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Brian Jones

Know Your History or No Future – Part Three: Ryan Kingman and Stance

23 March 2012, 17.54 | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 comments »

With a squeamish face, I said, “What?! Ryan Kingman left Element to start a sock company?! What the fuck?!” Ya, I will admit I was an idiot and say that this was my instant reaction when I heard the news roughly two years ago. I’m sure this is what a lot of people thought until you actually opened up your mind for a minute and then you realized that this was a genius move! It’s a category that everyone loves, but yet no one owned. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love the feeling of putting on a brand-spanking-new pair of socks straight out of the bag.  If you ask any person what it feels like to put on a fresh-new pair of foot clouds, they will instantly have a Cheshire Cat smile from ear-to-ear as they gaze back on their great memories of those momentary feelings. You see, that’s the difference now, instead of having to wait for a brand new pair of socks to re-live that experience, you now have Stance to re-live that moment, daily! I know, that new sock feeling seems impossible to accomplish daily, but read on and you will see how Stance did it! But, wait…how do you market that foot cloud memory? How do you open up peoples minds enough to make them realize that you don’t have to wait months, or even years, to experience this feeling again? It seems like such an impossible mission…aahhhh…wait…that’s it, Ryan Kingman’s marketing mastermind brain, Stance has arrived!

I recently spent some time with Ryan Kingman, the VP of Marketing for Stance, at their offices in San Clemente, CA to go over the history of Stance and find out how everything came to fruition and where they’re going in the future. Stance has just finished its rookie season and in one short year has become a stand out in the market. I think we all want to know who, what, when, how and why! So here it is…

Ryan Kingman and Stance
Ryan Kingman, VP of Marketing for Stance

Jones: I have to know because I was kind of tripping when I heard the news you were going to bounce from what you helped create at Element and move on to create Stance, a sock company. How did this all happen?
Kingman: I was driving down to the TransWorld offices for a meeting about some editorial we had coming up and got a call from Mike Carter who at the time was at Skullcandy. He was brief, but said that he knows some people that want to start a new brand and are looking for someone to lead the marketing efforts. My initial feeling was flattery which quickly turned to dismay when Carter went on to say it would be a sock company. I’ll be honest, my first thought was “that’ll be a tough one,” but I told him I was open to new ideas and to please put us in contact. Within the short remaining drive to TransWorld the mental gears started turning and ideas just start popping into my head, mostly relating to what this new concept could look like in skateboarding – since that is what I grew up living and breathing, it was what I initially focused on – and just started envisioning this brand and building the excitement, knowing that this could be super fucking rad. I was thinking about what sock brands are out there now, what kind of opportunities this could open up as far as who we could work with, what the vibe could be, how it could look, what kind of product we could produce. By the time I got the call from John Wilson, President of Stance, I was more than down to go and talk about the opportunity and hear what it was about. From the early stages there was no name, no logo, just the concept and a plan. That’s part of the genuine excitement, just to have the opportunity to build a brand from the ground up. From there we set up a meeting with the chosen group to build this new animal. For that initial meeting I put together a marketing presentation outlining my thoughts about what this brand could be, how it could look, who could be involved…and I guess they were into it. I can’t say enough about how rad the group brought together for this meeting was; everyone had an amazing vision to make this opportunity become a great brand. From John Wilson, President, to Jeff Kearl our CEO, Aaron Hennings the VP of Creative and Taylor Shupe the VP of Production, the group just seemed to click right off the bat. All of us shared a mutual excitement in building something in a category that seemed until then to be primarily a commodity product. We wanted to champion it and own the category!

Ryan Kingman and Stance
Chris Cole Signature Collection

Jones: So, you pretty much had the idea to own it like Kleenex or Q-Tips, you don’t ask for a tissue, you ask for a Kleenex, or you ask for a Q-Tip, not a cotton swab.
Kingman: To some extent, yes, that’s exactly it. You can go get a dozen pair of white socks at Walmart or Target, or a skateboard, or a t-shirt for very little dough. But, most of those items are complete crap and will either break on you, tear, have a short life span, they’re subpar product that will not last. If you want a quality product that will last you a long ass time and feels great like a fresh pair every time you put them on, that’s where we come in. We’re aiming for Stance to be the first thing that comes to your mind, to be synonymous with socks.

