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Starting a New Clothing Company

Published in Whitelines Buyers Guide, Winter Issue 2010-2011

Dan McNamara is the brains behind Bond, one of the freshest new brands on the outerwear block. The company is launching in the UK for the first time this year, having already made quite a splash over the pond. We caught up with him to talk branding, the business, and what not to wear.

Dan McNamara, Photo: Aaron Dodds

So what’s the story behind Bond? How did you meet the other guys?

Well I’d been working with Foursquare, Special Blend and Forum. I had worked there for like, 12 years. I started off as a rep way back in the Forum 8 days, around 1997, then moved up to be marketing director, and that’s where Christian and I met. He was a graphic designer for all the brands at the same time. Our outerwear designer, Rob, had been there about the same amount of time as I had.

What made the three of you decide to start a new brand?

We’d been through a lot of ups and downs, what with the Forum brands almost going under and then being bought up by Burton. And we’d worked under the Burton umbrella for a long time. It got to the point where if we were going to put that amount of effort init was time to do our own thing.

So was it being part of a big company that you didn’t enjoy?

Well, that was part of it, and the other part is we kind of saw an opening in the market for a new outerwear brand. The whole eco-story is the big differentiation for us. I mean for us coming from Forum, the marketing is a given. We know how to do that. But to have a product story, on the backside, that was just as important.

It can’t be an easy market to launch into as a new brand, though? I mean it’s pretty crowded.

Well, I think the biggest thing is we’re passionate about it, where I think some other companies aren’t. I think we saw that the market was looking for something new.

How did you come up with the name ‘Bond’?

Christian and I were driving up to Big Bear when we came up with ‘Bond’. And it kind of fitted. The Bond is… well, the same way you and I can talk about snowboarding having never met each other, that was kind of the idea – there’s this unspoken connection between people in board sports. I’ve met people from Russia who grew up skating and cos I grew up skating you have that instant connection. You go: “Oh yeah, you remember that video? You remember that board?” So that’s the bond.

Heikki Sorsa, Photo: Aaron Dodds

In terms of style, was there a particular ‘look’ you aimed at from the outset?

Well I think the biggest thing would be timeless style. I mean we’re always going to hit on current trends, but we don’t want to go too far one way or the other. In snowboarding things got so crazy with the whole pattern thing. We were as guilty as anyone with Special Blend, but you could look at people and instantly go: “You bought that in 2007!” [laughs] We want to do a lot more patterns that will stand the test of time. Toning it down a bit basically. Snowboarding isn’t cheap and most people have to wear a jacket more than one year, so we want to keep it so people can do that.

Where do you get your clothes made?

Everything is made in Asia. And Rob’s been working with our suppliers for years and years even before he was with Special Blend and Foursquare so we have a good relationship with them. And that makes things a little bit smoother in that we know what we’re getting.

How does that square with your whole carbon neutral thing? How do you make sure they’re carbon neutral?

Well we work with a group over here calledcarbonfund.org and we offset our carbon footprint over here for everything that we do, but then our factory also works with their vendors over there to make sure all our recycled fabrics are up to scratch and we’re using as many recycled materials as we can.

How does it work with funding, do you have financial backers?

No it’s basically just us! [laughs] Yeah, we run things pretty tight. But we’ve been fortunate to have support from a lot of good shops and a lot of good reps.

What do you think the future of snowboard fashion is?

Well I think people are going back towards the classic looks, rather than going towards extreme trends. Like Levi’s and Vans are doing well. I think people will still take a risk with colours, but they’ll go more for classic style.

OK so one more question, in all your years in the outerwear industry, what’s the single worst fashion trend you’ve ever seen?

Probably I would say tall tees! [laughs] I mean even the neon thing back in the eighties had its place at the time. But I think the tall tees is probably the worst. Last year when we were at Mount Hood all the freeskier kids were rocking that look. We saw a skier who’d sewed three sweatshirts together, so it went down past his knees. The funny thing was all his friends were so psyched on it! And we were like “Oh dude…” [laughs]

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