After being snubbed by R, I, G, H, and T in BRIGHT XIV's Bad Brain's Right Brigade-inspired marketing campaign, "B" hit the road this winter to find a new posse in the lead up to this summer's BRIGHT XV, going down in Berlin July 4-6. On his journey, B caught up with some of the hottest brands and retailers in Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavia, and the UK. We debriefed Big B after his sojourn to hear what's checking in Europe's five largest action sports markets as we prepare to make the trip to Europe's largest and busiest skate and lifestyle trade show next month.
The next stop on B's journey after his trip through Deutschland, was up to Scandanavia, where we joined him for a stop by the offices of Melodica & Sons.
For the uninitiated, this super-styley skate brand has been making waves amongst Scanners and Euros alike since ’99. When asked for some background on the brand’s history, Melodica CEO Janne Hauta-Aho says his homies at Hang Up skate mag summed it up best:
The year was 1999. I was one of the youngest skaters in my small hometown. I couldn’t help noticing how certain plastic coated paper stickers with the word "Melodica" on them started appearing and spreading at some skate spots. Soon, those stickers were seen increasingly on local skate rats’ boards, and eventually, I saw a DIY Melodica design on a blank skateboard. Being a young skater myself, I found it all very curious and interesting.
I soon found out that Melodica Skateboards was a skate brand founded by Janne Hauta-Aho and Tuppu Ritola – my good friend’s big brother and his friend. Little did they know what they had invented and what was to come. From a concept to its realization: Melodica saw the light of the day at a factory, owned by Janne’s father, where the young visionaries could practice their master plan. Among the first products were fully hand-painted and hand-pressed decks made of birch.
Little by little, people all over Finland became familiar with the new brand and the DIY decks. Yours truly has a recollection of visiting other towns and handing out small paper notes with "Melodica Skateboards" on them – and the price of 170 MK (old Finnish currency) and a phone number. As a reward for that, I got to buy decks at a discounted price. Those were the days, the good old days!
As the brand got more popular and the product range expanded, Melodica started ordering genuine decks from bigger manufacturers abroad, but they were still hand-painted. It’s the DIY spirit that’s always been one of Melodica’s strong points. Naturally, the brand got bigger and evolved, and the clothing line grew and became even more essential for Melodica as a whole.
We sat down with CEO Janne Hauta-Aho after we heard about the brand’s start, to learn more about what’s going down with the Finnish company owner.
All Photos copyright Jukka Kujansivu and Jukka Salminen
Describe what you make in one sentence.
Skateboards, clothing, and anything between.
What drives your lines and what makes you different from your competitors?
We make products for our collections that we personally like—most of the ideas come from a personal need.
Right now it feels like every company has massive collections and is doing this and that to make their range wider, so it’s hard to differ from the others dramatically, but we always try to add our own spice into the things we do—”the Melodica thing”—like the iPhone case out of birchbark.
Check out some highlights from Melodica’s latest collection:
Are you distributed internationally? Where?
Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, and we’re always open to new customers!
What kinds of shops are you in there?
Mostly skate shops and streetwear shops.
What have been the highlights of the last year?
Bright Tradeshow is definitely on the top of the list.
How about the lowlights?
One of our good manufacturers went down because of the financial depression—or at least I think that’s the reason. It messed our schedule a bit, but that’s all. Anyways, we found a new one and it’s all good now!
Everyday we’re hearing about the "European Debt Crisis" here in the States—you feeling this in your market?
Not yet—hopefully nothing happens.
If you had a meeting with a large US retailer, what would your pitch be?
Maybe I’d just show our current collection and go from there. It’s like going on a date. Too fast moves may destroy everything (laughs).
What items are you most stoked on in the upcoming line you’ll be showing at Bright and why?
First of all I love our new graphics. We have some guest artists and collaborations coming out that I’m very stoked about!
We try to support our local manufacturers as much as we can. Our belts, keychains, caps, and bags are made in Finland. Most of them are handmade, so the finishing and looks are super good.
To pick one item… hmmm, our new summer parka is really nice!
Anything else you'd like to add?
See you at BRIGHT!