Adam Johnson: American Made
3 February 2015 - Exposed
Vibralux has long been established as one of blading’s premier apparel brands with one of the industries best teams. Having produced denim and apparel for over ten years we wanted to catch up with Vibralux co-owner Adam Johnson to hear about the brand’s impending Made in USA collection and, in an ever shrinking market why they’re putting their money into American made garments.
We also hear a little bit about where Street Urethane and Dead Wheels are heading as well as AJ’s thoughts on VOD releases, plans for a new Vibralux team video and what he keeps in his camera bag.
Always outspoken and constantly trying to push blading in the right direction, this is Adam Johnson: American Made.
What made you take the decision to go American made and why now?
After a decade of making soft goods in a market that is forever shrinking we decided to re-evaluate the company completely. From how we run the marketing, our overall attitude, and the garments we are making. Specifically speaking of the garments we wanted to make something that not only were we proud of, but something that the consumer could be proud of as well. This is a more hands on process, we visit where we source the fabric, we visit the manufacturers, we talk to our affiliates on the telephone, and we are proud of what we are bringing to market.
Are there any other brands, in or out of blading that have inspired or influenced you to go down the American made route?
Knickerbocker mfgr, Stock mfgr, Baldwin Denim, and a few other partners we won’t name since we have collaborations we are still trying to line up.
What do you see as the benefits of making 'Made in USA' products?
The main advantage is in quality control and minimums. We’ve historically had a problem moving our MOQ on jeans. 2,000-4,000 pairs of jeans in a single line ends up being our only product for an entire year. This leads to a very stale perception of the brand. The only thing we can release while our cash is tied up like that are tees which are becoming increasingly hard to sell. As far as quality we are able to communicate directly with our factories and voice our concerns when it comes to short comings prior to production. Using higher quality materials with skilled professionals leads to a better made garment.
The definition of ‘Made in USA’ is open to some interpretation. Are the Made in USA products going to be 100% made in USA or materials sourced elsewhere and just assembled in USA?
Everything is made in the USA. YKK zippers and buttons from Kentucky, Labels out of Tustin, CA, fabric out of Fenton, MO and Los Angeles, CA, all of which are assembled with our partners in NYC and Pennsylvania.
Will the whole collection be Made in USA?
Every garment will be Made in America.
How will the 'Made in USA' products impact the prices for stores/consumers and do you think rollerbladers will be willing to pay a premium price for higher quality garments?
For the initial release of our American made garments we will be utilizing Indie Go Go. This way we can ensure not only do we not overstock products but that we get the correct size breakdowns. Since we are going customer direct we can pass on the savings to the consumer since there will be no middle man (it costs nearly double to make a garment domestically rather than overseas). While I am sad we will not be able to offer this first round of garments through our loyal shops and distributors, we have to make a decision that we believe is right for the future of our company. Our prices will remain the same and customers will be able to expect a greater quality garment for the price.
Do you think Create Originals and the issues they’ve encountered with production and so far unsuccessful product delivery on their CRS frames will affect people’s willingness to invest in Vibralux or other blading related crowdsourcing campaigns?
I would hope that people understand the difference between hardware shortcomings and the possible product development problems Create is experiencing and our ability to successfully manufacture soft goods. We have fantastic factories and a quality team working with us. We’ve already secured all the trim for our products and will use the crowd funding to determine size breakdowns, purchase fabric, and then it’s off to production. We are in the fortunate position that we aren’t reinventing hardware that if it malfunctions it compromises the quality of the product, we are simply making quality apparel. We are working with people who have been in business since the Eisenhower administration and 300 garments for them is a slam dunk.
You’ve been running Vibralux for over 10 years now, what have been some of the highlights over the years?
1. The release of our first jean, the James Dean Jean. An absolute dream come true.
2. Working with the team, past and present. The brothers that we have been lucky enough to be supported by has been a huge blessing. They help to keep the dream alive.
3. The release of our first team video in 2008, ‘On Top’ touring the country, hanging in a smelly van, and building the friendships that have lasted over a decade has been wonderful.
4. I still love when we get emails or messages about how the content we put out made someone happy, or they love our product, or someone is proud to represent our brand. Customer feedback is the second biggest reason we keep the brand alive.
5. The initial beef with FP regarding Dave Temple being a part of the brand. There is something about being young and dumb and beefing on the internet with your idols. Hahahaha.
Are there plans to take your other brands, Street Urethane and Dead Wheels, in the same Made in USA direction?
Both of these brands are already made in the USA. The garments are made locally in Kansas and the wheels are made in Huntington Beach, CA.
In terms of wheels would there be any innovations you think American made wheels could bring to the market?
We are working closely with our manufacturer to develop a new wheel profile as well as a new abrasion resistant compound. Alex and Farmer have been testing both the compound and the profile. Very excited with the ride so far. We’ve got a meeting to tie up loose ends on February 3rd. Look out for a full rebrand of Street and a relaunch of Dead.
How do you feel the growing number of VOD videos/sections has impacted the blading scene over the past 12 months and where do you see VOD going from here? Also, with a lot of top names only releasing paid for content, do you think this will impact the younger potential bladers as the videos have a smaller closed off circulation?
I love the idea of paid content. I’ve gone on the record a number of times outlining the benefits and the purposes. I’ll give a quick breakdown of how I (I really shouldn’t have any influence since I am not a pro skater) would like to see pros treat their sponsors.
1. If you get a pro product that you make royalties on I believe you should work with someone to create content to help the sales of this product. This can help you and your sponsor to make money and keep people interested in the brand and yourself as a relevant skater. This also leads to better sales which should in turn be rewarded with future products.
