Famous President Bill Gage On Staying True To The Brand’s Roots

Photos: Chris Kimball

Catch Up With FS&S President Bill Gage & Take A Tour Of The Company’s Ontario, California Headquarters

Editor’s Note: In our Summer Issue, TransWorld Business sat down with Famous Stars & Straps President Bill Gage to hear more about his strategy for growing the brand, working with the brand’s founder and famed musician Travis Barker, and how he sees the opportunity to speak to a youth demographic through the brand’s authentic roots as key to Stars & Straps success. Read the full interview in this summer’s issue of TransWorld Business.

What’s it been like working with Travis in your new role? 

Working with Travis directly has been very inspiring for me personally. To have the opportunity to work with such a talented musician who takes a lot of personal pride in his company and is very involved is a huge source of motivation for me. Travis has been involved in action sports his entire life and he provides incredible insight from his perspective as he pays close attention to our industry. His recording studio in Los Angeles is a hub for our marketing team to stay in touch with the LA scene and also connect with very high profile musical artists from hip hop to punk rock.

Talk about the direction the brand is headed in now that you started to reposition and rebuild some of the moving pieces within the company.

Famous Stars & Straps is one of the original street wear brands and we have made some great additions to our internal management team to get us back to our roots in a more progressive fashion. Luis Antonio has taken over our creative direction now and having the entire art department and design team answering to him as given us a much more cohesive look. Luis is a visionary who started Green Apple Tree years ago and he really has a strong grasp on where the market trends are going and what makes sense for our brand. He has brought on a new young group of talented designers and artists so we are very excited about our new direction.

You talked about returning the brand to focus on its roots and the core/specialty retailers that have helped build it. What are some of the steps you are taking to do this? Who are some of the major core specialty accounts that you are looking to give extra support?

We are rebuilding the entire sales team and it’s starts from within. Tyson Rossi was hired as our National Sales Manager and Luca Izzo has come on board as our International Sales Manager. We have also been spending a lot of time on rebuilding our internal customer service staff as we want to become more “user friendly” to retailers. Now that our infrastructure is strong, we are recruiting professional sales reps on the outside who are motivated to help us fuel our planned expansion. Our focus is growing our core specialty business again and providing tremendous marketing initiatives and support to help the core retailers.

What demographic are you trying to target?

We have a very loyal customer base as Famous has always been true to it’s fans.

Like everyone, we want to target the next young crop of kids in the 13-18 year range who probably aren’t very familiar with our brand. However, with our incredible connections to up and coming musical artists, relationships with our high profile athletes such as Manny Santiago and Twitch, we feel we can build a very powerful brand message for the newbies.

In the ever-evolving retail market, what are three ways Famous is trying to differentiate themselves to make the brand stand out at retail?

We are going back to the well where the brand started in music, cars, and girls. Marketing collateral in stores will reflect this original DNA theme. Travis has remained very relevant in pop culture and having him back on the forefront as our leader and icon is very exciting for us all.

What are three lessons you’ve learned along the way when it comes to marketing?

Surround yourself with young people who are immersed in the lifestyle of the brand. Never stop learning. New idea’s never stop flowing but the execution of the concept all the way to the sales register is what matters most to the retailer.

It’s an understatement to say we have lived through a cleansing period in our industry. I firmly believe the independent retailer is poised for another strong growth period in the near future.

How have you seen the climate evolve over the last few years, and where is the future headed moving forward?

It’s an understatement to say we have lived through a cleansing period in our industry. I firmly believe the independent retailer is poised for another strong growth period in the near future.

How would you define the brand? Has the brand’s image changed at all since the it was first conceived, and if so how?

Famous Stars & Straps was inspired by music and the life of a true rockstar Travis Barker. With Travis getting actively involved in the business again we are going to get back to the original DNA to tell our brand story; Music, cars, girls, skate, LA lifestyle.

What was the thought process and strategy behind bringing Kevin Meehan on board as a consultant and how do you feel that has strengthened the rebuilding process so far?

Kevin Meehan has been incredible to work with as we compliment each other very well. He has been focusing on the overall brand message and has brought some great marketing experience which he has shared with our staff. He and I have taken a “divide and conquer” approach by splitting up the executive roles during this time of repositioning the brand.

What is your take on the overall state of the action sports/youth lifestyle market at this time, and where is the future of this industry headed?

 Coming out of a very difficult retail climate will take time but in end, Action Sports will rebound as participation in alternative sports has certainly not diminished. It’s imperative that a brand appeal to a broader audience these days and being involved in music will continue to be a vehicle for us to expand our reach to more people. This also allows us to target a diverse range of retailers and not be reliant on only one channel of distribution.