The first time I met Alexander was during the mid-‘90s. We drove up into the Topanga Hills from Santa Monica one night to pick up a girl named Jewel that my French friend Flo was dating. On the drive up from PCH Flo mentioned that it was Steve Olson’s place, or at least that he was staying there. No, not the Shorty’s Steve Olson, he explained (at the time the “Crazy Monk” was still a top pro/household name), but the OG ‘70s/’80s punk rock skate legend Steve Olson that I had read about in some of the very first magazines I copped back in the mid-‘80s.
After a long, winding ascent through the pitch-black woods, we finally pulled into this group of houses scattered across a clearing. It looked like a time-capsuled version of the hippie commune from Easy Rider. There—in the midst of this bohemian Topanga love-in scene, scattered with bonfires and girls in gypsy gettups—a lone seven-year-old boy with a blonde mop top was standing on a banana board under one of the roof overhangs trying to learn stationary ollies on some Spanish tile floor that didn’t roll.
In the two decades since, I watched that same boy grow from the quiet kid in the corner who followed Chris Roberts around like a shadow, to an up-and-coming pro for Girl and Lakai who could Ollie picnic tables long ways, to now quasi celebrity NYC fashion socialite listed on gossip blogs with the likes of Chloë Sevigny. Currently 27, and clearly the captain of his own destiny since departing Girl (and Lakai for Vans then Vans for Nike), the following conversation was my best attempt at finding out his masterplan. Officially unveiled as Bianca Chandon—here is the story of Alex Olson’s morning glory.
You’re still out in New York? Do you still live in LA?
Yeah. I just travel back and forth frequently. I’ve just been out here and there have been a lot of random things going on. Unskate oriented stuff. Interviews and stuff like that and just weird photo shoots or something.
Do you get hit up a lot by people from outside skating?
Yeah. Definitely. And all sorts of like—the opposite of out of sight, out of mind—where you’re just being there, showing face. You know, making the rounds. It’s kind of necessary I guess.
You have your feet in both worlds.
I guess. I don’t know. I wouldn’t say that. It’s just one of those things where you’ve got to show face. Be around.
You gotta do what you gotta do. So how’s the company? It looks like it’s doing good.
Yeah. It’s not—it’s doing good. You know what, the hardest thing right now is just getting sources for everything. It’s not like a big shock to find that out, but that’s been the biggest hill to climb, so to speak. Boards are fine, but I want to do way more stuff than just that. Just trying to find something like an embroiderer. We had found one and now he’s not returning our calls so we have to find a new one. Shit like that, where people just dip out.
Just all the logistics. Is it fun though? Finding good shirts or whatever? Do you enjoy it?
Yeah. Sure, I guess. Ideally, I want to make our own shirts, like a custom body shirt. But right now we can’t just because it’s so expensive, or you just need to order so much. In due time though that’s what we’re going to do, but for the moment we just have to find shirts that work. We have to find everything pre-made right now which is kind of annoying but it is what it is.
How did the first batch of boards and shirts do? Did you sell through pretty much?
Yeah. I don’t have any more.
I saw that the board listed on the site now was already sold out. How many of those did you sell?
They’re pretty small runs, so not that many really.
Are they numbered? Doesn’t that make them more exclusive?
At the time we had planned to and then it just never happened.
Is it mostly skaters buying stuff or are there all types of people showing interest in it?
I want to attract more a mix of people. Like I said in previous interviews I kind of want it to pull people in from both sides. Just all different styles of people. So far so good though. It’s just been really small runs. I know some people are sort of asking, “What’s the difference between this and anything else?” And trust me I know, it’s not where I really want it yet, but it just takes time. Time and money.
You got to start somewhere too. You kind of need to warm up to it.
Yeah. That’s a good point.
Who was the dude that modeled the first shirts?
That’s a childhood family friend of ours. But he used to be the Marlboro Man.
Yeah. His name is Rudy. I’ve used him for other stuff before.
Weren’t there a couple Marlboro Men? Didn’t the original die of like throat cancer or something?
Lung cancer supposedly. But this guy Rudy, somebody seriously needs to do a documentary on him. He’s from Holland. I guess he had a hit song in the ‘80s. He came out here and I guess he was a model. Just lived this wild lifestyle.
When I saw him in the photos I was sure it was somebody you chose like that. He just looks like a dude that has a story.
Exactly. He speaks like five different languages. He’s just an amazing, entertaining guy.
Did you catch any flack for the “Fire Island” shirt?
