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Brian Jones

Know Your History or No Future – Part One: Chris Cole and Omit Apparel

13 February 2012, 17.53 | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 comments »

This is my first installment of a new feature article series for Rad Collector, named Know Your History or No Future. Everyone is always so intrigued about a brand they like, but always seem to only get the basic information of what the brands about. With this article, we will give you a little bit more diversity and dive into the history of the brand so we can learn what it’s really about and why it was created. Take this article as a learning curve if you will. If you don’t know your past, you will have no future!

As we all know, this past summer 2011, Chris Cole started his own line named Omit Apparel. I recently sat down with Chris to get the true nuts and bolts about why he felt the need to add another apparel brand into the market place and not just hop onto someone else’s ship. Any skateboarder on Chris’ level can hop on-board with another company and get a signature collection, but Chris saw the need to take ownership in something and this is why.

Know Your History or No Future
Part One – Chris Cole and Omit Apparel

Jones: What’s the vision for Omit and the reasoning behind what you’ve created? And, what drives the creativity?
Cole: I had a lot different ideas for different things, but ultimately Omit’s all the things that felt cool to me, across the board. I like the intricacies of some ornate patterns, the cleanness of the sneaker culture vibe and mix that in with my heavier heavy metal inspired stuff and dark inspired stuff I’m into. I kind of got into a whole mess of different styles, but they all kind of held one similar tough feel to them and that culminated into Omit. No matter whether they were a sneaker collector style, clean art style or whether it was a heavy metal graphic style, they all felt worth while, so that was the idea behind it. I’ve always paid attention to the details on clothes that I would go out and buy. There are small, small things that I always wished I could have merged together in order to make the ultimate product, but I never truly had the opportunity to do it and I also never found a company before that did it, perfect. So, I felt like there was an opening and open slot for us to start something new. Cause, I wouldn’t want to start something that’s just like that other something. To an extent, skateboarding depicts kind of what you’re able to make because you can only branch out so far, or at least in my comfort level, I can only branch so far outside of skateboarding. Skateboarding will always be my cornerstone, it will always be the keystone and skateboarding depicts a lot of styles we produce with Omit. We’re definitely careful with the retail market too. You can’t let it bully you into making things that don’t fit the brand and you can’t let them envision the brand for you because that will drop you into the vanilla category so quickly.

Chris Cole at Omit Headqurters in Irvine, CA

Jones: Ya, retailers will definitely cannibalize you if you don’t watch what you’re doing closely.
Cole: It’s definitely important to make things that sell for retailers so you can continue the growth of the brand, but you have to have those flagship styles in your line that really make you who you are. A lot of the time those key styles are the pieces that don’t sell well, but all of your hoodies, hats and tee’s sell great and that helps keep the other things coming.

Jones: Was there a defining moment in your career where you were like “Dude, I need a change, now’s the time to make some shit happen?!”
Cole: Ya, definitely. The idea for me to start my own brand kind of grew as I was sponsored and I was making signature pieces. I really cared what they looked like and I cared what was in there as far as looks and materials. I learned a ton from all of my sponsors and specifically from Jamie Thomas, all of my sponsors are the guys who basically taught me everything, and from that I learned how to build a line. So, as I was making signature items with Jamie and we started building that line, the global market fell out, so we ended up not proceeding with it. My ideas and goals for Omit were pretty much planted in my head already from all of my past experiences, so as the market was adjusting I saw an opportunity.

Jones: How did Omit’s partnership with Jonas and Robert from LRG happen? Were you always looking for a source in the background the whole time, or was it something that just fell together?
Cole: I was actually looking to do, at bare minimum, a signature line within another company. I didn’t know how that would be though, I didn’t know if it was going to be a, you know, Omit by So and So’s company. That seemed like a great scenario at the time, but then when I met with Robert and Jonas, we hit it off really well and we threw ideas back and forth at each other and in that meeting alone, the ideas were growing. We just kept bouncing ideas back and forth and everyone would just keep building on each idea. So ultimately, the synergy was right and now it didn’t seem like it was such a bold concept or that it was too big of a concept to create a company on it’s own feet.

