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I keep hearing from important retailers that Altamont continues to gain traction, so I decided to stop by Sole Technology headquarters to find out more.
Altamont, of course, is the skate apparel line created by Sole Technology for the core market and is the brain child of influential skater Andrew Reynolds and Sole Tech CEO Pierre André Senizergues.
I met with Altamont Brand Marketing Manager Justin Regan, right, saw some of the new designs for fall '09 and got some questions answered via email from Andrew and Pierre.
Altamont was born three years ago when Andrew's contract with KR3W expired, Justin said. Andrew rides for Sole Tech shoe brand Emerica and told Justin there weren't a lot of options in the skateboarding world on the apparel side. They took the idea for a high-quality, stylish skate apparel line to Pierre and he loved the idea.
The mission was to create a line that reflected Andrew's fashion ethos, was not price-point driven and was created by a skate company for the core market. Sole Tech executives believe skateboarders often are driving the fashion trends but surf companies are the ones capitalizing on those trends on the apparel side.
"I always wanted to create skateboarding apparel with street fashion mixed in," Pierre said. "I knew if I brought on the right skateboarder to produce something original it would meet the demands in the marketplace. So when I met Andrew Reynolds, legendary street skater and saw his innovative fashion, I knew he could influence street skate wear and bring it to another level with Altamont. In this tough economy Altamont has exceeded our expectations in sales and is one of our fastest selling brands."
Andrew skates in the streets in cities around the world, and translates what he sees into his vision for Altamont, Justin said. He works closely with Altamont designer Saecha Clarke, and even shows the line to magazine editors in New York each season. A small example of Andrew's influence on the clothing is the "vampire," or pointed cuffs, on wovens. He wanted to make a line with Sole Tech because, "they are all about skateboarding and the owner is a skateboarder," he said via email.
Denim is the No. 1 product category for Altamont, comprising 35 percent of sales. Altamont uses Japanese denim in its higher-end denim. Price points for Japanese denim range from $65 to $115. In spring 08, Altamont also added a basics denim range priced from $55 to $65 that has been well-received, Justin said. For fall '09, Altamont has five fits of denim. Altamont has also had good growth in wovens and T-shirts. Sole Tech searched out new factories that could produce higher-quality apparel for Altamont, which in turn elevated Sole Tech's other apparel lines, Justin said.
Altamont launched at retail two years ago with 250 domestic doors, and now is in 350. Justin said they hand-picked the accounts to debut in, because they wanted to be in stores that understood apparel and didn't shy away from higher price points. "We had to say no a lot," Justin said. "We plan to grow and evolve naturally. Eventually we may be in all of Emerica's (1,000 accounts). But we want to penetrate the accounts we are in now and grow slowly. Pierre understands how to build it right." Currently, Active is Altamont's biggest account and the brand has buildouts in 18 Active stores, Justin said. About 10 percent of Altamont's accounts are non-skateboard, streetwear boutiques.
Altamont sales grew 25 to 30 percent in 2008, and Justin said the still-small brand is forecasting 60 percent growth in 2009. So far, spring prebooks are above that 60 percent target, he said.
"In the next five years I want Altamont to continue to grow and inspire the core community to elevate skate wear. We are focusing on developing our customer that appreciates the quality, the fashion forward and street/skate culture that Altamont expresses and I see us growing our distribution worldwide as we follow where this customer chooses to shop. We want to be in doors where the customer embraces diversity and uniqueness of our brand."