Rumors And Lies: Surf Expo January ’03 Makes Old New Again

Well, it seems as if the whole throw-back, vintage look isn’t going anywhere anytime soon — it will stick around at least until this fall. Quiksilver Vice President Of Sales Tom Holbrook refused to call Quiksilver‘s Fall ’03 line “vintage,” but a lot of the line had the look, cuts, and fabrications that allude another time — and I’m not talking about 2020. One wouldn’t even have to go inside Quik’s booth to get a perspective on what Quik designers think is in style. The cords, jackets, and denim that were tacked to Quik’s mammoth, white-walled booth all keyed into Quik’s “1970” vibe.

Holbrook says Surf Expo was a success and Quik reps got positive feedback from retailers — both on the brand’s line and shops’ overall business. “The accounts were generally positive about Holiday retail sales and their outlook for Spring ’03. As far as how the ‘core accounts viewed their year overall, the comments I heard were, ‘No complaints,’ {and} ‘Pretty flat.’ So considering the year — with the poor economy and threats of war — the East Coast accounts had a better outlook.

“The other pieces that contributed to this pretty confident outlook,” continues Holbrook, “was that the East has had good (appropriate for retail) weather, the ‘surf’ vibe is en vogue again, they {retailers} are seeing good momentum for all surf products.”

However, the fact that surf has been in the spotlight lately could eventually be a burden to surf retailers, Holbrook reports. “The other subject that came up was the effect that possible over exposre of ‘surf look’ products from stores like Hollister and American Eagle Outfitter has on smaller stores — and what can the shops do to keep the kids coming in their stores for the ‘real,’ more authentic products,” he says.

But for now, it’s all sytems go at Quiksilver and for its ‘core accounts. “Our pre-show day was very busy,” Holbrook says. “We had about 20-percent increase in appointments just that day.”

Director Of Sales Dean Quinn also reported a solid showing for Hurley. “The traffic in the booth was strong,” he says. “As always the groms were in full force hanging out in front of thebooth. It’s always a highlight of Surf Expo to see all the groms and teamriders at the show.”

Quinn reports a lot of Hurley’s retro-inspired goods resonated well with retailers. He notes knits are as strong as ever and Western-styled wovens — which have been popular on the West Coast — are now gaining ground in the Atlantic states. Additionally, Quinn says trucker hats are leading the way in headwear.

With Nike as a parent company, it was just a matter of time before Hurley took a serious stab at the footwear market. Quinn concedes Hurley’s initial shoe line was disjunct, but the new line is all heading in the same direction. And Quinn says that course is going straight toward retro runners and the canvas casuals for Fall ’03.

“There seemed to be some confusion to the footwear direction when it debuted in Spring ’03 as to whether we would go after the skate shoe look,” says Quinn. “But after seeing Fall ’03, retailers seemed to understand better what we are offering. We couldn’t be any happier with the response to the Hurley footwear.”

Quik and Hurlety certainly aren’t the only companies to get on the throw-back bus. Op‘s Classic line has been well received by retailers — and, more importantly, consumers. Op Sales Manager Tom Gudauskas showed the brand’s latest range of vintage apparel. He says the look is popular with the kids — to them it’s fresh stuff, not vintage garb.

Billabong is putting its spin on the throw-back vibe. In its t-shirt selection for summer, Billabong’s busting out some old screens from, like, the 80s. Ohmigod. For the fashion-forward set, Billabong is offering some parts of its line in different cuts. For example, the more art-driven t-shirt desns are going to be offered on a slimmer fitting and longer blank. Midwest rep Todd Hanson says denim with treated washes will continue to sell well this fall. Corduroy is getting a little play, but mostly in shorts. Hanson reports knits did OK, but wovens were stronger.

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Shoe makers are in stride with the vintage/retro look, too. While skate-shoe companies maintain tech is an integral part to skateboarding and skate footwear, they all seem to be listening to their customers and making shoes in more basic styles. The result is a simpler, cleaner look — and lower pricepoints. Part of the move could be a function of customers’ thinner wallets; part of the prevalence of simpler shoes is due to the fact that teched out shoes look awkward and forced when rocked with simpler clothes.

DVS has been on a roll lately and continues to impress retailers with its offering. For fall, the popular Milan shoe is offered in new colors and materials. Etnies is paying more attention to the women’s side of the business and has expanded its girls line and added a host of new models.

The designers at Reef have been busy crafting new iterations of its Dingo shoe. For fall, the Dingo will be available in cord, terry cloth, and full-grain leather. Director Of Product Creation Brett Ritter showed me other new models, including the Cha (presumably named in a nod to teamrider Rob Machado), a comfy shoe that you can wear as a shoe or step down into and wear as a clog.

