Jiberish has been a brand synonymous with freeskiing for as long as I, and many other Newschoolers members can remember. In recent years the brands popularity has expanded outside of the snowsports community and within the street fashion world. Many Newschoolers.com members, as well as the snowsports community at large, have witnessed this growth. Historically, the minds behind Jiberish have remained quiet regarding their brand instead choosing to allow for their product to be represented by a collective of notable athletes and artists as well as the quality of the product and company branding itself. For a group who has been so deeply embedded in freeskiing’s history, I wanted to reach out to them to see if they would be willing to talk about their influence on the sport of skiing and how they have helped shape it. As anyone who knows the guys behind the brand will tell you, getting them to open up is not the easiest of tasks but one of the founders, Pete Drago, definitely shed some light onto their early days and their take on style.
1. So, starting from the very beginning, how did you guys get into snowsports?
We all were living in Denver Colorado and we were friends through work and social circles. Dave snowboarded while Gabe and I skied. We all loved being in the mountains and had a borderline unhealthy addiction to skiing/snowboarding. However, all of us worked full time jobs that required a suit and tie Monday-Friday. Finding a way to tie our passion for the outdoors with our life in the city within a creative field was a constant daydream.
We saw that there were not many options for lifestyle clothing in the snowsports world and we thought that if we started a brand that represented that lifestyle we could have a hobby that allowed us to live the life we wanted to live. We had made a few custom pieces for athletes and tested out a few ideas, but the first order of clothing we actually produced for the public to purchase was $471.00 and it included 12 sweatshirts and 12 t-shirts. We didn’t have any money or connections so it was all we could make and we had absolutely no plan on how to sell it, ha.
http://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/740002/The-Original-Jiberish-Edit (The Original Jiberish Edit - Spring 2008)
Speaking of pumping money into skiing, from the start, Jiberish has had an eye for talent, sponsoring some up and comers, names that would become huge in the years to come including Tom Wallisch. Henrik Harlut, Mike Hornbeck, and NS favorites Chug Life and Brogan.
2. Who comprised of the OG Jiberish crew (2005-2008 years) and how were they chosen?
Great trivia question here…. The very first Jiberish athlete was David Byrd. Only the true OGs will know him though. He has the first piece of Jiberish we ever created and it was a full year or two before we ever made clothing available to buy. It was a cut-and-sewn zip up hoodie that had a longer taller fit and was constructed of a windproof, insulated, cotton blend. It was all black and super clean with just our name embroidered on the upper pocket. David wore it at the X-Games qualifier in Jan 2004 (yeah, that used to happen, ha) at Breck. He was part of the original crew along with Mickael Deschenaux, Craig Coker, John Spriggs, Corey Vanular, Lisa Solberg, and Charlie MacArthur. Soon after those guys the crew grew to include Tom Wallisch, Keri Herman, Justin Norman, Adam Delorme, Henrik Harlaut, Mike Clarke, Ian Cosco, Matt Walker, Mike Hornbeck, and then AJ Kemppainen, Joe Mango, Niklas Eriksson, Sig Tveit, Jon Brogan, etc. We were always interested in people that had unique and effortless style and did things their own way. At that time big names were not a fit for what we were creating because our brand was just starting out and we wanted the type of people who were considered more underground or on the come-up. I always thought it was lame when a new brand would pop up on the scene and just buy a bunch of athletes so we stayed away from that. Having a crew of extremely stylish riders that were making noise in the forums and online by pushing the envelope was way more important to us. I am not a fan of the word “disruptive” in business today because it is so overused and generic, but that is what we were going after from an athlete standpoint…people that could change the game. And that is what we curated in terms of a crew.
I spent a lot of time on NS back in the day just reading forum posts and watching videos so I had a pretty in-depth knowledge of the kind of riders I admired. I rarely posted in or commented in threads, if ever, back then though. Even now, I tend to stay out of things but I chime in on Jiberish related posts occasionally when I have a little free time if there are questions by people directed at me.
3. Of the original crew, which of them have had the most impact on your brand as a whole?
That is tough to say because all of them are a part of who we are and what the brand is today. We always chose riders based on style, period. That was all we cared about and still do to this day. Our crew typically focused on film segments and good video content. We did not care at all about contests because a lot of the contest guys were almost like jocks to us. But then all of a sudden our crew started competing in, and winning, major events like the US Open, X-Games, Gravity Games (OG status), and Dew Tours. We had our Fam all over major podiums and they did it with style. It was a changing of the guard to some extent too because our crew was all coming up at the same time.
