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Skateboarding News

Monday, September 28, 2009

The rise of the Old School Born Again skater.

Once again, the web is buzzing like crazy over the news that two of the most recognized trademarks in the history of skateboarding, Vision Street Wear (VSW) and, Airwalk are back into the arena.

For those who have AndyMac as a friend on Facebook, he just unloaded tonight on his page a 1mn sibilant video with the comment:” Tested a new Airwalk outsole today (recorded 09-28) that was super light. It took some time getting used to it. Watch close and you'll get a sneak peak of the outsole I'm going to build my new signature shoe on.” To accompany this, comes a video of AndyMac doing multiple variations of footplants on a wooden ramp.
The video is available here:
If you don’t know the story of Airwalk, go here to this blog.

Then comes Vision. In august, at a beach party in Malibu the re-launching of VSW was hosted by DJ Jake Brown (X-Games gold medalist Jake Brown), the event was covered by FOX news and was attended by well-known skaters like Rune Glifberg, Jason Ellis and Jereme Rogers.

Notorious for bold graphics and original designs, the brand claim that they will remain loyal to the style that made it trendy and chic in the 80’s and early 90’s, while adding a modern-day flavor to its line of products.

The brand new VSW website brags that the company was established in 1976 when “the urethane wheel had just been invented, the first outdoor skatepark was built in Florida and Alan Gelfand pulled the first ollie”. Regardless, of course, that the first ollie was not invented in 1976, but in 1978! So far, the 1976 date still needs to be vetted, but let’s not fight over a couple of years and give VSW the advantage of the doubt. Still, during the full decade of the 80’s and early part of the 90’s, VSW was not only a major and probably the biggest skateboard company worldwide but internationally recognized, because the Vision team included some of the sickest and most innovative skaters at the time including Mark Gonazalez, Lance Mountain, Tas Pappas, Duane Peters, John Grigley, Eric Nash, Tom Groholski, Marty "Jinx" Jimenez, Jeff Phillips and Mark "Gator" Rogowski.
Gator was one of the most impressive “vert” skaters of all time. He pushed the boundaries of vertical skateboarding to daredevil extremes of ballistic audacity, with thrilling demonstrations of youthful bravado and agility. Gator’s devilish, cocky personality only helped propel him into the spotlight as the poster boy for VSW and when skateboarding became more mainstream, Gator became on of the very first wealthy skateboarders. Later he got in big trouble and got 30 years in jail. The video “Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator” (2003) tells about his story.
In addition, Vision was the first brand to understand the natural connection between music and skate culture. VSW put on a number of music and skate events including the “Vision Skate Escape” featuring skaters Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi and promoted bands like Agent Orange and Beastie Boys with branded decks. VSW also produced amazing contests where groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers were invited to play. To stick with a recipe that has worked for 2 decades, VSW has currently decided to join forces with “Frontside Five” and “Blake9”.
Probably most importantly, VSW re-defined skate via the street style and its use of bold, in-your-face graphics on its boards, t-shirts and sneakers. The Psycho Stick, Aggressor and Gator Pro Model remain some of the most loved and well-respected symbols of innovative design throughout the history of social Skateboarding. At that time, I was running a distributing company called “The Surf Factory” (Now long dead, RIP) and VSW was truly the hottest thing on earth. Then Airwalk supplanted VSW, but almost overnight, VSW and Airwalk fall into oblivion and the two more famous brands diseappered.
So, what lead to the demise of VSW? That is a story as old as skateboarding itself! The more you go mainstream and mass-market, the more fame you have, but also the more disconnected you are with your base and in the long run, the more you loose your street cred, and in the skate counterculture movement of that time fame was like a virus that simply killed the brand.

Whether the VSW will rise again from its ashes and be accepted by the current skaters will be an enigma for the next couple of month, or years.

Now regarding whether Vision and Airwalk could return to their true value, it is useful to know that in January 2004 Collective Licensing International was formed around the purchase of the Airwalk Brand. They claim their focus was to purchase iconic action sports brands and return them to their roots by re-introducing past product design and focusing on the Youth board sport culture. Purchasing brands such as Vision Streetwear, Sims Snowboards, and several others, Collective Licensing began to market the 'new' Airwalk aggressively in print magazines and online. In March 2007 Collective Licensing International. was acquired by Collective Brands International., owners of Stride Rite and Payless Shoe Source.
Payless, Fox News, Airwalk, Vision, AndyMac. Is that a recipe for succes?

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posted by Xavier Lannes @ Monday, September 28, 2009 


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