In case you haven’t noticed there has been a paradox of late in the action sports industry. Retailers say they want to work with smaller brands to have more exclusive lines, yet more often than not, new brands fold because retailers are scared to bet on them. Other than fear, this often boils down to the new brands being “me-toos” and not really adding anything to the conversation. One brand that is bringing a new place setting to the outerwear buffet for 11/12 is Homeschool Snowboarding. While the looks may be classic, it’s what’s under the outerwear’s hood that we think will make this a line to watch in years to come.
We caught up with Homeschool Founder/Creative Director Danny Clancey and Sales & Marketing Director Jevan Lautz over some pancakes on their recent tour across the West to learn more about the brand’s direction, line, and new technologies.
You guys both have pretty extensive backgrounds in the industry. Can you tell us a little about your experience and how your skill sets combined like Voltron for Homeschool?
Danny: My experience has been mostly on the design side. I spent five years working at snow and skateboard shops all through college and then went back to art school for an apparel degree. I worked for Ride for a bit and then on to Columbia Sportswear seeing what the other side of the fence was like, where I got a good education in working for a big company and learning all aspects of getting a technical apparel piece made from top to bottom.
Jevan: In the late 90s I worked in the snowboard shop at Mt. Bachelor. It’s there I realized I wanted to make this industry my life. Most recently I was repping for Burton in Colorado. This past Spring I was approached about coming on board to help launch Homeschool Snowboarding, and here I am, back in the Northwest.
Why did you decide to leave positions with established companies to dive into an endeavor like this in seriously uncertain economic times?
Danny: Basically because I saw where things were going and I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life being told how to design snowboard outerwear by people who don’t snowboard. In a large company it’s design by committee and often times the product that makes it to market is nothing like it was originally intended. The Northwest has very unique weather and demands a lot from your outerwear and I wasn’t seeing a lot of those issues addressed.
Jevan: The last handful of years the industry has for the most part been putting out disposable outerwear. However that is changing and the consumer wants something that can last multiple seasons both aesthetically and in terms of durability. You’re seeing that in a lot of industries, people willing to pay for high quality, well made goods.
Danny: The name homeschool really comes from the idea of doing for yourself and learning by doing. Really the only way to learn something is to jump in head first and do it. I never wanted to be a business person but I’ve taken on that role as I’ve gone through this process.
The line is super clean and hearkens back to the 90s and work wear – where do your influences come from and how would you describe the brand's aesthetic?
Danny: I was influenced by a lot of snowboarding from the Mid 90s so you are totally spot on there. I really liked a lot of the old Sessions stuff. Some of our stuff is like that but really updated. Better construction, fabrics and a newer look. I describe it a lot as “clean and mean” stuff that holds up. Particularly our 3.5 layer stuff that is almost indestructible and looks new after a season of really hard use.
For simple looking garments, there is some serious technology under the proverbial hood. I understand you guys are the first snowboard outerwear company to use Cocona fabric – tell us a little about what this company/fabric is all about.
Danny: Cocona addresses one of the main issues I’ve had with outerwear: breathability. Especially here in the Northwest where it’s warm and wet. The consumer has the idea that waterproofness is everything—that is only partially true. Breathability is just as important. Cocona is a product made from coconut shells. It’s activated carbon particles that are “printed” on the laminate and adds surface area to help with the efficiency of moving moisture through the membrane. It really works and they have the testing to prove it. On average it’s 40-60% more breathable than a lot of what’s out there. And here in the Northwest breathability is Key.
What other technologies are you integrating into your outer, mid, and baselayers?
Danny: We are using Cocona throughout all our mid and baselayer stuff because all our products complement each other. We call it the “trifecta”—the baselayer and midlayer helps the shell work better by exponentially enhancing the breathability. Also we have a hood design that keeps the wind off your face. Stuff that is there if you need it and if you don’t, you don’t notice it.
You guys have been on quite the epic journey around the west promoting the brand. Who have you been hitting up on the retail front and how has the line been received?
Jevan: Fifteen days, nine states, and 4,000-plus miles in a black van with one black and white spotted pup. I met a lot of rad people at local shops in Nor Cal, Tahoe/Reno, Mammoth, UT, CO, WY, and MT. Snowboarders are a tough bunch but the vibe has been overwhelmingly positive. There aren’t a lot of small brands around anymore, so I think people are stoked to see a couple guys making a really solid product that works.
What are your goals for distribution?
Jevan: From day one Homeschool has been about supporting the core shops. They embody everything that snowboarding is, which lines up with our product assortment and brand identity.
What will prices for the 11/12 line look like and what are margins going to be?
Jevan: Danny designed the product without a price in mind. He built the line around high-quality fabrics, with the idea more of what you need and less of what you don’t. With that said, our line is a better and best scenario, outerwear is priced $225 – $375. I think the pricing is what sets our brand apart, you are getting high-quality, mean looking product without breaking the bank. The stuff looks just as good on day one as day 200.
Why should dealers take a chance on an untried, fairly high-price line like Homeschool?
Danny: I think it’s all really about the product. I think it will speak for itself. We have some really good partnerships that I feel very fortunate to have. These types of relationships will allow us to have a killer product, and deliver on time which is critical for a new brand. We are the real deal. We can make decisions with minimal compromise. Small brands have the ability to put more into the product and not have to worry about pleasing shareholders or some board of directors that doesn’t snowboard.
Will we see you at SIA?
Jevan: SIA is our official launch in the snowboard industry, so stop on by, we’ll be giving out high-fives.