If Thaddeus O’Neil seems a bit preoccupied, it’s not without good reason. In the span of just over two years, the New York-based designer has grown his eponymous line of “après surf playwear,” from a small assortment sold exclusively at Manhattan’s Nepenthes boutique, into a full-fledged label with both men’s and women’s collections—each with its own separate show during New York Fashion Week—and a highly-coveted spot among the finalists for the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award. It’s been a swift ascent, even for the notoriously fast-paced fashion industry, and especially for a lifelong surfer, poet, and former model who seems more at home sprawled in the sand than clocking the type of grueling hours required to run a burgeoning label. But, O’Neil’s laid-back vibes and New Age mentality may prove to be his biggest advantage toward staying afloat.

We caught up with O’Neil at the tail end of a week that included a whiplash-inducing series of events that perfectly encapsulates his current status: a trip to Burning Man, followed by a day of fittings for a photoshoot with living legend Grace Coddington, and the freewheeling debut of his Spring 2016 collection of women’s wear in a sweaty loft in Chinatown, done up to look like a beachside carnival. It’s “the peak of a very crazy moment,” according to O’Neil, but if anyone has figured out how to ride that wave, it’s him.