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Industry vet on strategy for Ambiguous and Split

By Shelby Stanger
July 20, 2010 7:00 AM

I talked with with Split founder David Patri on reclaiming the Split brand, the strategy for Ambiguous, and his long industry roots.

David is the President of Life Distribution LLC and Brand Director for Split. Life Distribution US and Europe and Rays Manufacturing (not Rays Apparel) now own Ambiguous, a transaction that happened in 2008. This year, Life Distribution acquired Split.

Can you tell me a little about your background? You come from Split and O'Neill and then you bought Ambiguous?

David Patri

I was offered a job at Vision Street Wear right out of school and got a huge dose of reality in the action sports industry.

The company was growing fast and there were so many talented people there.

That year, Brad Dorfman, the owner of Vision received entrepreneur of the year, and a year later the company was broke and almost went out of business.

Split was still something I was playing around with. I was taking what I was learning and applying it, hoping at some point I could turn it into something.

Gotcha was the hot surf company at that time and I started as a graphic artist for them in 1990. I connected with a friend from college and decided to try Split again, moonlighting creating graphics and apparel. Soon we had some interested people to invest. Scott VanDerripe, Scott Bailey and I decided to put the business together legitimately.

Rapid growth

The Split brand grew quite fast and we struggled to keep up. I was always looking ahead and wanted to go faster. I was obsessed with the process and created databases and networks at a time when these things did not exist to make the design and development process easier and more efficient. After all, we had to snowboard and surf in Mexico as much as possible, so we needed to be efficient.

Through the 1990's we had some great times and I met some incredible people who really cared about Split and its success. The idea of being a cross boards sport brand was a new idea; we decided to push it to the limits. We were interested in a wide range of sports, so it was natural to support all the cross board sports, and art and music, which is general practice for brands today.

In 1999, we introduced the Split Girl brand and in a few short years were able to create a viable brand that was recognized as a leader for young women.

Financing difficulties

Financing was always a challenge. We had gotten personal loans, lines of credit, investors like Michael Stipe but it wasn't enough to keep up. Rays Apparel offered us stability and best of all incredible manufacturing. Financing was not a problem anymore, our prices came down and the quality went up. The business was getting streamlined and I was able to focus on the marketing and development of the Men’s and Girls’ collections.

The growth was consistent and Split was becoming a well-known name. Athletes like Mikala Jones, Ryan Nyquist and Billy Marks were really making a name for Split. In 2003, we agreed to move operations into Rays Apparel via a license. The whole staff moved to their new building in Irvine. Here, I assumed the role of Marketing Director. After a few years at Rays I decided to take a leave of absence and finally take a breather.

Go to Page 2 to read about plans for Ambiguous


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