Omit Spring 2012 Tees

Jones: How long did it take from going to your initial concept, to dropping a name, creating a team, creating the line, being able to ship, etc?
Cole: It took a year to go from that point, the point to decide this is what we’re going to do. We had some names of the brand picked out, we had a vision for what it will be and then we went to the details like how large is the line going to be, what kind of pieces are we going to put into the line. From the time all that stuff started and we actually started designing, it 9 months before it came available to buy.

Jones: With how long it takes to just design, chose a color pallet for a season then get samples for your sales reps, that seams nearly impossible.
Cole: Oh, it’s insane with sampling and all that. So, we were designing the Fall 2011, Holiday 2011 and starting brainstorming for Spring 2012 all at the same time. What the general public doesn’t know about the clothing world is, we’re staring at a wall of designs on paper, which is a full year and some change forward, before any of this stuff can be in our hands to sell. So, we’re always looking at the future and what were designing today is not going to make it in the stores for a full year to 18 months. But, that was the best thing about partnering with veterans. They already had their production in line, knew where to go for the correct sourcing and great factories that were able to produce what we needed in time and make it look and be perfect.

Omit Pant Details

Jones: Has owning Omit or partnering with Jamie Thomas over at Black Box for Zero Skateboards opened up your eyes with being very cognizant of what people you put on a team? I mean it’s a scary thought to know that one skate brand can drop anywhere from $50,000 and much, much more, in one month, just for marketing and advertising alone. So, if the tricks that person produces for the ad are weak, or if they are lazy and not really skating all that much, it makes brands not want to back them. Jamie is not only a great inspiration for skateboarders, but for business owners alike, because in some way, he sort of lead the way for companies to be able to really drive their teams to produce.
Cole: Its insane, it’s insane. And you know what’s crazy is that you end up thinking through every little detail, like is your ad good, are people going to notice your ad, is the trick good enough, is the photo good enough, is this the effect we want to use on it, where’s our logo placement, is this too much logo, not enough logo. Branding is a double edge sword. And then you realize, Wow, is that really how much an ad is? Then you get into I really want to support this cause and you want to support that mag and this mag and then do online banners and you can drop so much money, like so much. And then, even when you batten down and you keep it real tight; the cost of running an effective business is insane. It costs to be the boss, as they say. So, if you want to deal something that costs this much money and takes this much time, your life becomes it and you have to back it for real. I’m very fortunate to have the partners I have and have the great team behind me every step of the way, with everything I do. I truly value everyone that’s on board.

Jones: I feel because of the impact you’ve made on skateboarding more people are willing to back your efforts and decisions, like Andrew Reynolds and his launch of Altamont a few years back, that respect opens up a lot more doors and eyes in the industry when you decide to make a decision and makes them take notice a little bit more on those decisions. With that said, your newest additions of Peter Ramondetta and Trevor Colden really showed that you weren’t fucking around with building a tight crew of truly dedicated skateboarders. They both nail their shit, but are super humble and nice, will that be a key moving forward?
Cole: Definitely, there are more than a few skateboarders I look at and think they would be a fit, but with Peter specifically, he was somebody I always knew that whenever I started my own company he would definitely be on immediately. Whether it be a bolt company, or grip tape or any company. I knew that if the opportunity were there I would love to get Ramondetta to be a part of it. The difference with now is, it’s not like most companies where you pretty much have to vote a dude on as a team rider, which consists of taking them on a trip and watching them skate and to make sure they mesh correctly with the team and the owners are kind of in the background. Now, with this being my responsibility I pretty much have the final say and the whole team has my back. The general public doesn’t realize that to go on a local tour costs upwards of $10,000 and way beyond that depending on the size of the team and location. Flights, per-diem, food, gas, van and hotel add up very rapidly, and that’s not sleeping in any posh hotel, that’s staying in cheaper hotels. So, if you’re bringing these skaters on trips and they don’t get anything on film or photos that can be used, it’s pretty a lot much wasted money. So, if you put a dude in the van who’s just wasted the whole time, it’s just not going to work at all. That’s the rad thing about Trevor too, he doesn’t need to be motivated to skate and get footage, he’s consistently hungry to go out and kill it! Even if he’s home and the team isn’t around at the time, he takes his own time to round up a filmer and photographer and make it happen.

