By Steven Threndyle
There is a major reason why British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest has been the epicenter for North American snowboarding since the mid-80s. It pukes, dumps, and precipitates (not always as blower pow, alas) from Halloween right on through till early May – and the snow is heavy so those narrow planks (aka ‘skis’) just don’t cut it. At places like Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour, Mount Baker, and Whistler, trails have been hewn from out of the primordial rainforest, and ‘boarders carve turns around gigantic, iconic trees like the Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, mountain hemlock, and western red cedar.
Hence, a decidedly woodsy vibe permeated KnowShow 12 at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre from January 18 – 20th. KnowShow brings together retailers – many from independent shops that still make up the backbone of Canada’s action sports industry – to the West Coast for three days of mid-winter show’n’tell, with a healthy mix of hardgoods and lifestyle/fashion.
KnowShow features floor space rented by mega-brands like Quiksilver, Hurley, Rip Curl, DaKine, and Lifetime Collective, but also by an emerging flood (let’s keep that rain metaphor going) of Canadian designers making their mark through brands like Airhole (facemasks), Endeavor (snowboards/bindings), Herschel (packs, computer bags), Native (footwear), Sitka (clothing/lifestyle), Vivo (headwear) and Now (snowboard bindings).
Perhaps the most unique brand story belongs to Voleurz, a design house started by three University of Victoria students about five years ago. Co-founder Darren Rayner says that “we started out making videos with our friends and people started asking us if we sold anything, and, well, our shirts were pretty much hand made at the time. We threw parties, we video’d each other skiing and skateboarding and mountain biking, and our name – taken from the French “voleur”—to steal – is strictly coincidental.” Voleurz’ Rayner was still stunned by the massive social media sensation of his Sh*t Skiers Say YouTube video. Officially released by Whistler Blackcomb and an immediate internet sensation with over one million views, Rayner says “Ironically, there isn’t a single logo in the video.” Voleurz is sold primarily through independent snowboard and surf shops in France, Spain, Norway and Australia; but has also been introduced into Canadian Rip Curl stores as well.
At the Herschel Supply Company booth, sales manager Adam Ruddell proudly showed off four packs (Caliber 16 snowboard back, plus the Survey, Journey, Settlement bags) in a new Herschel x Holden collaboration. Herschel’s signature contrasting pack lining sets its packs apart from the rest as do retro touches such as leather pack straps, brass buckles, and, new for 2012, hard-wearing, good looking corduroy fabric. “We’ve expanded from 300 to well over 400 SKUs in the last season,” Ruddell says—indeed, they’d run out of lookbooks by the time that TW Business got to their booth on Friday. Herschel packs are now sold in 35 countries. “The feedback that we’ve been getting from retailers has been really strong,” Ruddell concluded, “Our accounts tell us that we’re usually one of their best-selling brands.”
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