Ritter says value is a key element to Reef’s fall-shoe lineup. Reef’s offering at least four models that will retail for 50 dollars or less, including the 40-dollar Metro shoe. Metro features vulcanized construction and will be available in a multitude of colors. Reef also dug into its archives for inspiration for its new Booku sandal, an all leather three-point thong with a perforated footbed.

Retro is also big with shapers. Surf Expo always seems to draw a strong contingent of surfboard makers, and last weekend’s show was no exception. Aloha Surfboards Director Mauricio Gil showed retailers his Old Timer twin fin. Gil says Old Timer is available in sizes ranging from 5’11” to 6’3″. His twin-fin design is wider, thicker, and has a flatter rocker than traditional thrusters. Gil also says he’s shaping for Op Classic’s range a vintage surfboards.

Joel Tudor also had a bunch of his retro shapes on hand. The boards are glassed with tinted resins and look more like works of art than shred sticks.

Speaking of art, surf manufacturers are continuing to respond to the gripe from retailers about the lack of art from surf companies. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but just about every surf brand has moved from the logo-driven look, to a more freehanded style. It’s most noticeable in the ads, where logos have been replaced by hand-drawn brand names and icons (or at least they look that way). We’ve gone from one end of the spectrum (computer tech) to the other (organic). In customers’ insatiable thirst for change, what will they want to see next?

Perhaps Billabong was onto something with last year’s Tag A Trunk program where kids were encouraged to put their own mark on their trunks. (For summer, the design of a handful of Billabong’s boardshorts prints were inspired from the promotion.) With customized cars (customers can change the console trim on the Saturn Ion in the same way you change cell-phone faceplates), custom-fit clothes (check out what Lands’ End is up to), and custom shoes (Nike I.D.), could mass customization from surfwear manufacturers be far behind? After all, surfboards are largely custom ordered.

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On that note, the demand for custom-shaped boards could be waning some. More surf manufacturers have lined up with Surftech and have released a handful of their proven shapes to be mass produced. Pop-out boards from Byrne, Channel Islands, and Kechele, to name a few, were all on the floor at Surf Expo. Pop-out boardmaker Boardworks Surfboards was also showing boards from brands that traditionally make custom shapes.

Volcom was into a customization of its own kind: tequila. No, Veeco doesn’t have blue agave distillery, but it does have a handful of staffers who have been trained in the fine craft of peeling off Cuervo labels and adhering the Volcom stone logo in their place (at least it looked that way … after a few shots of tequila).

What’s this have to do with surf, you say? Everything. Instead of promoting its teamriders on the side of its circus tent for a booth, Volcom opted for a downtown Tijuana cityscape and a South-of-the-border vibe. The Volcom gang completed the theme with panchos, mariachi music, and a glut of tortillas with the stone spray painted on them. A well executed plan.

“We really like the Surf Expo show and it’s always been a fun and productive show for Volcom, but this one was exceptional,” says Tom Ruiz, Volcom national sales manager. “Volcom had a fun atmosphere combined with a solid list of appointments.

“We had the opportunity to see all the buyers we wanted to see AND had fun doing so,” he continues. “Some of the coolest people in our industry are on the East Coast, and I always look forward to hanging with them. Add a Mexican fiesta into the mix and olé!”

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Billabong National Sales Manager Rob Willis was also psyched on the show. “We had a great time and a really great show in Florida,” he says. “The premiere of Framelines our new video had wall to wall people and rocked. The line at our booth for autographs from Andy, Occy, and Luke was longer than the Starbucks line in Corona Del Mar! It was great to see all our friends in Florida.”

OAM had a crowd at its booth, too.The accessories company has commissioned Aussie Barry Jolly to develop its new fin system. Many shapers have shown interest in the new system, which features calibrated locking positions. OAM’s Joey Mercer says the system has flex characteristics and twist enhancements that are different from existing fin systems. The system’s plugs are contoured for easier installation on boards. Mercer says the fin system was designed half for the manufacturers, half for the surfers.

Fox is designing a line of sportswear all for the surfer. The Morgan Hill, California-based company, best known for its involvement in motocross — and, in the surf world, for sponsoring Kalani Robb — has just opened an office in Orange County, California. Sammy Nigh, Fox’s sportswear sales manager, says the brand set up a shop in OC to be closer to the hub of the action-sports industry.

Ocean Minded President Gary Ward says all the attention surf has gotten lately has had a positive impact on his business. Responding to retail demand, Ward and co. developed a small line of girls’ and guys’ softgoods last year, which has sold (and, he says, sold-through) well. Ward guesses that the surge in surf has made his ocean-oriented softgoods appealing to the surf customer — and the mainstream buyer. In other news from Ocean Minded, Ward recently brought on his nephew, Brandon Ward, to handle marketing and manage the surf team.