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Andrew Reynolds

Jones: From my perspective, you have pretty much started a new trend with people not being shy of only wearing white or black socks. People’s personality can really shine through by just a glance of what socks they’re wearing. Being such a new category for a brand to own, what was your vision and goal to obtain with Stance, from the actual physical product to the team and marketing surrounding it?
Kingman: Believe it or not, the response we got from everyone we approached for Stance is what escalated our vision and goals right from the start. I couldn’t believe how many people were so responsive when we told them what we were doing, they would just say ‘oh man, I love socks, that so fucking awesome, what can I do?’ Those individuals helped give us the assurance that we were on to something and we were headed in the right direction. We can’t really take credit for starting a trend with socks, I just think we came in at the perfect time when the trend started to hit. It’s the people associated with Stance that have escalated our awareness and have helped us become a leader in this market.

Ryan Kingman and Stance
Theotis Beasley

Jones: Speaking of which, how do you plan on staying ahead of the game? You really opened up a lot of brands eye’s about this category and the possibilities it could create for growth.
Kingman: This is something we realized could happen right from the start. We really focused not only on our product and team, but also our presence in stores where consumers that might not be too savvy or switched on to the world of action sports and fashion, could still come into contact with our brand. Our in-store presence, with our custom fixtures, really helped create that awareness. The reality is that often times it’s a mom or dad who is looking for something cool for their kids and because of our fixture presence we are driving sales with customers that may have no prior exposure to us and our other marketing efforts. We’ve woken up the sleeping giants that are now starting to put in more time and energy into their sock category, but that’s where us being first-to-market has come into play and the reason we hit it so hard coming right out the gate. It’s going to be a constant battle for us to fight to lead this category. The advantage we have is that socks are our life line! Stance does not sell t-shirts, watches, denim, wovens, or anything else. All we make and focus on is our socks and making the best socks you can get. If you ever see a Stance t-shirt it was created as an additional marketing vehicle, for our team to wear or for promotional purposes, but there is no plan to add this or any other item to our line.

Ryan Kingman and Stance
Stance Spring 2012 Collection

Jones: That’s an interesting point, because even though other brands have designers for their accessories, this category can in no way be their main focus or they will lose market share in their other collections. So, in some way, they might come after you now since you’re new and fresh brand that’s on trend, but will lose steam once they have to follow some other trend or new category. I know you can’t bank on that, but it’s inevitable for most brands. What about the quality and technical aspects of the socks? Most people think it’s just throwing cotton and spandex together and there you go, there is your sock. What is Stance doing to stay ahead of the game?
Kingman: We actually not only want to make great products, but we want to create an experience every time you put on a pair of our socks. There are so many aspects of our socks that we focus on that make our socks great, it’s definitely not just this and that and there you go. Our combed cotton helps create that fresh, soft feeling every time you wear them. It’s the perfect combination of combed cotton, spandex and nylon/spandex to help keep its shape, to a seamless toe closure so you don’t feel that weird bump in your shoes, to arch-band support so the sock really wraps the center of your foot, to the y-gore seem so that your heel sits snug in the sock and doesn’t let the sock float around once you’ve worn them all day. It’s a fairly involved process once you break down all of the components of our socks. A lot goes into the technical design and production process. Mix all of that in with our designs, colors and support we have from our team and artists we work with and you have something special.