But in terms of the largest impact commercially on our brand, Wallisch affected product sales and global awareness the most. But he is also the single most influential skier in the modern era in my opinion. As known and respected as he is, people who weren’t around in 07-10 will never understand what a meteoric rise it was. I put him alongside Candide and Tanner in terms of how much he has shaped the game. I clearly remember the first video of his that I saw and Gabe and I instantly commented that he was unlike anything we had ever seen from a stylistic standpoint and we both believed he could change the game forever. At that point he couldn’t even get a free pair of skis and he was riding on some real beaters that had been torn up from urban. He was doing things with a style that was on a level all his own. But I could argue on behalf of anyone who has ridden for us in terms of their impact on the game. Some of them are absolute legends and just entering their prime too.
At the other end of the spectrum Delorme has consistently been the most emulated I think. He has a personality and style that people are drawn to. Adam is really on his own program too. He always seems to shy away from the limelight….I mean, he doesn’t even have a facebook profile. He’s about as illusive as a spotted leopard. Trying to film with him is always an adventure because it requires whoever is holding the camera to keep up, and as anyone who skis park with Adam will tell you he’s not one to wait around.
http://vimeo.com/3516281 (Jiberish 2008/2009 Chapter 2)
Stylish from day one, featuring Michael Clarke, Matt Walker, Ian Cosco, Tom Wallisch, Henrik Harlaut, Mike Hornbeck, Justin Norman, and Joe Mango. A stacked roster indeed.
4. You guys have been the catalyst of some of the major freeskiing trends, sometimes years before other companies follow. Do you feel like you have influenced others and does it bother you at all to see others copy or mimic what you have done?
It doesn’t bother us at all. I think it is nice to see that things we have done have gained traction within the industry. Part of the responsibility of being a leader in a segment is to continue pushing the envelope and we take that very seriously. It is one of the reasons we have the Shakespeare quote “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” as one of our branding elements and on our clothing/accessories. It is much easier to sit back and give the customer what they are asking for, but we have always felt it was our responsibility to keep rolling the ball forward and to stay out in front of what is happening. Our Winter 14/15 Grand Cru line is a perfect example of this because we chose to blaze a trail with the cuts and fits of our jackets to align with more street elements that work on the hill too. The easy money would have been to take a typical freeride jacket cut, color block some pockets, and put our J-crown logo on it because we could sell a lot of them. But that is just not how we do things so we never thought twice about it.
Since the late 90s snowsports has always looked to street fashion to influence their outerwear and clothing, trying to take elements from it and adapt it to this world. The problem with that historically has been that by the time they get that stuff sampled, shown at a tradeshow, and then produced it is 3+ years behind. This has left the sport in a position where it has a reputation outside of the industry for being dated aesthetically and we take that personally as a brand that is involved and rooted here. So we are always trying to combine life in the mountains and the city through our clothing in a way that is unique. We have a different perspective when we design since we aren’t a fashion brand based in LA, NY, Paris, Milan, or Tokyo. Our lives in Denver have completely different influences which is why we have been able to have our own distinct look bringing life in the city and the mountains together.
That is pretty much the motivation behind our first outerwear range coming out this Winter. We felt like we needed to push things in a different direction. For years we have been asked about doing outerwear but we never felt like we had the right reason to do it so we didn’t. But over the last 18 months we felt that there are people out there who want something completely different than what is currently offered. It is definitely not for everyone…but that is kind of the point. We’ve never made clothing for the masses. Some people prefer a darker palate and a more street-focused aesthetic and this line speaks to them. But there are plenty of people who won’t get it and that is absolutely fine by us. Not a lot of people liked the taller fitting hoodie we made as a silhouette in late 2003. But the right people did and we focused on them.
Jiberish's Winter 14/15 Grand Cru Range will be the company's first technical outerwear collection. Doing it in a way only Jiberish knows how, they blend function with form in a unique way that sticks to their roots.
5. On that note, it seems as though when you grow the more criticism you get too. I have seen statements and comments from NSers that believe that you guys are abandoning the skiing roots of your company or that you guys don’t make ski clothing anymore. How do you respond to that?
