05/03/2014 | by Patrick Pellow
éS footwear started in 1995 and was quickly adopted and accepted as being one of the top footwear brands of the day. With a team stacked full of legends from the offset: Sal Barbier, Tom Penny, Eric Koston and Chad Muska, there was little they could do wrong on that front. The shoes had to match the team’s style and that would uphold the punishment. Their first line was full of innovation technologies that would accomplish this. For example the Accel was the first ever shoe to have a ‘Kevlar Ollie-pad’, the Aura was the first ever skate shoe with an air system and the SLB was the first ever mid-top with a neoprene sock liner. This kind of innovation and ‘firsts’ helped to put éS at the very forefront of skate shoe progression. As the brand grew, so did the team and éS was there when the riders accomplished some amazing feats. Koston, Burnquist, Saari and Silas Baxter Neal were all on éS when they individually won their S.O.T.Y titles. Burnquist did the first ever loop in a pair of éS – and also a loop with a gap at 12O’clock in a pair too. The amount of other names that they’ve had on the team over the 16 years that they were running is pretty nuts: Ronnie Creager, Paul Sharpe, Rick McCrank, Rodrigo TX, John Rattray, Antwuan Dixon, Kevin Terpening, I could go on. As a company éS accomplished a lot outside of shoe design and team rosters too. The first éS “Game Of Skate” was done/played on the first ever KOTR in 2003. Initially a bit of fun for the road, it quickly became hugely popular and went global. Menikmati is still one of the greatest videos ever made; éS was also the first ever shoe company to make a video. With all of this history and prestige, what ever happened to make them disappear? What lies in store for the éS of the future? And what about the shoes? We talked all of this over with the man behind the scenes Pierre-André, the founder of éS and the man who’s bringing it back.
- Joe Coward.
Why do you feel that right now is the right time to bring back és?
Maybe I need to go back a little bit first and explain what I tried to do in 2012. I felt that I needed to go on a ‘creative retreat’; I felt that there were way too many brands in the market and also skateboarding was changing a lot. We needed a rethink. It’s a bit similar to what I’ve done in the 90’s, after we brought out Etnies and then es in ’95 and then Emerica in ’96, at that time I was feeling that we needed more of a skate shoe brand, you know? Run by skateboarders, that could give direction on the skate shoes and of skateboarding. Which worked out pretty good but along the way, I felt that after 2008, after the global recession, a lot of things were being done in skateboarding that needed more focus. So when we went away with éS for a creative rethink, for skate shoes and skating in general. Maybe I should define what a ‘creative retreat’ is (laughs). It’s not really something where you sleep, it’s very active. There’s a lot of thinking going on. It’s basically a place where we want to be independent and for the people who design shoes to do whatever they want, to come up with what the future looks like. The brand is still in ‘creative retreat’ and a lot of things are happening. But what happened along the way, was that when we put éS in creative retreat in 2012, we didn’t actually realise just how iconic the brand was. We’d been doing the brand for 18 years, but were basically always designing shoes, skating, always keeping busy, but we never took a step back to look at the brand. So when we went on ‘creative retreat’ we realised how many people actually wanted the brand, and really wanted some shoes. That’s when we decided that we should count the designs we’ve been working on, maybe release some limited edition shoes of some of the designs we’ve been working on. It happened in Japan first (as you probably heard about it) last November and people in Japan were asking us, were begging, to get some éS shoes. So we gave them some of the original ‘Accel’, because those were the shoes they were asking for and to our surprise éS became the number one shoe in ‘core’ shops and some more ‘action culture’ style shops.
Yeah immediately, and we realised, wow, the Japanese are really loyal, right? It’s a very loyal culture and Japanese skaters were very loyal to éS. They really love the brand. We already thought that was pretty cool but what happened in the meantime was that we were also getting a lot of reports in the US and Europe and apparently people really wanted some shoes, so we thought we should drop some. After designing some pairs we decided to drop them on February the 14th, because we love skateboarding – which might sound a bit cheesy, but it’s really how we feel. We’ve been skateboarding for a long time and éS has always been about loving skateboarding. So we’re going to be dropping three styles that we’re really excited about with only two colours of each and they’ll go to only one hundred stores around the world. For each colour there will only eight pairs available for each store.
So very limited
Extremely limited yeah. It’s more because we love éS so much and we really want the brand to be how people want it. But it’s not the official relaunch of the brand; it’s more that we want to give some love to the market.
We are still in ‘creative retreat’ so we don’t have any official plans at this point, we kind of want to (from the ‘creative retreat’) be able to see what people want, assess the market and sort of see what skateboarding is doing in general. So we’re going to be dropping those three styles in Europe, to only thirty stores – nine of which are in the UK – and we only want to support stores that are deeply involved in the skate community and who really like the design and love skateboarding. I think there’s a lot happening in publishing through digital media, it’s the digital age, but I also think it’s important to keep stuff face-to-face. And so the stores we’re involved with are really involved in their community and have a face-to-face interaction with the culture….from an economic situation, with these big brands coming in.
What’s your position on these big brands coming in?
