A skateboarder and surfer since his childhood, Vincent has also always had an eye for fashion. In order to share his lifestyle with others, in 2011 he launched Surfin Estate, a blog with a fresh new take on the rider lifestyle drawing inspiration from fashion, art and music. Four years later, Surfin Estate has become a brand and Vincent and his partners have just recently opened their first concept store in Hossegor.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Claouey, near Arcachon on the Lège Cap-Ferret peninsula. The name means “the nail” in gascon (local dialect). In the eighties and nineties it was the European center of skateboarding, so I started very young when I was around 6 or 7 years old. When I turned ten, a surf shop opened near my house, and that’s when I rode my first wave.
You just recently created your own concept store. How did that come to be?
After my high school graduation, I studied at the UCPA and passed my surfing instructor’s certificate in September. I hadn’t registered for university classes for the fall so I wound up not really knowing what to do. My godfather who owned a transportation company offered me a job in auditing. I was his ears and eyes in the field in Nantes, Marseille and Paris. It was a truly eye-opening experience and I loved it.
Being a surfer, didn’t you miss the ocean?
I did, and after a while I really felt the need to come home, back to the ocean. Also, I’d heard about a project to create a riders’ club-house in Lège Cap Ferret. The mayor put me in charge of developing the Surf Club on the peninsula where I had the huge 300m2 riders’ club house at my disposal. Within 4 years, we grew from 2 to 10 instructors and 50 to 400 members.
Having fulfilled my role for the club, I needed a change. In 2007, I moved to Anglet to work in the OXBOW flagship store as an assistant and very quickly I became a manager. I opened stores in the south west area and in the larger South or France zone with other responsibilities in local marketing as well.
When Baptiste Caulonque took over at OXBOW, I moved into sports marketing where I was responsible for creating all the content and events around our brand and athlete team between Bordeaux and Anglet. Unfortunately, when a Swiss group took over the company, they laid off Baptiste and several other executives. It was hard, people lost faith.
How did you bounce back from that?
I didn’t stay. I really wanted to live closer to my family and I figured that leaving was also an opportunity to go back to school and get a degree. I therefore went to the Business School in Pau where I got a degree in business and management in 2014. The courses I took gave me the desire and inspiration to become an entrepreneur.
Did you already have a concrete idea of what you wanted to do?
With the label Surfin Estate, I had imagined something that would include both a physical shop and place to hang out. The idea was to build on the surfing culture from our own experience and inspiration.
“We weren’t champions or anything, but we knew the ocean well and wanted to share our experience.”
Is it what you had started doing with your blog Surfin Estate?
Yes, the original idea was to offer a different take on the boardsports world, based on fashion, art and music. This to me, seemed more adequate than what other brands tended to offer. Quite naturally, it became a collective. Others shared my perspective. We weren’t champions or anything, but we knew the ocean well and wanted to share our experience. We posted all kinds of things, from an exhibit in Paris, to a surf session or even a post on a surf trip we’d been on…
Your shop opened in early July. What is it like?
Since space was not an issue, we developed a very welcoming environment with a café, a surf club where people can rent high-end boards as well as an office/production area on the upper level to develop our own brand of clothing with t-shirts, sweat-shirts and bags.
Is the concept going to evolve?
Yes, the idea is to create more activity using our space with exhibits, events, concerts, etc. What we want is to offer an experience. And this winter we plan on launching our e-business website with our products on Surfin Estate.
Who makes the designs and the logos?
The collective does. Back in 2012, we had already started working on some ideas for an initial collection, filled with various designs and so we simply kept the best.
Do you find inspiration from certain brands?
Etudes Studio and Acne, are brands that offer very small collections.
Skateboarding is also super influent in the the fashion world with Palace, Polar and Magenta who’ve all revisited how people skate and dress.
I feel it’s a rather healthy surfing environment. There are still virgin waves and you can manage to surf alone if you go a little out of the way. There is also a great skateboarding scene in the area with bowls popping up everywhere. It’s quite a unique lifestyle to have this mix of pine trees, waves and bowls.
“I find it pretty baffling that certain visionaries can say things like « OK, this year pants will be worn large.”
Where did you get your interest in fashion?
I’ve always been interested in products and the stories behind them. I find it quite baffling that certain visionaries can say things like “OK this year, pants will be worn large.” High-end fashion also exists to communicate French culture with its expertise in fabrics and the stories that can be told through collections.
And today, how do you choose the brands you work with?
The idea this year was to have a panel of French brands that are complementary from skateboarding and surfing like Hoalen, Homecore, Magenta or even K-Way. We wanted to create a rather selective closet with certain rather traditional elements without being too far out there, but with something that would fit the image we want to convey.
Why choose to only sell men’s wear?
It was a matter of timing. Today, finding factories in France, creating samples, designing patterns… it all takes a lot of time and we just couldn’t do it all. We have three key products declined in several colors. We figured it was wiser to concentrate on just a few models, but to do them right.
“The idea was to have an open mind on riding, to offer various types of boards; Larger, thicker, friendlier boards. We wanted to work on that mindset of staying in tune with the idea of having fun.”
And what about boards?
We’ve always been passionate about boards and the origins of surfing. Today, we felt it was important to share an analysis and sensations.
The idea was to have an open mind on riding, to offer various types of boards; Larger, thicker, friendlier boards. We wanted to work on that mindset of staying in tune with the idea of having fun.
How did you finance your project?
It was mostly personal funding and we drew on “love money”, meaning we used a Business Angel in the family. We are first and foremost business-minded individuals and the future of our projects relies on proper management and maximizing our sales points (physical, digital and partner stores).
Was it hard for you to get into all this?
It’s always scary because it requires huge investment. The stakes are high so you can’t show all your cards and say what you think. It’s very ambitious to make French clothing, which is made in France and is expensive. The idea was to fulfill personal beliefs and to take part in creating awareness on what products are all about.
What advice would you give someone who wants to create their own brand?
I’d say they need to listen to other and to have a fine-tuned ability to analyze markets and client expectations, and not to take any risks.
And yet you did?
Yes but they were relatively calculated risks… Today, we have a position that sets us apart from our competition, we know the business and its stakes and we have solid backup.
How do you see your concept evolving ten years from now?
I see a full Surfin Estate collection, with a larger range. A far more finished range. I still see beautiful boards that we would build under our own label; I see good coffee and what I’d like is to see this concept store be duplicated in other cities, for our brand to reach other areas… with a strong online presence.
– Surfin Estate –