Good question, and I am glad you asked it. Sure, it is definitely something we have seen and heard from customers of ours over the last 4 or 5 years, especially ones who have been around with us for a while. We aren’t really in a position to address it since we are not especially public as a brand. First and foremost, I think it is important to understand what we do has never been with other people's opinions or our own personal monetary gain in mind. I have said it before and I will say it again….we have always made clothing we like and want to wear. That may come across that we don’t care about the consumer but that is absolutely not the case. We make what we like because we believe anything different than that is just pandering to an audience and not being true to yourself, which is at the very basis of what a “sell-out” is. We are very lucky that lots of other people happen to like the clothing we design. But we stay true to our own personal taste and our own personal style and it always comes back to what is right for the brand. Our roots are in snowsports and most heavily skiing…that cannot change, and we would never want it to. Our company continues to operate in this space from collaborations, to video marketing, and athlete sponsorships. The root of this accusation really comes down to people that are holding on to the past, which we can easily relate to because we are victims of it ourselves. It is like when a musician or group puts out a new album and older fans bash it. Most of the time that is because there is this tendency to compare it to previous songs they produced. But that is tough though because you may have had time to make associations in your life with the previous songs you have listened to and maybe you have a special relationship with that music of that era. We are grateful that our customers have such strong memories of our early clothing design. That said, if we were stagnant there would have been a point that our clothing looked dated on and off the hill. We have way more customers from the early days that have evolved with us and are extremely supportive of the brand’s growth than those customers who still want us to make really bold, bright colored hoodies. But we have seen that many of those who voice negative opinions still support the brand, they just focus on the products that most on-hill friendly instead of our more street-focused offerings. At the end of the day we are the same brand with the same people we started with. The colors and cuts change but what is at the heart of the brand is still the same. We have expanded our product range outside of just hoodies and that has been great for the vast majority of our supporters. Hell, we sell more button down shirts than hoodies these days and that says a lot about the stylistic change of our customers. I saw one of our very earliest customers on IG the other day posting outfit grids of Pigalle, APC, Jiberish, Visvim, Bedwin and Norse Projects. 5 years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed our customers would even know who those other brands were, let alone have them in their closet. Part of that growth was our insistence on pushing the market and the style within skiing and snowboarding. It has definitely been met with resistance, but as I have said many times, we do what is right for the brand and part of that is to push the segment.
We all have thick skin and are fueled by anything from our own inspiration to others criticisms and we use it all to make the brand better. The irony is that if most of the most vocal criticism comes from people who are so friendly and complimentary in person. Anyone who has spent time with us would probably be better equipped to speak to what kind of people we are and how much a part of our lives snowsports and the outdoors are. Snowsports is and will always be at the core of our business and our personal lives. I think it is tough to grasp for some because they want to call us a ski brand, because people like to identify something as their own. Jiberish is a lifestyle clothing company, and our marketing dollars have and will always be spent in a way that supports ski and snowboard filmers, athletes, photographers and others making a living in this industry. I wouldn't want it any other way and I hope we continue to grow bigger outside of skiing so we can pump more money into skiing.
In 2010, Jiberish released a film called “Right Back Where We Started” A tribute to their roots and their athletes, showcasing their athletes in a ski flick, a perfect blend/compromise of all aspects of park skiing with features of snowboarders and skaters in the mix as well.
http://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/772898/Jiberish-presents--quot-Right-Back-Where-We-Started-quot- (Jiberish presents “Right Back Where We Started.” )
6. Right Back Where We Started was the closest thing to a Jiberish Family movie thus far. How difficult was it to get athletes linked up with filmers for this cut? Is there a chance of something similar coming in the future?
Video content has always been a big part of our brand and that is not going away anytime soon. We loved making “Right Back Where We Started” because it was truly a Jiberish Family video. It was our crew, doing our thing, and we focused on taking things back to the basics. 99% of people aren’t going to be able to go heli-skiing in Valdez or be able to build a massive BC jump with snowmobile tow-ins so we focused on public parks and urban footage that most people could access. We wanted it to feel less segmented and more like a running diary of our crew throughout the year. Blake Kimmel had done the “Spotlight Project” in 2007 and that was the inspiration for RBWWS. It was basically a Jiberish movie but we wanted to take it to the next level and have it be a full-on brand movie. Blake committed and we got a number of other filmers to hop on board too. I love the way it came out and we are always thinking about doing another one so there is definitely a chance of seeing something like that in the near future.
Filming for our videos is always a logistical challenge but we have been able to make it work. Our team is comprised of a lot of really famous people now and they are pulled in a lot of directions but we make it happen because it is important to us and our crew loves to make them. Back in the day we would just show up at a park with a filmer and 8 guys and it would be total madness. Henrik would be inventing some rail trick on the spot and whoever was filming would turn around and miss a shot of Delorme doing a nose butter 9 off the side of a jump. It was like herding cats getting the guys to stay organized. Anyone who was there can attest to it because it was total chaos. You had the best park riders in the world all at one place. Then you had these up and coming cinematographers shooting and editing these videos like Kyle Decker, AJ Dakoulas, Freedle Coty, Blake Kimmel, and others too. It was a bit of a golden age of the sport for me personally because the entire crew was yet to become commercially successful so we were all sort of making our way to the stage at the same time. Looking back on it, I am not sure there will ever be an era quite like it.
People always would post up too and watch and it turned into a spectator performance. I remember during the 08/09 Chapter 1 at Keystone there were around 40-50 people lined up watching us shoot, and Freedle Coty who was filming was absolutely flying down the mountain chasing Wally around swerving in and out of people. I was convinced someone was going to die. Side note…Wallisch wore the Mint Green Fruit and Orbs Hoodie in that edit and it was one of the sweatshirts that had not sold as quickly as some of the others prior to that video being released. We sold-out of them within a day or two of that video being posted online. I cannot believe it took so many years for the big brands to realize his marketing strength.
