The apparel clothing market is a tough one to establish yourself in. It’s even more fickle in snowboarding as just about every kid with access to cafepress.com will fork out some weak ass logo or saying on a shirt. Upstate is not one of those brands its roots thrive in snowboarding. Mike Callaghan the owner talks about what it takes to have a place in snowboarding, what’s wrong with it, and where things should go.
Angry Snowboarder:How under represented is the New York shred scene right now? Is that under representation the cause to form a brand like Upstate and sponsor a slew of sick riders?
Don’t turn your back on Upstate.
Upstate Mike: It’s pretty much always been under represented, even though so many amazing riders have come from NY state! And the fact that it has the most ski resorts of any state doesn’t hurt either. Upstate. was definitely born to help promote dudes that were killing it in New York, but now we’ve spread out to everywhere and just want to support the next generation of kids that kill it and make snowboarding look good.
AS: What is the best and worst part about being a brand from the New York region? And how do you feel about all the people that hate on the NYC shred scene?
UM: The best part is that there hasn’t been many companies for people from the area to connect with, so the support and love everyone has showed from the beginning has been amazing. The hardest part has been branching out…and trying to push that Upstate. as a brand is more than just upstate, NY.
Who says NYC can’t shred?
As for the hate on the NYC scene, I love it. It’s hilarious and doesn’t make any sense to me. People try to say “pfft, there’s no snowboard scene in NYC”. But guess what…there’s 8.3 million people living in a very small radius. It snows just as much in NYC as it does in SLC. We have mountains within an hour of Manhattan, and I can name 20 mountains just off the top of my head that are within 2 hours. If you want big shit, you can either drive/hop on a bus for a few hours to VT or NH, or just take the train to one of our 3 airports and find a cheap ass flight out west. The best part however has to be that living in NYC has limitless opportunities, and being able to snowboard whenever you want is just an extra treat that makes life great. You don’t have to bum around a small mountain town and be bored because the mountain closes at 4. Our mountains close at 10. Work all day in the city and shred at night. Then come back to the city and go out in the best city in America. I don’t see the problem and not to mention that when we do get snow in the city, we can hit amazing, untouched street spots.
AS: In a sea of t-shirt/apparel companies what differentiates Upstate from the rest of the pack?
UM: That’s a tough one. I try to focus on how our clothing fits and wears above all else. Unlike 90% of skate/snow brands, we won’t just throw our logo on some cheap, ill-fitting tee’s to get shit out there. I want our clothes to be the go-to’s in your closet, your favorite shirt that you always want to wear because it feels good and fits awesome. I refuse to make anything that I won’t personaly wear every day. Another thing that helps us is that we don’t try to be something we’re not. We respect all types of styles, but try to stay with clean, classic style that you’ll still want to wear 2, 3, 4, years from now when you’re tall tee’s being used to clean the rims on your dads Bimmer.
AS: From your view point as an owner do you ever find it ridiculous that there’s always someone starting a new clothing company in the snowboard world?
UM: I do and I don’t. I think it’s awesome to see what kids come out with, and realize everyone has to start somewhere. Snowboarding is so much about “fashion” these days, it’s cool to see that kids are so into it that they say “fuck this, I can do that too”. I was that kid once, buying beanies from gas stations and slangin them out of my jacket at the mountain. Every mountain has that kid. They fuel the scene in their area and get kids pysched. Some of the stuff kids come out with is questionable however. There’s alot of people just copying what they see around them. That’s the downfall. Originality and design gets lost in what kids think is the shit right now, and not thinking about the long term.
AS: Every brand initially struggles with gaining recognition. You’ve managed to have Maxim give you some serious support recently, how much has this benefited your growth as a company?
Someone has a friend Upstate.
UM: Man, it’s so fucking hard to get recognition with so many companies out there doing the same thing. As much as it’s not really our “scene”, being in Maxim has for sure been huge for Upstate. It helped us reach so many people that we NEVER would have been able to otherwise. In the past few weeks I think I’ve shipped koozies to every state haha. It’s been amazing. People would pay thousands and thousands of dollars to gain that type of recognition and respect (and front page of the mag), so for Maxim to do it for free just because they were so stoked on us…that’s the best. I feel blessed that people are so down with what we’re putting out there.