I think when I first was explaining it, like “I want to make this thing. I want to make this company with this or that.” I got a little flack from people saying I wanted to exploit gay culture. It wasn’t about that at all, but some people took it that way. I was just like “Whoa, relax guys”. I mean come on. But the best was one day I wore that shirt and I forgot I had it on and gay dudes would be like “Fire Island? On the Island?” Like the place on Long Island. And I’d be like, “Oh No.” One guy was like [does a deep voice], “Have you ever really been to Fire Island?” Like in a promiscuous way. It was pretty funny. I just started laughing.
I liked how you explained the (917) 692.2706 number was supposed to be like those old meet up rave numbers. Are there going to be more tie-ins to rave culture?
I mean, yeah. I’ll tie it in to all the styles of music that I’m into, for sure. And the phone number isn’t the name by the way. When is this going to come out?
Wait, so the name is still secret?
Well, everybody knows the name but they just don’t know the name. You know what I mean.
What, it’s “Leave a message”?
No. I’m not going to tell you. But everybody knows it. If anybody called the number.
The girl’s name?
Yeah. Exactly. Basically, the whole idea is… Wait, when does this come out?
Whenever. There’s no deadline or anything. Monday after next maybe.
Whatever. I’ll just explain it. So if you bought the board, there’s a poster in it. It’s a poster of a girl and the poster has the name on it. It’s her name.
(Laughs) Bianca Chandon. The full name. Basically I came up with the whole concept of it because I couldn’t get the rights to any of the names I wanted originally. So then I was kind of digging around through inspirations I liked and try to figure it out. I think I had mentioned to Brian (Anderson) before 3D was thought up that it would be really cool to name a company after a boat. And so many boats are women’s names. So that sort of started the whole concept of choosing a woman’s name. Then from Studio 54 I think I got Bianca from Bianca Jagger. I just always really liked the name Bianca. It sounded kind of elegant and it was a big ‘70s name. A lot of the culture I was pulling from was from the ‘70s so it just made sense.
That’s funny. I can’t believe it. I think I texted you like months ago and asked if it was “Leave a message” or “Bianca Chandon”.
(Laughs.) Yeah. I think I just had to keep the suspense going. I think it’s cool to have a story that people can follow something. So we decided to have the number and people could call and it would just have this person’s name and it might confuse the shit out of people. So it’s almost like a little game we can unfold.
So this all gets unveiled now?
Basically, the boards come with the name on the poster. It’s like a woman’s handwriting and it says, “Call me. Signed Bianca Chandon.” We just got the boards, so by the time they ship out people will have it.
Is there a master plan to this? Are you writing this story as you go?
There’s a little bit of planning but a lot of it is definitely falling into place as I go. The Bianca think kind of fell into place and just had a good ring to it. It was obscure enough, and I had been trying to come up with all these other names. Holiday was one of them. I liked that name. But there’s a company in Australia called Holiday. Then Valentine was another one. I was looking for Italian names, just Italian words really. But I didn’t want anything that had another attachment. Almost everything I came up with had some other connotation. And I didn’t want that. But a woman’s name, you might just think of a woman you know but it’s way more obscure.
I gotta say, it’s kind of like Girl too though. I remember when Girl came out and it seemed pretty crazy then that they used the word Girl for a skate brand. I remember one of the first ads I saw, at least in the French mags had a photo of Demi Moore too.
Yeah. But I remember being kind of stumped in a good way. Like in my head I didn’t know what to do with it.
That’s good though. I’d like to see this Demi Moore ad.
Yeah. It was pretty sick. I don’t know if it was the first ad in the US, but in the French mags I think it was. But you saw this weird fashion photo of a young Demi Moore and this Girl text, but then you heard what the team was and it just sent the whole thing into another dimension. I guess that would be my next question then. I know other people have asked but is there still no plans for other riders on Bianca?
(Laughs.) The team is a funny thing. All the kids I wanted all ride for FA. So there’s no team right now.
You’re the team bro.
I am the team. Well, I’m the brand. I don’t know if I’m the team.
Who else is doing this with you?
Me and one other guy.
Silent partner? No. I mean, nobody would know him. He’s a skater but he’s not well known or anything. His name is Steve. And it’s not my father (Laughs.)
That would be amazing. You should get your dad on the team.
No. Come on. Imagine. But yeah, no team for now.
So without the team, I guess what would the next marketing step be? Would you put out a single part or something?
