Retailer of the Week
23 Mar. 2011
GARETH SKEWIS, SLAM CITY SKATES, LONDONOpened in 1986, London-based Slam City Skates is the oldest skate shop in Europe. Since 2007, Gareth Skewis is one of the owners. Here, he talks about the latest streetwear trends, London vibes, and the new basement. By Lena Elster
“Right now, as we are leaving winter behind and head into spring, it is really split 50/50 between hardware (boards, wheels and trucks) and footwear and there is a good bit of KR3W clothing being sold too. On the footwear front, our top four selling brands are Nike SB, Supra, Vans and then it is really between Converse and Emercia. On the hardware front, is has to be Palace, Girl/Chocolate, Anti Hero and then it is between Landscape and Blueprint.
We have just had the ‘One’ store at Slam City Skates open downstairs in our basement (that used to be Rough Trade Records), so that is really going well and bringing a load of different people through our doors as Supra and KR3W in the UK seem to pull in a different consumer then we are used to.
My favorite brand? Wow, that is a hard one. If we are talking skateboarding, it has to be Palace, hands down, Lev Tanju is bringing something completely different to the table that I have really not seen since Steve Rocco in the early ‘90s- skateboarding has become way too safe and dull in the last ten years. From a fashion point of view, I really like what Christopher Shannon is doing right now. Moreover, the Comme des Garçons shirting line is always really interesting. Regarding good basics, you cannot beat Margaret Howell. But I am also really into Heritage Research and Garbstore.
Sneakers are really important for Slam as skateboarding is really only made up of two key things: What you have on your feet and what you have under your feet. Right now, we still seem to be in the full swing of vulc footwear, so Vans Era's, Nike SB Blazers, etc. The killer shoe for us right now is the Nike SB Janoski. But then again, the Supra Dixon is getting a lot of interest from the London skate kids.
Our clients often buy single pieces. It is a mix of classic skate shoe style and color ways and then there is still a bit of buzz around specific color ways.
The communication with the customer is very important as trends in true street skating can change really quickly, not as quickly as they did in the early ‘90s but things do change. Take board sizes for instance, it now seems everyone, no matter how old or big you are, rides an 8 inch board.
For next season, I do see that whole outdoor thing filtering through into sportswear and skateboarding. But I am also starting to see t-shirts coming back into skate culture. No, I am sure many people will say they never left, but in the London skate scene, it has only been shirts and polos for the last few years.
Slam City Skates
Why I like London? Firstly, it is not an easy city to live in, so it means that the people that are here really want to be here and enjoy the toughness of it. From a cultural point-of-view, it has to be one of the top five cities in the world, because it also is pretty much like four cities merged into one. From a skateboarding point-of-view, it has its own completely different scene, compared to cities like L.A., Paris and Barcelona. It seems to be more like how Phillie, D.C. and NYC were in the mid 90's, it is really tight and nothing is easy to skate. To be honest with you, I would not want to live anywhere else.
Atmosphere is definitely very important. But saying that, Slam has a very different feel to it, it has more a feeling like a really niche record store like say Nick Hornby's High Fidelity. Especially if you look at Slam's history and the links we had with Rough Trade in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I think the way the ‘One’ store looks like downstairs really plays very well on that. Not to mention that Slam is pretty much the oldest skate shop in Europe and with that comes a certain vibe.
Of course, there are lots of stores I like. Let’s just do London clothing stores as otherwise the list is going to be huge. Present on Shoreditch High Street is really good and has a great cross section of great coffee, amazing clothing, and a good selection of interesting books. The Three Threads on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch is a great store if you are looking for denim and good basics, Garbstore in Notting Hill has a great selection and I really like the shop fit. Moreover, the Margaret Howell stores in London are always good, too.
Online has been a key point of growth for us, and I think it has for all independent UK retailers. Moving forward, there will be a redesign to the site and a lot more focus on social networking. From a consumer point-of-view, it completely varies in age and location.“
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