20 Years of 686 an interview with Mike West!

Posted on Thursday 8th March, 2012 Times Viewed: 4709
What more can be said about 686 than it's a truly grass roots snowboarding company!
We have seen so many cool brand collaborations over the years but Mike West was a pioneer of bringing the best people together to make cool products that we all want to wear and ride. After 20 years in the game this year the brand and people who are 686 keep pushing the boundaries and passion of snowboarding here is the interview we had at ISPO.

Words - Matt Mathauda
GB: Mike from everyone at GONEboarding congratulations on 20 years of 686!

GB: So Mike how did it all start?

MW: Back in 1992, I was attending college at USC in Southern California. I had to do a business plan for my senior project. My professor told me to do something I was into. I was working in the mountains at a place called Bear Mountain as a snowboard instructor. Shredding was my life and I thought why not do something that was passionate about.

GB: Where did the 686 brand name come from?

MW: 686 originated from two things. The first was from this antique piece I found in June 1986 from my grandmother. The other was the age I started the biz. 6+8+6=20

GB: When you set up 686 aged 20 where did you get your inspiration from for the brand?

MW: Inspiration was directly where I was from. Back in the early 90’s there was no internet and I didn’t get to travel. Growing up in urban Los Angeles, I came from street skating and with that came the music and art culture that made up the city. The juxtaposition was that I would spend my weekends in the mountain of Big Bear, riding all the time. I combined the two and it was the start of 686, which was truly the first street-snow brand.

GB: We see 686 have such a strong presence in the snowboarding market in 2012 what was it like in the early days what challenges did you face?

MW: Challenges everywhere-but its all good. With any biz, you really don’t know what you’re doing, until you do it. Back then, there were no standards of what should be. You just did it cuz it felt right or your friends liked it. There’s huge difference of shredding for fun and running a biz in the shred world. After all these years, we try and blur the lines and overall want to bring smiles to 686 heads all around the world.

GB: 686 is still an independently owned company do you think that this appeals to your customer base around the world?

MW: In a world of same-ness and big corporate companies that have no soul, we’re proud to do it by ourselves. Independence allows you to make your own decisions and work with like-minded retailers, riders and employees. We’re focused on bringing world class products that are unique and have integrity from top to bottom. Its never the $, it’s the reason of making sure riders have a great experience with our goods. We hope our fans respect and appreciate this love.

GB: Do you feel that some brands are more interested in making big profits instead of keeping their brand identity unique?

MW: To each their own. Running a biz, takes capital and incredible people to support it. We respect that, but we’ll never let a spreadsheet or # guide us entirely. Everyone at 686 rides and knows how to eat top ramen. We came from nothing but a dream to make things a little better.

GB: 686 produce sub brand product ranges like "Artist Collaborated Conspiracy" "Plexus" and "SMARTY" can you explain in more detail about these ranges?

MW: ACC was started organically by bringing our creative artist friends together and doing something in the world of technical apparel. Over the years, we’ve worked with everyone from Shepard Fairey to James Marshall, Jim Houser, Wes Humpston, Bigfoot, Jamie Reid and the list goes on and on.

MW: Smarty is what we’re really known for. I came up with the idea of layering in your pants back in 1994. After a trip to Banff Canada where I experienced below zero temps, did I realize the need to layer. In addition I wanted to create fun and performance in a pant and jacket. Why not add an internal fleece top or bottom that zips inside the shell and call it SMARTY? Today people call it 3 in 1, but most everyone else says “smarty.” That’s what got us on the map and our Smarty Cargo Pant is still the #1 best-selling pant.

GB: The reclaim project is a great concept and produces some great outerwear is it important to 686 to push boundaries and be more forward thinking in how much of an impact your having when you manufacture?

Click to view full imageClick to view full imageClick to view full imageClick to view full image

MW: In 1996, we were the first to use recycled fabrics like polys from plastic bottles as well as hemp and bamboo. However over the years, I thought the message was too vague and confusing. You can’t see what a recycled jkt looks like. Also the time and pollutants it takes to make a recycled jkt out of plastic bottles is counterproductive. If the overall goal is to minimize the process, why go through all that trouble. So the RECLAIM PROJECT was started 2 years ago to do just that. We gather first quality fabrics and trims on the cutting floor that would have been tossed in a landfill and RECLAIM it into limited products you can see the difference. PLUS, for every reclaim jkt you buy, we’ll give one away to someone in need.

GB: Every season 686 comes with some of the freshest brand collabs over the years you have worked with New Balance, Levis, Dragon, Union and Skullcandy to name a few are you individually involved with all of 686's collaborations?

MW: YES, I’m directly responsible for all the collaborations. Back in the turn of the millennium, I wanted to bring brands I liked into my world. Hence the first collaboration of any kind in action sports was born. We worked with our friends at Dragon to produce the world first jacket with an integrated goggle included in the jkt. It went off and it took about 2-3 years for others to catch on and the rest is history. We only like to work with brands that we have relationships with and are at the top of their class. Levis was another example where we hit a homerun-but it was again organically done. The head of global creative was a fan of my brand and we just started a conversation which led to a three year partnership-We had fun with it introducing new denim technologies in tech apparel.

686 X Bern Helmet and 686 X Union Bindings
Click to view full imageClick to view full image

686 X Dragon intergrated goggle concept jacket
Click to view full imageClick to view full imageClick to view full image

686 X Dickies
Click to view full image Click to view full image


GB: We have all read about and seen the 686 Scion racing XB snowboard concept car it really is a snowboarders dream! How did the concept come about?

Click to view full imageClick to view full imageClick to view full imageClick to view full image

Click to view full imageClick to view full imageClick to view full imageClick to view full image

MW: Another fun project, but a lot of work. For our 20th anniversary, I wanted to make it meaningful and bring our past partners into one collaborative project. We spoke to Toyota and they loved it. Too many details to list ,but we really recreated this into the worlds first snowboarding concept vehicle.

MW: Its important to note that 686 is not about collaborations, we’re about telling a story that keeps riders stoked. We’re a product focus brand that is obsessed with making unique products in technical apparel.

GB: Is it important to get feedback from all your sponsored riders about products?

MW: Hell YES. We have an incredible crew of riders and artists, which we call the FACTION. Being independently RIDER owned and operated is what we’ve preached for the past 20 years and its what we stand for.

GB: So what do you know about the UK snowboard scene?

MW: The UK snow scene is tight and focused. I like that and hope to do something specifically with you guys very soon. If you have some crazy ideas, hit me up.

GB: You have some amazing riders reppin 686 in the UK can we get some props to them?

MW: Yes, Big Ups

GB: We recently had a world record broke in the UK by 686 sponsored rider Calum Paton 78 metre snowboard rail ride what was the feeling like when everybody at 686 found out!

MW: Yeah, I saw that-Looked fun. Congrats Calum! I hope to come your way next season. Thanks for the love and support at GONEboarding and the entire UK snow scene

Mike on the 10 year special SIA issue.
Click to view full image

Massive thanks to Mike and the 686 team!

You can follow 686 through their website, facebook and twitter
Back to the Features homepage
Comments (360)  
  Page: 1 of 24   Next  
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:03)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:03)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
 rakngurusi (13/11/2014 @ 02:02)
Try www.snowboarding.com for the best information on snowboarding event and best holiday deals.
  Page: 1 of 24   Next  
Would you like to comment?
Join GONEboarding.co.uk for a free account, or log-in if you're already a member.
Get our Newsletter
Your E-mail Address
More Details
Find us on Facebook
© 2001-2017 GONEboarding.co.uk