The Day and a Half at Breck edit that Kyle Decker did started it all though (there is a different version that Blake Kimmel did that is equally good by the way). It absolutely blew up on the internet. It was Wally, Delorme, Hornbeck, and Brogan and this was before people were putting out real legit videos online for free. We had retailers hitting us up from all over the globe asking to carry our clothing following that. It was also when we started to notice the incredible support we had in Norway and Sweden as well as other places in Europe.
http://www.newschoolers.com/membervideo/711447.0/Jiberish---08-09-Chapter-1?s=219615&t=6&o=8(Jiberish Presents: Chapter 1, Freedle Coty for Jiberish)
In Recent Years, Jiberish has still stuck to their roots and brought about a series of stylish, clean, and effortless edits, a refreshing change from all the other spin to win videos flooding the industry at the time. This series of walk in the park edits were brought about featuring riders Tom Wallisch, Adam Delorme, Dash Kamp and Joe Mango. This New Age in Jiberish also brought in the Stept guys, Clayton and Sean adding some stellar urban riders into Jiberish’s already stacked roster.
Yeah, as the brand has grown and our style has evolved the video content has mimicked that. When we first started we had no idea what we were doing and we were learning as we went. We never had a plan other than we wanted to make good content. But as we have matured and gained experience we have gotten better at executing on all levels and that is reflected in the content I think. Plus we are really fortunate to have such gifted friends like the guys at Level 1, Stept, 4bi9, and Mike Clarke in addition to the others that we have worked with over the years. We have surrounded ourselves with a lot of multi-talented and creative people. Hell, Tony Dryer made Delorme’s “Walk in the Park” video and he is our operations manager in the office, haha.
http://www.newschoolers.com/videos/watch/584906/A-Walk-in-the-Park---Adam-Delorme (A Walk in the Park – Adam Delorme)
In my favorite edit of all time, Delorme lays down smooth butters and spins, oozing style all over the mountain.
7. With the inclusion of freesking in the Olympics, and your athletes Tom Wallisch and Keri Herman (AJ Kemppainen was also in the Olympics but for Finland) taking front stage for team USA in the precedings, has anything changed?
I really don’t think any of that changed anything for our brand but I was extremely happy for our athletes obviously. The corporate sponsors tend to try and control any marketing efforts during those events anyways. But we weren’t looking to try and make a name for ourselves to the general public. The people who need to know who we are already do, and those who don’t and need to will figure it out the right way.
8. Is involving the brand with past riders something you like to do? (Seeing as Brogan did some modeling, Lisa did an art exhibition, and Michel Clarke did some video work for you guys).
Absolutely, they are Fam for life. We always are trying to find ways to support the people who have been down with us and it is easy to do when they are super talented and creative as well. It’s really fun to work with them outside of the skiing/snowboarding context too. But regardless they are a part of what we created and they always will be.
(Lisa Solberg for Jiberish)
On the art side of things, and throwing it back to being family for life, Lisa Solberg creates rad works of art for Jiberish.
9. What are you hoping is the mark that you and your athletes will leave on the skiing industry/culture as a whole?
I hope Jiberish is remembered for having integrity and doing things the way we wanted to do them, regardless of what the rest of the industry was doing. That is the most important thing to me. We have always put the brand in front of our own personal agenda because it just means so much to us.
10. What are your thoughts on the future of freeskiing, and in turn the future of style in it?
Style was no where as big of a deal in 2003 as it is now, and that means we are moving in the right direction. At first the sport was in a “let’s get a trick down and then go to the next one” mentality. Guys like Mickael, Vanular, Pep, Crichton, and others were really early in pushing the style factor in the mid-2000s which helped balance that out. But it also started to create smaller divisions within the sport based on how it was interpreted and the individual focus of each rider. Those divisions allow the sport to stay diverse. Without contest jocks there would be no money in the sport. Without style focused riders people wouldn’t be progressing that aspect. We have been and will always be tuned into what is happening with the latter.
11. Lastly… any words for NS?
NS is an amazing entity. Watching it grow and evolve over the years has been really fun. I have been a member for 12 years now and I still will laugh out loud when I scroll down the topics in the Non-Ski Gabber forum. But without it there is no way the sport would be what it is today. It has allowed the community to grow together in a way that is unlike any other platform in any segment or industry I’ve ever come across….I truly mean that. It grew alongside the sport and as that happened it maintained it’s spot as homebase for the community. With so many other industries and markets segmented with various divisions and sub-sects, it is really rare to see such a large group so tied together. It is like the Newschoolers community is one massive dysfunctional family….but like any family you always have each other’s back if someone outside of your family takes a swing. You don’t find that in many other realms or industries.