated from CBCS in 2014. It was all about the community for Elsa. “All my parents’ friends went to Western State College together. We were basically raised together as siblings,” she says of those friends’ kids. “I grew up in Meridian Lake, and we were the very definition of feral kids. In the summers, we neighborhood kids would get together and go to Long Lake to canoe, rope swing, sunbathe and make flower crowns. We were on our own and we took very good care of each other. We always had the older kids watching out for us.”
Coming from a family of avid skiers, Elsa was up on skis as a toddler, of course. Her parents bought Butte and Co in 1995, which her mom still owns. Her dad owns Embroidered Sportswear in Gunnison.
Elsa enrolled in CSU’s Outerwear Product Development curriculum. With a flair for outerwear design for skiing and snowboarding, she was hired immediately in 2018 by Icelantic Skis, traveling the world and going to Iceland for photoshoots for the clothing she designed. A year later she was recruited by Spyder out of Boulder. “I helped with the launch of their Spyder Freeski, a collection that focuses back on slopestyle and half pipe skiing. I got to do their social media and work with the athletes,” she says, who nicknamed her Spidey Mom. “I still work with them here and there but after COVID I took a step back to focus on my own brand, Slut Strand Society,” which she formed in 2019. “My dad came up with the name one day when I had come in from skiing and he said, ‘Your slut strands look really great today! We immediately embroidered that onto beanies,” she laughs.
Elsa currently lives in Denver, but she still considers CB her home and returns often. “I’m still heavily involved in Butte and Co, picking out all the outerwear inventory.” Her goal is to keep growing the Society. “We’re starting new branches that focus on teaching girls how to skate, ski, surf, to encourage them to get into that uncomfortable space and to not be afraid to fall or ask for help. Eventually we want to take it beyond just our mountain and beach communities and expand it to communities that might not have access to this type of work, like maybe doing an inner-city skate clinic for example.”
Everything Elsa does seems to reflect the things she learned from growing up in CB. “Treat everyone around you with utmost kindness and as if they were your own family. It was really important that I kept that mentality in the big city so that my friends felt like they were in a safe place. The mountains and nature truly raised us, so now I have such a deep respect for nature and our planet and it gave me the drive to truly leave this world the way I found it.”
Check out slutstrandsociety.com online and social media where they discuss mental health, personal style and the real issues women are facing.