From warehouse robberies to fulfillment issues, Saga Outerwear has had a rough ride over the past few years. But the licensing of the brand by GBG and in-house partnership with Spyder seemed like the turning point. Orders started flowing, the brand began to re-establish itself and the future looked bright.
Unfortunately, that has proved to be a false dawn. For the coming season, the brand will be 'going dark'. It has been a couple of weeks now since the last remaining staff member, Jeremiah Paquette, was tasked with the unfortunate job of calling the entire team and letting them know that Saga would not be able to support them this coming season. While stablemate Spyder has found a new home, via a new licensing deal with Liberated Brands (also operating Volcom), Saga is currently still licensed for the next 12 months to GBG, who will not be operating the brand. The future beyond that 12 month deal is unclear, but for now at least Saga is trapped in corporate limbo with no staff or team riders, and no new gear.
I reached out to Jeremiah, who was manning the wheel as the storm hit, to find out more about what happened. It turns out that this latest chapter began suddenly, when GBG called an all US staff meeting at which employees were informed that all brands under GBG management would either be sold, or closed down if they could not be sold. The hope was that any brand that could be sold would be done so intact with all employees. The brands that couldn’t be sold would be closed down and the employees were to be let go without severance.
"In the following days, we were told that Spyder was already in talks with a new management organization," Jeremiah tells me. "Saga hadn’t yet been mentioned in any of these talks. So, I, being essentially the only person solely working on Saga, started to feel a bit unsure as to the future of the brand. One of the Spyder/Saga product designers from our Boulder office asked what this all meant for Saga. We were told that it was the intention to transition Saga to the new company along with Spyder."
"But by the end of the week we were given the news that the deal to transition Spyder from GBG to Liberated Brands was complete. When asked what this meant for Saga, we were told the Saga deal was more complicated than originally thought as GBG didn’t own Saga, they only licensed it, and the details of that license deal were more complicated than anticipated. However, they still believed a deal for Saga might be possible in the coming week."
"The following Tuesday, after the 4th of July holiday weekend, our Boulder office team had our first call with the Liberated Brands group. When there was no mention of Saga again someone inquired. The team from Liberated Brands told us that they were still speaking with the founders of Saga and GBG but due to the complications I mentioned above, it did not seem likely that a deal to transition Saga from GBG to Liberated would be possible in the near future. After this call I spoke with my manager to ask what this meant for Saga and my employment. He was told that he had been instructed to have Saga “go dark” and that he would like for me to stay on with Spyder and transition into a role with Spyder Freeski."
"As things stand, there is little clarity as to what the whole story means for the future of Saga except that there are no longer any employees working on the brand and there isn’t expected to be any new product. The website is still operating and orders are being shipped. This may change in the coming month as Spyder completes its separation from GBG and leaves the shared services and warehouse it operated with Saga. But at this time it has been very difficult to get clear answers as GBG US essentially doesn’t exist anymore and all of the focus within the Spyder team is on making sure the transition to our new organization is smooth."
Regardless of your opinions on Saga, this is sad news for the freeski industry. Despite occasional stumbling blocks, Saga have been setting trends and supporting skiers since 2005. That's the vast majority of the history of newschool skiing. Saga are (or were) one of the few brands left who can claim roots in the sport dating back that long, and also one of the few that define a chapter in freesking's legacy. We hope to see them make a comeback with a more understanding ownership because, as a sport, we need our own brands. For now though, we'll have to wait and see.