DC invades Meribel, France with over 100 of the most influential in snowboarding retail, media, and riding

2017 product testing and a showcase of the brand’s global initiatives marked week-long event in French Alps

At 6 a.m. in the Geneva airport we sipped cappuccino, waiting for the two-hour ride south to Meribel. As we talked, Dave Appel, DC Snowboarding’s director of hard goods, explained the motivation behind the global push for their annual L'Invasion. "We're trying to make a strong investment into snowboarding, so why not bring influencers in our space to France for the week. Who doesn't want to go to France and ride the Alps?" Truth.

Over 100 retailers, riders, DC staff, and snowboard media were invited to Meribel for the infamous L’Invasion. Bill and Teeta Langlands, owners, from Darkside in Vermont,  Mark Weeks, co-owner, and Brett Sandford from The Source in Canada, and John Hales, owner, with Board of Provo in Utah equally represented North American shops at L'Invasion in association with a long list of European retailers.

L'Invasion brought together notable reps and retailers, helping to focus brand identity when the market demands transparency, and consumers’ relationship with the brand requires global consistency.

“Core retailers are the destination for the tastemakers and trendsetters of the industry,” said Bobby Meeks, newly appointed director of snow marketing. “They are the heart and foundation of the sport. We are all in this industry together so it's important to maintain and nurture strong symbiotic relationships between brand and retailer.”

In a time where snowboarding's demand shifts, consumers mature, global retail landscapes vary, and some brands arguably struggle to rediscover their roots, DC is charging forward with steadfast fervor, reconnecting us back to the core crux of snowboarding.

"We're so excited how DC is moving forward in this way. Their commitment to snowboarding seems on-point. From their designers, to their riders, to their leaders, their sales force, it's just all encompassing," said Darkside’s Teeta Langlands, "and we're honored to be here with them."

"It’s not that we were immature before, but the present collection and direction of the brand is a reflection of the current market needs, and we feel is a great growth path for DC Snow."—Rob Almeida, DC Design Director

2017 PRODUCT & PROGRESSION
Brand maturity, addition of women's street wear, and continued commitment to boot line

Encouraged to demo everything from outerwear to hard goods—boots and boards—retailers and riders provided feedback on the 2017 gear. DC invited retailers from Europe and North America, as well as their entire global and European team to test and re-test the lines, including on-hill demoing and product roundtables with the design staff.

In a saturated market, The Source's Brett Sandford was excited about previewing the product lines early, adding it would help them position the brand on the retail floor. "Being at DC L’Invasion gave us a great opportunity to closely discuss with the DC product team about what we need to continue growth in our markets. We have a large number of winter brands and we have a specific role for them all to play. It looks like we’re on track to have some compelling ways to connect with our DC customers for WI17."

Vermont's Darkside recognized the concentration the brand has taken on: "They're thriving on both the men and women's side and they confidently know their customer. It's all about that. Don't ever forget who your customer is. I think that's easy to do for some brands in today's world."

Retailers also shared a common observation: the brand is evolving alongside its customer. "DC has matured without losing its youthful edge," added Teeta Langlands. "You can't not mature in this business, but I think with this new line we've seen here, they truly continue to mature in the best way possible."

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DC's evolution moves forward with their growing outwear and street wear lines for women and men. Design Director Rob Almeida explained the women's line was a natural course of action as they felt their consumer was becoming more sophisticated and evolved. "It’s not that we were immature before," explains Almeida, "but the present collection and direction of the brand is a reflection of the current market needs, and we feel is a great growth path for DC Snow."

Although a few seasons out, 2017 will mark the inception of a full DC street wear line for both men and women. "This street wear line is going to resonate so well to our Darkside customer," explains Teeta. "We sell a ton of street wear to men and women, and they can't find it anywhere else. Especially for women, DC street wear hasn't really existed up until now." The women's outwear bib is an item the brand has capitalized on, showcasing the product at SIA for 2016, and continuing that story into their 2017 line.

From a boots perspective, retailers were asked to take a leap of faith and fly to the French Alps without their snowboarding boots. The hope would be that the DC-demo boots would serve them well throughout the week.  DC’s Appel explained the brand’s strategy in the category: "First, the boots must fit right out of the box. Second, the boots need to perform while snowboarding. And third, the boots must be comfortable for the après party." The crew in Meribel put that to the test and the response was fair. "Watching the boot program evolve has been exciting for us," adds The Source’s Sandford. "We’ve seen the DC boot program play a variety of different roles over the years and I think their positioning has some great stories."

BRAND DNA | Global Rider & Retail Consistency

Pinpointing the success of a globally focused brand with skateboarding DNA

Creative Director Deven Stephens attributes DC's success to their heritage in skateboarding, explaining,

"The beauty of being skate lead is that it doesn’t take anything away from our other categories (like snow and moto), but instead gives us focus, strength, and a dynamic point of view."

In 2013, the brand globally refocused its investment in snow, skate, and motocross as the core consumer categories, all tying back to their skateboarding DNA. But with any global brand, the struggle to please regional markets proved difficult.

"A brand has to be able to appeal to varying preferences in style, needs, color, and even branding of its product," explains Niels Van Espen, marketing manager for Benelux in the Netherlands. "It's interesting to see how different the DC Shoes' brand vision we share globally is translated in other European regions." Van Espen added that the UK's preference for larger logos and recognizable apparel and footwear contrasted with a more casual, subtle, lifestyle-focused approach in the Netherlands.

“Snowboarding isn't just in your backyard… It's a global sport and a global business. It's important that you are considering riders that influence specific markets,” adds Meeks. “Global riders are the voices of their region and culture. They have a global opinion that influences your product and brand. Which in turn, helps to build a strong global brand and position in the market.”

Irrespective of region, DC's focus on skate and snow resonates from a lifestyle perspective, adding authenticity and transparency to the product, independent of certain demographics level of engagement with the sport. The consumer can "tap into the energy, passion and self-expression of the skate culture," adds Van Espen—a stealth marketing tool in a saturated market, helping boost brand awareness.

From an endemic perspective, the global team of riders represent the brand focus, equivalently influencing respective regions as tastemakers.

Ultimately, DC's L'Invasion week was a wake-up call for all of us within the industry, reminiscent of the true roots of snowboarding. After a week of quite literally invading Meribel, France, L'Invasion personified the commitment to this lifestyle we call our jobs, while highlighting the importance of connecting a global brand on a core level.

Sandford said it best: “Long ride days, big nights, wild times mobbing the hill with your pals, and really constructive product talks. L’Invasion is what snowboarding should be."

Photo: Cyril Muller