DC is one of the most influential and progressive skate brands in the world. Nick Adcock, DC’s president, recently talked to Sportswear International’s Melanie Gropler about expanding the brand portfolio, the influence of fashion and lifestyle on products and the relevance of sneakers today.

Launched in the 1990s with a focus on skateboarding, DC Shoes has rapidly enlarged its portfolio with lifestyle items and product lines. When and why did you expand your portfolio?
DC has always focused on skateboarding and its athletes since day one. We have worked to created innovative product that allows them to perform, as well as product for consumers who are inspired by the brand and culture. We began our Special Projects Series in 2001, which included our Remix Series™, Artist Projects™ and Double Label™ Series. These were all developed as a means for DC to team with many of the notable creative influences that surrounded the skateboarding culture, be it artists, musicians or brands. Our LIFE Collection began in Spring 2007. Drawing from our industry leading performance skateboarding shoes and from the success of DC’s Artist Projects™, Remix Series™, and Double Label Projects™, The Life Collection showcases DC’s pursuit for innovation in footwear design. Currently DC produces men’s, women’s and kids’ skateboarding and lifestyle shoes, apparel, snowboards, snowboard boots, outerwear and accessories.

Is there any difference in the positioning of DC in Europe and the USA?
While there is a single global brand strategy that DC follows with its athletes, marketing, etc., there is a strong consideration of regional factors that we strive to support. We create one global line of products, but those products draw from direction and feedback that our European and regional product teams provide. They have an influence in the lines, especially in streetwear-based products, where Europe is highly influential. We recognize that despite there is a strong core sport distribution network in Europe, the weight and influence of lifestyle accounts is more predominant than in the US, so we have to ensure that we are supplying product that meets these retailers needs. To that end, we work to develop highly regionalized products for the European market. Examples would be our custom footwear projects under our Double Label™ and Remix Series™ with Ibiza superclub, Pacha, the drummer of “Superbus”, Greg Jacks (elected international drum player of the year), and recently with London retailer, Ben G of Amsterdam and Trust Nobody of Barcelona.

For several seasons streetwear and even the skateboarding market have opened themselves up to “fashion.” Do you think this development will carry forward?
If you are saying that skateboarding and streetwear are designing more “high end” fashion type pieces, in regards to materials, cuts, etc., then yes, these markets have opened themselves to these influences. But it is also because skateboarding and streetwear are becoming a larger and more influential part of the mainstream fashion markets. So, conversely, fashion is drawing from skateboarding and streetwear. Celebrities, musicians, and athletes are all playing a much larger part in defining today’s culture and definitions of fashion. It’s inevitable that designers worldwide are picking up on these trends. All designers are looking for inspiration to develop a new direction in their work. They look around to the influences that surround them—music, art, culture, etc. to gain new energy and inspiration. Trends are started at various points throughout a culture and feed through groups in different variations. The way a trend influences one designer may be completely different that another designer’s interpretation of that trend.

Is fashion also for DC Shoes a source of inspiration?
DC has always used the culture that surrounds it as an inspiration. When we first came out with skateboard shoes, we looked to athletic fashion and technical elements to develop our lines. With our clothes we looked to the street where our riders skated. Our snowboarding products continued to share these aesthetics and feel.

How important are lifestyle products compared to skateboarding goods?
This segmentation of products does open the door to a new consumer who seeks a lifestyle product over technical footwear. So DC’s lifestyle products are important, but you have to keep in mind that they draw heavily from our skateboarding culture. We also see these lifestyle products bringing in many consumers who aspire to be part of this culture or who respect the brand for its involvement in skateboarding.

DC’s core business is footwear. Years ago nobody expected such a big boom in sneakers. Meanwhile they seem to have peaked. How important are sneakers today?
While I think that there was a glut in collectable sneakers over the past few years, I don’t think it has been detrimental to the sneaker market. It has created consumers who are aware of products in this space, who actively seek them out and are willing to pay for them. This has just created opportunities for brands to develop further products for these consumers. The development is similar to that that denim has seen over the past several years. Premium denim has seen an enormous upswing and the market is filled with premium brands. There are still people who seek cheaper denim, but many consumers have been moved into this higher price point range because of the category developments. I think the same is happening for sneakers. Higher quality materials, style developments and collaborations have begun to distinguish these “premium” sneaker brands and they will continues to exist in the space for the consumers who have been moved up into this segment and demand this level of product. DC was one of the first from our industry in this segment with our Special Projects Series in 2001, and since 2007 with our LIFE Collection that serves to create high-end, skate influenced footwear. We are confident that we can continue to be a player in this market through these programs.

What else is new?
Our biggest news is the development of DC Snowboards, which will be hitting the market for the Winter 08/09 season. DC has produced quality snowboarding products for the past 10 years and we are proud to round out our collection with the addition of boards. We’ve got some exciting projects coming up in Spring 2009 – which I’ll have to keep you waiting for. But look for the continuation of our Special Projects™ with some amazing new artists, retailers and musicians as well as an expanded LIFE Collection and signature product lines from our athletes.