The surge in surf has also helped HIC. Designer Baltazar Magdirila and Chief Ron Yoshida say last weekend’s Expo was the brand’s best in recent memory. “The show went better than expected for us. In addition to our scheduled appointments, we had more walk-in traffic than in the recent past,” says Magdirila. “Surf is definitely on the rise, and I think we stuck to our Hawai’ian roots long enough that, with the recent trend coming back to the beach, a lot of retailers see that we’re the real deal.”

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Magdioduced. Pop-out boards from Byrne, Channel Islands, and Kechele, to name a few, were all on the floor at Surf Expo. Pop-out boardmaker Boardworks Surfboards was also showing boards from brands that traditionally make custom shapes.

Volcom was into a customization of its own kind: tequila. No, Veeco doesn’t have blue agave distillery, but it does have a handful of staffers who have been trained in the fine craft of peeling off Cuervo labels and adhering the Volcom stone logo in their place (at least it looked that way … after a few shots of tequila).

What’s this have to do with surf, you say? Everything. Instead of promoting its teamriders on the side of its circus tent for a booth, Volcom opted for a downtown Tijuana cityscape and a South-of-the-border vibe. The Volcom gang completed the theme with panchos, mariachi music, and a glut of tortillas with the stone spray painted on them. A well executed plan.

“We really like the Surf Expo show and it’s always been a fun and productive show for Volcom, but this one was exceptional,” says Tom Ruiz, Volcom national sales manager. “Volcom had a fun atmosphere combined with a solid list of appointments.

“We had the opportunity to see all the buyers we wanted to see AND had fun doing so,” he continues. “Some of the coolest people in our industry are on the East Coast, and I always look forward to hanging with them. Add a Mexican fiesta into the mix and olé!”

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Billabong National Sales Manager Rob Willis was also psyched on the show. “We had a great time and a really great show in Florida,” he says. “The premiere of Framelines our new video had wall to wall people and rocked. The line at our booth for autographs from Andy, Occy, and Luke was longer than the Starbucks line in Corona Del Mar! It was great to see all our friends in Florida.”

OAM had a crowd at its booth, too.The accessories company has commissioned Aussie Barry Jolly to develop its new fin system. Many shapers have shown interest in the new system, which features calibrated locking positions. OAM’s Joey Mercer says the system has flex characteristics and twist enhancements that are different from existing fin systems. The system’s plugs are contoured for easier installation on boards. Mercer says the fin system was designed half for the manufacturers, half for the surfers.

Fox is designing a line of sportswear all for the surfer. The Morgan Hill, California-based company, best known for its involvement in motocross — and, in the surf world, for sponsoring Kalani Robb — has just opened an office in Orange County, California. Sammy Nigh, Fox’s sportswear sales manager, says the brand set up a shop in OC to be closer to the hub of the action-sports industry.

Ocean Minded President Gary Ward says all the attention surf has gotten lately has had a positive impact on his business. Responding to retail demand, Ward and co. developed a small line of girls’ and guys’ softgoods last year, which has sold (and, he says, sold-through) well. Ward guesses that the surge in surf has made his ocean-oriented softgoods appealing to the surf customer — and the mainstream buyer. In other news from Ocean Minded, Ward recently brought on his nephew, Brandon Ward, to handle marketing and manage the surf team.

The surge in surf has also helped HIC. Designer Baltazar Magdirila and Chief Ron Yoshida say last weekend’s Expo was the brand’s best in recent memory. “The show went better than expected for us. In addition to our scheduled appointments, we had more walk-in traffic than in the recent past,” says Magdirila. “Surf is definitely on the rise, and I think we stuck to our Hawai’ian roots long enough that, with the recent trend coming back to the beach, a lot of retailers see that we’re the real deal.”

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Magdirila says HIC got great feedback on it fully lined Korina boardshort that has a floral/gal-print combo. Another fun piece was the Fiji Trucker hat which has wicker bill. “If Robinson Crusoe lived in a trailer park on his deserted island, this is what he and Friday would be sporting,” quips Magdirila.

As for what we’ll be sporting next season — and what the kids will be into — the answer still remains. But more than likely, it’ll be something vintage-inspired.

–additional reporting by Sean O’Brienagdirila says HIC got great feedback on it fully lined Korina boardshort that has a floral/gal-print combo. Another fun piece was the Fiji Trucker hat which has wicker bill. “If Robinson Crusoe lived in a trailer park on his deserted island, this is what he and Friday would be sporting,” quips Magdirila.

As for what we’ll be sporting next season — and what the kids will be into — the answer still remains. But more than likely, it’ll be something vintage-inspired.

–additional reporting by Sean O’Brien