AS: Going along with growth what difficulties are you now encountering as you’re growing the brand? What’s on the agenda for you as far as a brand in the next 2 to 5 years?
UM: Well, it’s been a very quick learning curve since Maxim featured us. We’ve always had a good following, but this season will be a big one for us. Now that there’s so many eyes on the brand, the hardest part is keeping them there. Until recently, Upstate was basically being produced with whatever cash I could scrape together to make a small run of new goods. So now that we have a full line, a sick team, a website, lookbooks, advertising, etc… putting it all together into one package and marketing it as a brand has been hard for us. It’s been super fun…but alot of hard work. Especially since it’s still just basically me with help from some of my friends, who I could never have gotten this far without…
As for the next 2-5 years, they will for sure be the most important years for the brand. Number one is supporting the team and really pushing them as the representation of who Upstate is. I’m so psyched on some of the new riders we picked up this year, such as Mikey Ravs and Brendon Rego, in addition to the rest of the team that has been killing it. I would love to get an Upstate tour going in the next year or 2, bring the team around in a shitty old RV and try to get kids all over the US psyched on the brand. Tradeshows are also on the list. SIA being the biggest target…hopefully by 2013 we’ll be at that level. Lots of advertising, working with video crews, get some print ad’s going, and a lot of guerrilla marketing. Product wise…I’d love to branch out into outerwear. I still see a big hole in the outerwear market for the riders in their 20’s and 30’s that want to have options and clean classic fitted outwear. I think our styling could slide right in there and it would just seem natural. Besides that, just making sure we stay true to who we are…just dudes trying to have fun, make nice shit, and maybe someday not have a day job.
AS: Snowboard media is an ever changing landscape, you’ve loaned your personal services as a writer to sites like this and Yobeat. Compared to the traditional snow media how do you see us fitting into the media landscape?
UM: Snowboard media these days feels so serious. Kids take making their little edits and snowboarding in general so fucking seriously. What makes this site stand out is that you’re not afraid to be different, and stand up for what is good for snowboarding. You’ll talk shit on, or praise, whoever you want to in the industry. It’s refreshing. Snowboarding has always been a sport based around telling people to fuck off, and this site carries on that tradition. In the era when most snowboard sites bend over and take it from energy drink and hot dog companies, and in some cases the fucking US Army…this site keeps it real and tries to expose the bullshit. It’s kind of like WikiLeaks for snowboarding haha! Plus you keep it more mature…it’s not just 13 year old kids talking crap in between looking at porn and eating Totino’s Pizza Rolls.
AS: In your opinion what’s the biggest issue in snowboarding that needs to be addressed and fixed?
UM: I’d have to say again, kids taking it way too seriously. Especially with their edits that litter the internet. They gotta be filmed right, gotta be with an expensive HD cam, gotta have good editing, a song thats’s never been used (god forbid you re-use a song…you’ll get called out immediately). I’m all for edits and I get more psyched watching some unknown kids from the midwest killing rails than I do on some big money video, but kids take it WAY too serious. So serious that 95% of edits all look the same now…same style, same music ( ironic gangster ass rap or the newest indie band), and the crews even all have the same types of kids in them. It’s starting to all get so monotonous and honestly, it’s getting boring. Kids are too scared to do something different for fear of being made fun of and never being able so show their edits again because kids do nothing but talk shit online. There’s little to no respect for classic snowboarding, and kids don’t give a shit about what happened in the 90’s and how it helped shape the sport. They’re all about whats the newest, hottest shit.
AS: Any idea on how that should be fixed?
UM: It’s hard to say. I totally support making edits, pushing the limits of riding, and tryng to get yourself out there. But kids need to relax and start trying to help snowboarding as a whole, and not ruin it by being so negative and talking down on everyone besides their little crew in whatever town they happen to live in. Try to do something original instead of trying just duplicating what you see online. Go watch some videos from the 90’s…bring back hardcore music, big ass method airs, and stylish tricks. Chill out on all the rail dancing crap and lets see some edits from older dudes that still kill shit. Maybe that’s the way to fix it. I’d love to see an edit of guys in their 30’s out there floating huge back one’s and busting out solid backlips, to a Descendent’s song. Snowboarding is growing up, let’s grow up with it.