Ryan Kingman and Stance
Stance Family

Jones: It’s awesome! It almost sounds like a perfect storm that culminates into your line. So, moving on to the marketing side of things, having a chance to build a new team from scratch, did you always have a wish list of skaters, artists, musicians, etc. that you’ve always wanted to work with, but never had the opportunity to in the past because of them being locked into contracts with competitors? You have pretty much created a new category for sponsorship so it seams to me the sky was the limit on who could be a part of the brand.
Kingman: Absolutely! To have this new opportunity to work with people I have always admired was super exciting for me and still is. As soon as I got that first call about Stance  I was thinking about who I could bring on board. I mean, some were achievable, but some were not once other brands started to consider them wearing our socks as a conflict of interest. It’s funny, I call them Sock Blockers! Haha. But, yes, I always knew if this sort of opportunity ever came up I would hit up more than a few people. But, it wasn’t strategic like ‘Oh this person can do this for us and he can do this, that person caters to this genre!,’ it was just natural based off of the relationships I already had with them and knew what they were capable of or I simply dug them as a person. Chris Cole, Andrew Reynolds, Mikey LeBlanc, Mithc Abshere, Theotis Beasly, I mean the list is so rad! I knew they would be sick to have a part of our family and would not only back our efforts, but would give real input on what they like and would want to see in our line. There is no set style we are looking for and that is really where The Uncommon Thread phrase came into play, there is no set path or direction for what we are doing, ideas are open and welcome from anyone.

Ryan Kingman and Stance
Don Pendleton Collaboration

Jones: That’s definitely been my thoughts about the brand is that it’s not some contrived and forced thing, everything about it just feels really natural. There is no self-cheering, it just seems like a humble approach and you let the product and image of Stance speak for itself. It’s funny, I know what you’re doing is working because It’s gotten to a point for me that no matter where I am at, if I see someone with a colorful sock or a sock that looks different, I automatically assume it’s a Stance sock and friends I talk to about Stance have told me the same thing.
Kingman: That’s one thing that I am stoked on too and more than a few people have told us the same thing as well, which is awesome!

Jones: What about being category specific, are you stuck to any calendar for selling seasons or are you able to create products that are in demand faster?
Kingman: That’s been a hot topic for us. We’re definitely not stuck on only creating products for a selling season. Those seasons exist for a reason because apparel takes so long to produce and create and there are so many pre-book issues to consider, those lines are created so many months out before they ever hit the shelves. We do have seasonal offerings and catalogs but are not stuck with only making and selling products that are in our catalogs. We can be pro-active and react to whatever the consumer needs so we can always have fresh products in our collection.

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Stance Family

Jones: How have you been able to stay fresh with your marketing, I know that Stance is fairly new in the game, but I see a lot of rad marketing initiatives keep popping from you that you don’t see too many other brands try to attempt, such as your Finders Keepers posts on Twitter and Instagram.
Kingman: Advertising and marketing has changed so much over the last couple of years, we’re doing all we can to try and keep pace and get ahead. I really like to focus on the digital opportunities and tie them to any of our marketing efforts. Finders Keepers is a great example and we have got a ton of response from that with our consumers as well as retailers who are into that idea of creating something new. You just can’t simply let your paid advertisements do it for you alone. There are so many avenues to connect directly with our consumers that we’re constantly researching with new digital trends of social media which has played a major roll in our growth and awareness.

Thanks for taking the time, Kingman. Look out for more awesome things coming from Stance in the near future.

Interview by Brian Jones
Photos courtesy of Stance

Know Your History or No Future – Part Two: James Haunt

02 March 2012, 15.26 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 comments »

For my new installment of Know Your History or No Future, I sat down with up-and-coming artist, James Haunt. This kids been all over the place dropping live art work at a ton of the events I have gone to in the last few months. Recently, I sat down with James to see what’s been crackin’ for him and what he’s got coming up next. Keep your head up or he’ll be there posting his shit on your walls when you’re not looking.

Know Your History or No Future
Part Two: James Haunt

Creeping into the darkness of the night like a Panther preying it’s next slay, James Haunt has been throwing up his name since the young buck age of 14 years old. Like most teenagers trying to figure out what the hell life is, James inhaled inspiration from his older brothers artwork and started stalking the concrete playground with a fresh finger in the unforgiving stomping grounds of East Los Angeles. Anyone that’s green in the Graff game really doesn’t give a fuck who’s watching or where they throw up their legacy, you just bomb whatever you can, wherever you can, at anytime, with complete disregard for everything. As James found out, this shit eventually lands you in the back of a car with your wrists strapped tight in cold metal. Some take this as a wake up call and move on into other shit, but this just fueled his artistic fire to slither and slide deeper into the streets.

James Haunt
This is definitely my favorite piece, how could it not be!?