2. If you get a monthly salary you should make an effort to keep yourself in the public eye. I don’t think making shitty park or lame street sections that don’t showcase your skills, but are free, are worth putting out. This waters down skating, makes the skater look dumb, and is a poor reflection of the company as well. Just throw up a couple of photos from a session you are going to, a setup pic, talk about skating online every once in a while, ya know. For fucks sake though, stop with the shit content (unless it’s a joke and you’re making fun of people/ having fun).
2a. Please note, the above isn’t talking about ALL content put out, but don’t slap your sponsors name on a shitty edit and call it content that is reflective of your paycheck. That’s an asshole move. I’m all for fun, funny, creative content. This is SKATING and it’s FUN. Not every part put online needs to be a banger, but if it is “such and such’s 2014 winter profile” it better be a profile. Also, stop calling profiles and sections ‘edits’ #rant
3. Amateur skaters and aspiring sponsored skaters should host
profiles for free. Don’t be surprised as the viewer if every once in a while these free profiles are better than some of the paid content you received from a pro. These kids are hungry, sometimes they go out every day for 8 months and film, lots of these kids live at home, or are in college, or aren’t worried about breaking their leg and not being able to pay rent because they went hard for a profile. There are also lots of unsponsored kids you’ve never heard of that are REALLY talented. Just because someone is really talented and can film a dope profile doesn’t mean they deserve a paycheck though. There are plenty of examples I could give of people who put out a fire part, got paid, and did nothing while cashing checks. #rant!
4. The VOD. I think this is finally an opportunity to not only make money as a skater, but to continue to make great parts, travel, and stay with skating. While this paid content isn’t as accessible to the masses as a free vimeo/ youtube part it serves the greater purpose of keeping the dream alive financially. Furthermore, I’m not entirely sure that people watch youtube/ vimeo sections that are free in the same way they used to with VHS and DVD. There is so much content online for free that it numbs you. I think the simple act of paying for a part makes you more interested in watching it multiple times. I am crazy though... Finally skater X skates differently than he/she did a decade ago, get over it. #rant
You’ve produced a mega plethora of blading content to date, what in your mind are the pro’s and con’s between making a dvd 10 years ago to an online only section now? Bearing in mind the monetary issues and time constraints?
If I could go back 10 years and make a video I would in a heartbeat. It has become something of a joke in our circle. We long for the days of the
past where we could go to a standard rail, standard down ledge, and have a skater unload their trick vocabulary. We used to be able to make a full length video in 6 months for $5-6,000 if we were traveling and people would rant and rave. In todays World we drive around for 5 hours looking for a perfect spot that might not exist because after having made 20+ videos and these guys having filmed 20+ profiles you can’t just skate RB, dana point, and the typical skate spots. 10 years ago you could sell 4k copies of a dvd, today it’s hard to sell 1,500 VODs.
Do you see the Vibralux VOD series as a continuing revolution? When you’ve featured the whole team will you just go back to the top of the list and start again?
When this is over we plan to make a team video. Hopefully the
logistics work out to make VOD’s of Tien and Marc, maybe bring them to the states for 3 weeks.
How has the VOD series done so far? What were your expectations, has it exceeded them?
The VOD series has done well so far in that we haven’t lost money yet. It has been underwhelming at times, but running the analytics of each riders profile and seeing where we can gain market shares promoting to different fan bases is exciting. I’m a big numbers guy. Checking the difference between VOD’s at X price vs Y and the different break even points. The only real mistake I made was under valuing Bfree’s part.
Who is next in line for a Vibralux VOD?
Top 5 tricks you've filmed?
1. Alex Broskow 540 through the tree in KFC 3
2. Alex Broskow 540 through the hole in KFC 2
3. Todd Blubaugh royale to duck under in KFC Member’s Only
4. Bfree 180 through the tree in Charg!ng
5. Don Bambrick zero spin in Icons!
Worst 3 things you’ve witnessed or had happen to you because of blading?
1. Yuri coma
2. Brandon coma
3. 2nd trespassing charge (3rd is a felony)
What is in your camera bag?
Panasonic HPX-170, Opteka .3 fisheye, Canon 60-d, GoPro 4, 3 light setups, gang of batteries, cleaning shit, snorricam, tripods.
Your favourite bladers of all time?
Aaron, Dustin, Roadhouse, Josh, Domonic, Alex, Chris, Chris, Don, Mike, Abdiel, Rob, Steve, KFC, Murda, Brian, David, Michael, John, Billy, man there are too many. If you have my phone number then I love you.
Is there anything you would like to see change in the act of blading itself. A lot of people try to compare past pros to new pro’s, how would you define a pro? Is there a certain type of blading you prefer over another, such as hammers, creative, park, vert?
Just shut up and skate. Stop with the critiques. If you aren’t having fun or enjoying yourself, you should probably quit. Life is short. Don’t waste it doing something you kind of like. Go be happy, pursue happiness, and bring happiness to skating.
Do you think there is still a structure in blading sponsorship, flow, am, pro? Do you think VOD may change this hierarchy, sponsor me tapes may become paid for?
There is no structure at all. All of those titles are a joke. The industry is too small to support all the people who are pro, too many ams get ‘pro’ products based on online edits and not work ethic, and flow is all the people with hands out that have loose affiliations with brands and can point to URL’s that have X amount of views. The lines get blurred more everyday, and that is fine. Titles are the last thing people should be worrying about in skating, see above answer.