Breaking down the divide between street, art, commerce and communityBy: Jeff Beer, Published: Oct 18, 2007
Founded in 1993, Girl made an immediate impact on the business and culture of skateboarding. Pro skaters Rick Howard and Mike Carroll left sponsorships with then superstar-packed Plan B skateboards and teamed up with friends Jonze and Megan Baltimore to start a company with a vision of the sport and lifestyle that was their own. They brought a who's who list of skaters with them, including Tim Gavin, Rudy Johnson, Eric Koston and Guy Mariano, to ride for the company's team and things haven't slowed down since.
Fast forward almost 15 years and the company is now home to seven skateboard-related brands—Chocolate Skateboards, Lakai footwear, Royal Trucks, Skate Mental, Ruby Clothing, Fourstar Clothing, and of course, Girl Skateboards, all of which operate with the same family fun vibe and sly smile that informs everything the company does.
But Girl's promotional prowess often goes beyond the traditional magazine ad/video/demo tour trident of skateboard marketing. Its website, Crailtap.com, is a hub of interaction between the company and its audience and offers users a peek and, if only virtually, membership into the Girl world. Daily blogs, exclusive videos, interviews and video features, the 'Tap, as it's known to fans, does it all in the brand's signature quirky manner. Blogs like "The Daily Randoms" and "Ring, Ring, It's Me!" might show video footage or a photo journal from a skate tour one day, and offer users the chance to trade something interesting for a plaster mold of co-founder Jonze's head the next. In case users have missed one of the featured web films, the company has teamed up with various skateboarding magazines to distribute free DVD copies of tour videos with names like Hittin' Britain, Yes We Canada, and We're OK, EurOK. The site plays a substantial role in creatively connecting consumers with the company's personality on a daily basis and fostering a fierce brand loyalty along the way (as demonstrated by the growing number of 'Tap tattoo pics that get submitted to the site). And then, there's the Art Dump.
Girl's art department, the Dump is the company's unofficial eighth brand. Its creative skills are manifest on the products themselves, whose designs often inspire Girl fans to hang new boards on their walls rather than ride them. Part of this stems from the company's long-held policy of releasing board designs in limited series, such as this year's "Bicycle" series for Chocolate skateboards. But the unique work has also helped to establish the Dump as a prominent voice in the underground art scene. Though its cast has changed over the years—past Dumpers include designers like Evan Hecox, Bob Kronbauer and Rob Abeyta—the department, now manned by Andy Jenkins, Andy Mueller and Tony Larson, has participated in solo and collaborative exhibits and gallery shows around the world under the Art Dump name. The group recently guest edited an issue of the popular Australian culture magazine Monster Children and participated in a New York gallery show entitled "Mass Appeal vs. The Art Dump," which featured dozens of wooden, three-dimensional Girl logos individually painted by popular street and contemporary artists.
Between the daily conversation with its audience on Crailtap, the various partnerships for promotional efforts and the artistic outreach of the Art Dump, Girl has, quite organically, built a large and loyal following among a demographic that many larger brands have clumsily courted, making it impossible to dismiss Girl's world as "just skateboarding."
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