Horsefeathers Celebrate 25th Anniversary!
Horsefeathers was started as a high-school project in British Columbia, Canada in 1989 by a group of friends stoked on snowboarding and the small and core board sports culture.
Horsefeathers started by a coincidence in British Columbia, Canada in 1989. When Stewart Carlson came up with the name Horsefeathers, we all thought it was hilarious. It is a British antiquated term for ‘nonsense’, an expression unused in Canada. Joel DeVille produced the first linoleum print at school, which we then pressed on anything we could get our hands on. This was how the first Horsefeathers stuff came to life. Mainly t-shirts and sweatshirts. The school we went to, was in a small town called Midway. The three hundred school kids came from small villages and surrounding farms and sport meant purely classic disciplines. Skateboarding and snowboarding were definitely not on the list and so was not punk-rock music and baggy clothing (the skate/snow style of the nineties).
When Stew bought his size 40+ Levi’s jeans, put a belt in them and rolled up the pant legs, most people just freaked out! There were about six or seven of us snowboarding and we spent every single weekend in the mountains. There is a lot of great places to choose from in the surrounding area: Mt. Baldy, Phoenix, Whitewater, Red Mountain, Big White and many more. Snowboarding was just on its way to become popular. You wouldn’t see too many snowboarders, but whenever we met other riders, we immediately got together. We compared our gear, showed each other secret spots full of powder and tried new tricks. We loved it. There were times when it did cross our minds that it would be cool to have real Horsefeathers gear, but it never really moved forward. In the end, it was all about sketching designs ‘for later’. After graduating in 1992, I took off to Czech Republic and Joel moved to Vancouver. The rest of the crew still had a couple of years of school to go. That was more-less the end of the Canadian chapter of the Horsefeathers story.
Once in Pilsen (the famous beer city in Czech Republic), I signed-up to attend a local high-school in order to fine tune my Czech. The situation was quite similar to my previous school in terms of skateboarding and snowboarding. Out of the 700 students, only one looked like a skater. Back then, you could tell the skate style immediately. It was Pavel who was to become my partner in the to-be company. We hooked up right away. I told him about Canada and the whole Horsefeathers idea, which would be cool to reincarnate. This time, the idea grew into action and by summer 1993 a first collection was launched. It consisted of 50 t-shirts and 200 stickers. Most were given away, or sold cheap to friends. But we loved it and wanted to continue. Pavel was serving his Civil Service term and I was moving between Czech and Canada all the time. Even so, we managed to create new styles and products. More t-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, caps and jackets.
There was no plan and when we sold something we made more of it, or replaced it with something newer or different. It may seem unbelievable, but sourcing fabrics and factories was an adventure of its own. There were no cell phones, no internet. No place to get all needed information at once. I would spend days at a public pay phone, calling around, talking to factories. The phone connections were horrible and sometime I just didn’t get my call through. And when we did set up contact, it was not guaranteed we could work together. Some factories had such huge quantities that it was impossible to even consider and sewing workshops had no idea how to make the stuff we had designed. It was completely out of the “regular” clothing concept and they thought we were crazy. But in the end we found suppliers possible to cooperate with, and we started establishing lasting relationships with them. This gave us the possibility to start improving quality, styling, patterns and to develop new products.
In 1995 we opened the first real skate and snowboard shop in Pilsen and also called it Horsefeathers – “Horsefeathers Sk8 & Snowboard Shop” to be exact. It was a punk, but cool store. At that time, we only had the streetwear collection, but outerwear was definitely on our radar. We were sourcing fabrics, components, looking for companies with technical outerwear manufacturing experience and generally making sure, that once we made the first snowboard clothing, it would be good right from the start. Lot of the manufacturers could not guarantee to be able to make all the technical features, or maintain the quality that snowboard clothing requires.
Nevertheless, after few years of preparations, we were ready and in 1997, launched our first outerwear collection. It consisted of 5 jackets and 2 pants. The catalog was hand drawn by our friend. It was a success and we sold most of the stuff before Christmas. In December, Pavel and I jumped on a plane and took off to Canada for two months to ride powder and, of course, to test the new collection. It was an awesome trip. We had a huge GMC van and along with two other friends drove around different ski areas, picking up snow-bum hitch-hikers along the way. We rode almost every day – that’s what you call heaven on earth. Parties after riding seemed to happen almost naturally and looking back, I have to say it was the best trip of our lives.
After returning from Canada, we exploded with activity, turning new ideas into reality. The following years, Horsefeathers went through crazy growth, meaning that time became scarce as new, incredible projects emerged, almost continuously. We did plan to disappear into the mountains for two months again, but the lifestyle directly linked with the brand sucked us in. Instead, we traveled around Europe, went to contests, photo shoots, parties, events, concerts, trade shows, made new friends and inseparably merged with the scene. This lifestyle connected us with people and community, that gave us the chance to have a job that was actually our hobby.
It has been 25 years since the first idea and designs. What matters the most, is what connects those early days with today. The world now and then is incomparable. Horsefeathers in British Columbia in 1989 was a rebellious project uniting few friends through passion for skateboarding and snowboarding. Horsefeathers today is a brand with a whole team of people contributing to creating collections of streetwear and outerwear that are sold across most European countries.
What stayed the same though, is the creative freedom, where only the collective of like-minded individuals decides and defines what Horsefeathers is and will be. There are no corporate directives of some investment group. We alone decide on what and how things should be done. And even though we are not immune against bad seasons or global financial turmoils, the desire to live an active lifestyle connected to the sports that were at the start of it all, still burns strong. This vision connects Horsefeathers and everyone around it. That has not changed.