TransWorld SKATEboarding BusinessVolume 15 Number 1File: 88 Footwear
Photographer turned entrepreneur done good.
In a time of prosperity, new skateboarding companies pop up like flies at a picnic-so much so that our little economy becomes saturated, even to the point of flooding. Inevitably, some companies won’t survive this interim period. But what’s the recipe for success? What allows one company to survive, while others fail? Ed Dominick has found the answer.
Longtime TransWorld SKATEboarding photographer Dominick started 88 footwear with Kris Markovich in 2002 and has discovered that, in a time when others are treading water, making a splash will get you noticed.
88 made its splash last year with an impressive lineup: Markovich, Kristian Svitak, Justin Strubing, and amateur JT Aultz. Not long after, they pulled reclusive 80s legend Neil Blender out of retirement. “We decided to get Neil Blender just because he’s Neil Blender. And that’s that,” Dominick says. “He dropped off for a while in the 90s, but look at him now-he hasn’t lost a thing.”
In addition to skating for 88, Blender also contributes artwork. Dominick continues, “I started paying Neil as an artist as well as a rider, so all he has to worry about is skating. He just comes in now and then and gives us doodles, and I figure out how to use them.”
Blender isn’t the only rider who lends an artistic eye to the brand. Markovich’s artwork was used for an insole graphic on his first 88 shoe, as was Strubing and Svitak’s.
It seems that 88 is addressing this growing type of skater, those with an as-of-yet unnamed sort of gnarliness on any terrain. Corey Duffel, Don Nguyen, and Peter Hewitt round off the team, each one a burly skater in their own way.
So why 88? The answer is suprisingly simple, and telling. Dominick explains, “We (Markovich and Dominick) came up with the name based upon our favorite and most influential year in skateboarding-1988.”
There is a definite sarcastic sense of humor that goes along with Dominick and company. When asked what sets 88 apart from other shoe companies, Dominick simply replies, “We go to Taco Bell, they go to Roberto’s.” Another bit of evidence of 88’s tongue-in-cheek take on things is apparent in how Dominick explains their advertising campaigns: “We have no idea what we’re doing with these ads. We pretty much just wing it every month. We do the ads on a Apple 2E with PhotoShop 1, and they usually take about three weeks to lay out.”
Not suprisingly, 88 wasn’t exactly a planned venture-in fact, it almost didn’t even happen. The company fell into Dominick’s lap. Dominick, who was then shooting photos for several Osiris ads, was asked to sit in on some marketing meetings with Osiris Owner Tony Magnusson. “They wanted to get my opinion on a few things,” Dominick explains, “because I’m always out there every day with the skaters. I told them what I thought, that what they’re doing is cool, but there’s a whole other group of skaters, you know? I basically just told them that, and they asked if I wanted to do something.”
Dominick had never seriously considered this sort of entrepreneurship before, but when the opportunity presented itself, he quickly formed a plan. He had Osiris financially backing the brand, but he needed a team-with a headliner. Dominick explains, “My first thought was to get a partner who was a big name in skateboarding-that was when I called Kris Markovich to see if he wanted a piece of the pie. You know how Tod (Swank) owns Toy Machine, but it’s Ed’s (Templeton) deal? I wanted it to be like that, I wanted to be the Swank-the guy behind the lines.” So teamed with Markovich, they developed the brand.
But like Swank, Dominick’s duties extend far beyond the office-being a skate photographer has other advantages as well. “When I go out and shoot, it’s usually with the 88 guys,” Dominick explains. “It’s like killing two birds with one stone. I can hassle them about getting an ad, and then I can go shoot it.”
When asked about the guiding idea behind 88, Dominick says, “The concept was to represent the style of skateboarding that we are all into.” With the help of number-cruncher Steve Benson, designer Nate Peacher, Team Manager Lance Conklin, and the team, Dominick and Markovich have created a shoe company that they’re happy with. “We just have clean shoes, you know?” Dominick states. “We get the riders’ influence and design shoes around that.”
Despite its initial success, Dominick feels no pressure to expand the company into other markets. 88 remains a skateboarder’s company, and that’s how Dominick wants it, saying in five years the company will still be in skateboarding. He adds, “Those other markets that all the other shoe companies go into are silly and boring.”