Wanting to further his knowledge for new artistic forms and styles, James went to art school for a few years to dial in his natural ability. When you’re truly hungry to refine your game and start exploring other styles and interests is when your creative bubble will burst with a plethora of new ideas and directions. This is what lead James into focusing on a recognizable style so when you see his shit you just know he put his soul into that piece. Where did his style go? Come on, beautiful girls and space odysseys of course. Twist in gorgeous women and the paranormal obsession and you will see Haunts polished direction that pops off the art piece like a color explosion in your face.

James Haunt

James Haunt

James Haunt

Enter this dimension and James has become not only a street hustler, but also a self-made art oozy that has been firing out live art installations at events for the last few years for brands such as Red Bull, JSLV, Grenade, The city of Tijuana, Mexico. Yes, you read that right, the fucking city of Tijuana commissioned him to do a mural and even had Federales watching his back the whole time for protection! Insane, right!? See the video below.

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James Haunt

James Haunt

Now James has moved into the business of making fresh threads and has built his own apparel line named after his likeness, James Haunt. Creating a clothing company is not an easy gig for most and he has a strong obsession with keeping shit legit, yet refined for the masses, in all of his designs. Recently, the James Haunt apparel line conducted their first trade show appearance at the Agenda Show in Long Beach, CA and was received with open arms by retailers looking to expand their diverse collections. The James Haunt collection features that direct influence found in James’ art pieces and is tracking well at most retail chains. Go and check out the apparel collection here.

James Haunt

James Haunt

Keep your eye open if you’re at a party popin’ off at the upcoming SXSW, Coachella, or any other gig that’s legit in the street game, you will most likely see Haunt throwing up a piece right in front of you.

James Haunt

James Haunt

- Story by Jones

The Hundreds and G-Shock Own Los Angeles

01 March 2012, 18.47 | Posted in Uncategorized | No comments »

Last night, The Hundreds and G-Shock took over Los Angeles to launch their collaboration together for a G-Shock watch. Holy shit, did they do it right! When I say they took over L.A., that’s an understatement, they fucked up L.A. and owned it! Everyone who is anyone from the skate and street culture game was on-hand to rage with The Hundreds crew. Open Bar, hot girls, porn stars, free booze, legit VIP section, kick-ass DJ’s, awesome bro’s, sick looking venue at The Belasco and fucking Gucci Mane…..Buurrrrrrr. I could sit here and try to explain the break down of the night to you, but it seriously wouldn’t do it justice…hands down, best party I’ve been to in years. Thanks to The Hundreds crew: Bobby, Ben, Scotty, Baby D and Corporan for another great night to put into the history books. I’m still feelin’ the shakes from the bass thumpin’ my body and liquids taking over my mind all night.

Check the photos from the night below.

The Hundreds x G-Shock
The Hundreds x G-Shock Party Flier

The Hundreds x G-Shock
This place is sick, The Belasco in L.A. If you ever have a chance to go to a party here, do it!

The Hundreds x G-Shock
The reason for the entire night! Hundreds x G-Shock collaboration.

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Ya, Scuba!

The Hundreds x G-Shock
This entire set-up was seriously dope as hell.

The Hundreds x G-Shock
G-Shock

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The Hundreds is HUGE!

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Alex Corporan and Luis Tolentino

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Luck is on my side!

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Kellen from Agenda

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Aaron from Agenda

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Robin and Jon Buscemi from Gourmet Footwear

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Good homie, Cullen Poythress and my ugly ass mug.

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Scotty from The Hundreds loves Porn Stars

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Ya, Scotty! Tell me you smashed that!?

The Hundreds x G-Shock
The reason for all the porn stars, all around ripping person, Van Styles. Check his blog out, it’s sick!

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Theotis Beasley A.K.A. Nicest Guy in The World!

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Shit got buck and security tried to ruin our fun, Just look at this kooks face as he tries to boot Scotty and the girls for getting to agro.

The Hundreds x G-Shock
Gucci Mane tore up the place. There were so many drinks flying in the air from people raging that you felt like you were in a pool and people were splashing everywhere. Buuurrrrrrr.

- Photos and Story by Jones