Most people will recognise Sketch as the handsome and hairy hurler of abuse at ski competitions, but he’s also the face of the one of the UK’s most popular student ski clothing ranges, Syndicate. No matter which uni snowsports club you’re in, I’d be amazed if you’ve got through your first social without seeing a Syndicate hoody. His drawing skills gave him his illusive nickname and he has ruled the roost in the uni-snowsports-apparel niche for what seems like an eternity, but how did he hike to the top of the park? I spent a night in the Syndicate penthouse to find out…
(SM) So how did your steez empire spring forth into civilisation? Did you just think, ‘these threads aren’t good enough and I can do better?’
“Nah it was more by fluke. I was a sponsored snowboarder and also did a lot of graffiti. I stuck a few ideas on some blank tees and hoodies for myself and suddenly had loads of people asking to buy them. Boom that was it! Now I have to pay bloody taxes!”
Did you have experience in design before launching Syndicate?
“Just sketches and graphic design. This was before the days of photoshop so it was a case of keeping things simple. Every colour in a design cost more for a screen and print so there were a lot of phrases back then including the original ‘pimps don’t pay taxes.’ Things have got a bit more PC since then, although our labels have stayed true with ‘this garment will get you laid.’”
How did you promote your gear in the absence of today’s social media shitstorm?
“You had to interact with people in real life, it was crazy! Imagine actually talking to people face to face. It involved a lot of snowboard competitions and seasons spent showing off the products and networking. It helped that back then the magazine scene was strong. The UK had 4 killer snowboard magazines: Whitelines, Document Snowboard, Snowboard UK and Onboard Magazine. It also helped that my mates were editors and photographers, plus I wrote for most of them too.”
At one point along the line, some maniac gave you a mic and you never put it down. How has MCing affected the brand?
“Yeah how the hell did that happen!? I was at a dryslope competition and the MC left before the final. I was shit so hadn’t qualified and decided to give the crowd some chat… suddenly a star was not born! MCing helps the brand because people relate to you more when they know that you have a passion for snowsports and are still supporting it at grassroots level. It’s a good way to get to know the riders and I’ve seen some incredible talent over the years, plus some spectacular bails. I would love to say it makes me rich and gets me laid but I don’t get paid and I’m ugly.”
Snowsports styles have changed drastically over the years but you don’t seem afraid to go big with designs. What inspires you?
“Just like everyone else, life I guess. Riding a lot myself definitely helps, I keep an eye out for practical tweaks like DWR coating and zip pockets or style edits like length. On the design front there is a good mix. We have nice clean designs for wearing out and bolder ones for the more outgoing amongst us. Our best-selling design has been the stag collection and that was just a doodle I did whilst on the phone to a mate! I think that it is testament that we are still around after all this time showing that our designs and cuts are constantly moving with the trends and sometimes setting them.”
Syndicate has given you some great opportunities like free holidays to Above and Below and Snowboxx, where do you see it taking you in the future?
“As long as it pays for snowboarding, wakeboarding and surfing I’m happy. I’m not looking to take over the world but enjoy what I do. Trips like Snowboxx and Above and Below are epic. I love the vibes there everyone is super cool and it makes me stoked to see people loving Syndicate. I guess a club night in Vegas is out of the question?...Calvin are you listening?”