With anonâ€™s burst into the skiing scene with recent team additions of Eric Pollard, TJ Schiller and others, NS spoke with anonâ€™s Business Unit Director, Jeff Gilberti to get the scoop on how the company is approaching the ski market and whatâ€™s in store for the future of the brand.
NS: Can you give us a brief history of anon and how it fits into it's parent company, Burton?
Jeff Gilberti: anon was started almost 5 years ago as an accessory to Burtonâ€™s hardgoods offering. Over time the company began to realize the potential of the anon brand and eventually it became a separate business unit within the Burton family of brands which includes Burton, Analog, Gravis, anon and R.E.D.. Since that time we have made a concerted effort to give anon its own brand identity in the action sports marketplace.
Today anon is run as a separate brand, one with its own business unit director, its own staff, its own brand manager, its own budget, goals and objectives â€“ competing directly against Smith, Spy, Oakley, Dragon, Von Zipper and Electric, etc.
Anon is making a very strong push into the ski market, with the signing of top athletes like TJ Schiller, Ashley Battersby, and Eric Pollard to name a few. What aspects of skiing made it an attractive sport to tap into?
To fully realize anonâ€™s potential we had a brand initiative to expand our distribution channels to include other winter action sports. Because we have marketed our goggles to snowboarders for 4 years now, a logical category to expand into was skiing â€“ not just any type of skiing, but freesking.
Freeskiers are closely correlated to our snowboard roots. They have the same progressive mentality that many of our snowboarding consumers have and they are pushing their sport in similar ways. This, along with the growth of freesking made it a logical evolution for the brand. In the future however you may well see us expanding into other progressive mountain sports as well.
How do you think anon's relationship to Burton will affect anon's move into other markets, such as skiing?
On the snowboard side of the business our association with Burton has been beneficial to getting our goggle business to where it is today. However as we work to further grow the brand it becomes all about making dope shit and not about who owns us. We need to earn the respect of the freeski community just as we have done with snowboarders. So far we're getting an amazing reception from freeskiers. Not because of our parent company but because we are trying to do our part to support the sport and develop goggles and other optics products that challenge tradition.
Just take a look at our material applications on the Figment goggle - Pink leather, Black leather, Brown reptilian leather, wood grain hydro graphics. That's just what you'll see this season. We've stepped it up even more for next season with our new Majestic goggle and our other models as well but I can't let that cat out of the bag quite yet.
Who exactly makes up the anon team at the moment?
The pro team currently consists of Eric Pollard, T.J. Schiller (18, Whistler) Josh Bibby (18, Whistler), Dash Longe (18, Tahoe), Banks Gilberti (15, Sugarbush), Ashley Battersby (16, Park City) and Michelle Parker (16, Squaw Valley).
Is anon looking to be involved at a grass roots level with skiing or will the focus be on the higher profile athletes?
Itâ€™s a combination of both. Currently our team is only made up of three top names â€“ Eric- Pollard, T.J. Schiller and Dash Longe. From there we have signed a solid group of young rookies who are fresh, focused and each has their own progressive style. Add to that a group of 6 kids who we brought on to the team throughout last season â€“ kids who range from the ages of 11 to 15 and you can see we are trying to reach out to the youth of freesking.
What do you think it will take for anon to gain success in the skiing market?
How large a role does fashion play in the creation a new goggle for anon?
Very large. We are in an industry thatâ€™s all about personal expression and the core consumer is always looking for products that challenge tradition. Our goggle developmental efforts are driven by fashion, lifestyle and the creative influences of those seeking to escape the status quo.
How big a role do your team members play in the design and development of new products?
They play a big role in both the development of goggles and sunglasses. Let me give you an example using sunglasses. About a year ago we started out with more than 30 sunglass designs which began as two dimensional drawings. Each of these designs was discussed with the majority of our team (at this time our ski team did not exist) and based on their feedback we reduced the design options to 22. We then had three dimensional handmade prototypes made of the 22 they liked. Those prototypes were then reviewed with our team members in March and we narrowed down the models they liked to 14. Of the 14 we made some rider driven modifications and came back to the riders at a special roundtable review in May. From that point a few more changes were made and the products that came out of all this rider input will release in January to the public.
We take the same approach with goggles. The Majestic goggle, our new anatomically designed womenâ€™s goggle for the 2005/2006 season went through round after round of rider driven modifications from the women on our team before we went into production.
WE ARE TRULY A RIDER DRIVEN COMPANY.
What's next for Anon?
In addition to the Majestic goggle our entire line of goggles (Figment, Subrosa and Halcyon) will continue to focus on colors and material applications unique to anon.
Another new addition to anon in 2005 will be the introduction of a collection of sunglasses. After months of sunglass design and development we will embark on this new product category with the launch of 11 team/rider driven sunglass styles in the southern California market beginning this January.
Along with anonâ€™s expansion into the sunglass arena we will soon announce the addition of a surf team that includes some of the worldâ€™s most progressive and charismatic surfers.
This is only the beginning of whatâ€™s to come from anon and I would encourage your members stay tuned for whatâ€™s next.