I think that my position is that I’ve always been about looking after the smaller brands, because that’s where we come from, I think we’re really careful with where we’re going and where you can buy the brand. Right now, I’m not sure that brands coming from sports are really looking after the concerns of skateboarders. I think it’s important that skate brands are coming from skateboarders. The guys at the top of those brands, it’s important that they fit in those shoes and that they’re skating. I think eventually it could really be a check-mark on the page, for those brands, who don’t really have that much interest in it. I think it will really hurt the market. I think a lot of the shops that sell them don’t really stay dedicated and that’s why the shops we’re dealing with identify with what we believe. But they do their thing and we do our thing. For us we really believe skateboarding is a culture, it’s not a sport. It’s about living and breathing it you know? What we create, how we live our lives.
Ok. So are you planning on putting together a team at any point? éS had some of the biggest names in skateboarding there’s currently a petition circulating online to try and get Ronnie Creager back on éS!
At this point we are not planning on putting anybody on the team, which is more because we are working from our ‘creative retreat’. It’s more about really supporting the skateboarding community and bringing something exciting to skate shops that are doing something for the community; and keeping it more personal with them.
Rather than the “athletes”?
Right, because I think skateboarders really need to think about what skateboarding is doing.
Was this ‘creative retreat’ triggered by financial issues, or anything that had to do with the team at the time?
Some of it was to do with the market in general, but mostly it was to look at the future of skateboarding and to really think how we could design the future of it. éS has always been very innovative in its approach and now skating is so exciting, there’s so many good skaters, good spots to go to and it’s really alive in many ways. I think with éS going on the ‘creative retreat’ we really tried to think about how can we push skateboarding forward. So at this point there is no team, it’s more about the community and where skateboarding is going.
Can we go back to when éS first started? It seemed to have gotten really big, really quickly. Do you think it’s because of the technology of the shoes? Because of the team? Or a bit of both?
I think for me it was looking for what people needed. I felt that a lot of skaters wanted shoes with more of a technical aesthetic so I designed the ‘Accel’. I wanted to design shoes that really look good on the board and off the board too, so you can wear them in the street and they don’t look too crazy. They are sophisticated enough to look super sharp.
And this is something that you want to keep?
Yeah exactly, in the same way that before I was drawing inspiration from the fashion around when I was skating and really looking at fashion and style; and designing the shoes with éS was always about having style. So if you look at the logo you can see that we wanted something that creates a certain contour and shape. It’s not a straight logo, it has curves. Because when we skate, we never skate straight, it’s always with movement, with a contour to it that also brings a lot of style. I think that’s one of the magical things about skateboarding: it’s elegant and very stylish.
Are clothing and accessories on the cards for the future, after these shoes?
Just for now we’re going to focus on the shoes and see what happens. I really like it actually, it’s just the same as when you skate, you don’t really have a guideline. You get that sense of freedom and freedom of expression, the feeling of being independent and nobody telling you what to do and that’s exactly the mode that we are in right now. So we’ll do it how we feel, but also we’ll respond to what people are saying.So if people love the shoes and say “we want you to have a new team, put another ‘Menikmati’ out” and bring it completely back to life, than that’s what you’re going to do?
We’ll see (laughs) maybe who knows? I kind of get this feeling, we need to focus our attention on dealing with our affairs, you know? And do what we like to do.Sounds good! Thanks a lot for you time, I hope it goes well.
Here’s what éS have to say about their collection:
Overview of the Collection
The three shoes are inspired from the original Accel that carries an aesthetic that is iconic and legendary. Designed from a perspective of movement, the shoes are about highlighting contours – just like the éS logo. Consistent, yet evolving.
There’s nothing like skating in a shoe that fits like a glove and that’s exactly what you get when you wear the AccelLite – comfort is king. This trainer-inspired silhouette is an evolution of the heritage Accel, with hints to it found in the side panel and stitch detailing. The deconstructed design features a long toe that anchors the center of the shoe and wraps just the right amount of fabric around the foot giving it a superior fit offering great flexibility and movement. The mesh material allows breathability with a toe cap reinforcement underneath for support and highlights a unique red iceberg cameo that looks amazing both on and off the board. The soft lycra tongue straps are added for fit and comfort. The AccelLite features a STI Foam Lite 2 Ortholite footbed for added comfort.
A fan favorite, the Accelerate is about board feel, comfort and durability straight out of the box. Featuring a soft lyrca tongue that straps for comfort and superior fit combined with a slim silhouette and a one-piece toe cap, this design allows for a perfect flick and controlled ollie. Standing up against the wear and tear of grip tape and concrete, the durability of this shoe is reinforced through Thermo Plastic Urethane that is seamlessly fused into the suede with heat and provides excellent abrasion resistance and also carries the same shape of the original Accel ollie area. While the gum color in the outsole is very éS, it is designed with a little more wave and contour giving it a modern look. The Accelerate features STI Pro Foam Polyurethane footbed for comfort and impact absorption.
The construction of this vulcanized shoe is classic with a wing-tip, dressy shoe feel that features a full grain leather tongue and a pop of color on the outsole that has an Accel inspired tread for superior grip, board feel and durability. It’s the type of shoe that can just slip on and look great with a comfy fit that is extremely flexible andkeeps you close to your board because of the elastic goring feature. It has a micro suede heel panel on the inner collar lining for added comfort and to prevent heel slip. The footbed also features STI Foam Lite 1 Ortholite. Everything is calculated in the design details from the size of the eyelets to the wax laces that round out a nice and premium look.