Jones: Right now, you’re halfway through your rookie year as a brand. Is there anything with Omit that you are doing specifically to not be pigeon holed and stand out from other new brands that are hitting the market?
Cole: It’s interesting that you say that. Ultimately our thing is really to do what we want to do. If that puts us next to a certain brand in a category, so be it, it’s not the worst thing as long as we keep doing what we want to do and not let outside influence dictate our line. I do believe our tastemaker pieces will stand out and put us in our own niche in the market place.

Omit Shirt Details

Jones: It seems most brands have a five-year plan of where they want to be and how they want to expand. Have you created a similar goal with Omit? Knowing that you back BMX pretty hard, do you have a plan to eventually add something like that or even musicians as a part of the Omit team?
Cole: There is no ultimate plan. With that said, what we want to do with Omit is just support the people that are genuine and dudes we can all back with what they do and what they represent. So, if it’s a dude that plays guitar or it’s a band that’s rad or guy that rips on a bike, then we’ll do it. There’s no need or want for discrimination based on someone’s likes or dislikes. We definitely don’t have a, and will never have, a board on our wall that says, “Who are we going to get in snow? Who are we going to get in wake?” We don’t need to represent all of these different genres of athletes that sport brands feel they have to get on their roster to make an impact. I definitely want to make the brand grow bigger, but only through the channels that we back as a team.

Jones: In the recent past you permanently moved your family from the east coast to California. Was that a very conscience move knowing that you were going to start taking more action on the business side of things?
Cole: It was a vary conscience decision to come out here. On the east coast, you can only get so much done as far as skateboarding and being able to be close to the brands I skate for and now work directly with as an owner. I also wanted to get involved with owning stuff. Its almost what you are groomed to do if you’ve been paying attention to stuff for the last 20 years in skateboarding.

Jones: It’s such a double edge sword in skateboarding to say you’re into fashion because that’s not cool in people’s eyes, but I do see it slowly changing in the last 6 years and it being more accepted to be cognoscente of what you wear. Personally I’ve always been into more of the 1950’s clean styles. Mic-E Reyes and Alyasha are two people that come to mind for me and have styles I’m down with personally. Is there anyone you’ve looked up to as far as fashion that kind of helps drive this need to own an apparel brand?
Cole: Ya, I like things that are subtle and things that don’t get too weird or too artsy for me personally, then I’m not backing it. But, as far as watching fashion acceptance change, I’ve seen that myself. I’ve always looked up to dudes like Stevie Williams, Jamie Thomas, Chad Muska, people that have always had their own style and went for it.

Jones: Since Omit is in its infancy; the collection is limited in categories. Do you have any plans to expand that into accessories with any bags, sunglasses, watches, etc?
Cole: Oh man, I don’t want to give away and secrets! Ha! But yes, of course we will be adding categories! My main focus right now is getting the apparel collection expanded and then we’ll look at those other categories in the future. I love accessories and have so many rad ideas, but their just needs to be the right moment to produce them before we do.

Jones: So, tell me, what’s the significance of the 90’s on every piece? It’s all over the collection and no one knows what it is.
Cole: Ha, it’s funny because in a way I don’t want to really tell anyone and keep it a secret, but on another hand I want to out it and run it. But, what the 90’s signifies is I love 90’s music, 90’s skateboarding and I started skateboarding in 1990. So, the number is not just 90 it’s 90’s since I loved the whole decade.

Jones: Wrapping this up, the team definitely has room to grow in today’s standards; do you have any plans this year to make any new team announcements?
Cole: Not at this time, we’ve purposely been really slow to add dudes on. We didn’t want to come out of the gate and scream, “Hey this is our team” I’d rather add people slowly so that there’s always room to add someone. There are so many rad dudes that are locked into contracts that would be a great fit for Omit, so it’s better for us to just creep and add people as the opportunity arises.

I would like to thank Chris Cole and Omit for letting me invade their territory for this interview.

Interview, Words and Photos by Brian Jones