Well, it’s not about putting out parts and all that. That’s kind of what I’m trying to get away from. I would rather just try to put out everyday type skating. I don’t know. When I watch skate videos now it’s just so draining just how good the kids are. I’m sure you feel the same way. At the end you’re just like, “Oh man.” I think I watched one recently and I felt like I couldn’t even comprehend what had just happened.
I liked what you said in the Thrasher interview though how skating is sort of splitting into two. People have kind of said that for a while but I think now there are seriously a new batch of new kids to whom trick difficulty just doesn’t matter. Or it’s not the end all. Only what looks cool matters.
It seems pretty clear that one side wants skating to be a sport and the other side wants it to be like a lifestyle counterculture.
There’s a culture to both sides I guess. But I think it’s one of those things where on one side you have a culture of big companies that are trying to make it a lucrative business and on the other side you have the actual essence of it that we all come from and that we know it as.
Would you say being cool matters more than being good?
I think so (Laughs.) Not like that but like what does Stacy say in the Dogtown documentary. Like, “I hate to say it but image is everything.” And Jay Adams had the image. I don’t know.
When I was reading the stuff about rave culture I immediately thought of Dill because he used to talk about the movie Trainspotting and how much the clothes and stuff in there had influenced him.
I’m pulling mine more from Paris is Burning and stuff like that. Where all these kids are just trying to escape their reality and be something different.
Tell me a good story you never told anyone else in public.
Just reveal myself through the interview. A good story that people don’t know? Let me think.
Hopefully involving Mick Jagger.
(Laughs.) No. Right before I started dating my ex, she was hanging out with Mick Jagger. Not dating him or anything but she was just like, “Come over, Mick Jagger’s here.” I’m like, “What? No.” They were at a hotel or something. It kind of sounded cool but kind of not at the same time. I was thinking I would go just to be able to say that I had met Mick Jagger but at the same time it just seemed like such a corny setting that I was not about to go. Anyways, I didn’t go and that should have been a flag right there for that girl. I remember thinking it would be kind of epic to meet him. Who knows when he’s going to kick the can? But I’ve heard he’s an asshole too. And it’s just him with a bunch of hot chicks around him. Why the fuck would I show up?
You kick it with Chloë Sevigny or whatever pretty heavy?
Don’t try to act like you don’t know how to say her name. You of all people know how to pronounce it (Laughs.) Let me think. I mean I’ve brought her on sessions before. Her older brother (Paul) used to skate. Somebody told me recently that he was sponsored, like flow from Powell or something. I guess Paul was really into skating and she was kind of the young girl that was like, “Oh, Skating’s so cool!” So she was always around skaters.
Was that how she ended up in Kids (’95)?
I think she hung out with that click, but I think she was also going out with Harmony (Korine), who wrote Kids at the time. I think at the time she was sort of an “It Girl”, hanging out at the clubs and all that. You know my dad honestly has better celebrity stories than I do.
Oh yeah. What was that recent photo you posted? Stephanie Seymour?
Yeah. He and Stephanie Seymour were doing a modeling job and he was supposed to be skating in it. I guess she told him at one point like, “Oh, I’ve never been on one of those.” And he was like, “Oh, cool.” The way he describes it, he’s like, “Any time you get a girl on the board it’s a sealed deal.” He’s just like if that happens, it’s done.
The arms around the waist and the whole nine.
Yeah. According to him it’s a done deal. Once they step on and you like take them around, it’s a go. So I guess one thing led to another and, he would have to tell the story but it was something like he did the modeling job and he ended up dropping her off. It’s a little foggy but I guess later on they hooked up. That’s a funny one.
How’s he doing? Is he just chilling out here still?
Yeah. He’s just being him. He just did some thing in Louisiana. He made like some skate obstacle sculpture thing. I’m not sure exactly what it was but he was just out there.
I interviewed him for this Santa Cruz 40th anniversary thing we did.
He’s a little bitter about that but okay.
Yeah. He was pretty harsh on it. I thought they were cool. I mean he’s done tons of stuff with them recently.
Yeah. No, I think it’s a love hate thing. I think he feels like, especially in terms of Indy, he was one of the first guys to ride that truck and help them design it and then you just see the success of Independent. I think any time something becomes that successful the guy that helped real early on is going to feel a little bit left out. It’s just one of those tough realities.
I know all of those guys definitely credited him as one of the first group of testers with Rick Blackhart and some slalom dudes. I think they had like four guys and they sort of credited Steve as the guy with the best feedback and ideas on it.
He told me Blackhart rode his trucks really tight so it didn’t really matter what he rode and he just felt like he told them certain things that changed it. I would be pissed too I’m sure. I would have that same reaction in his shoes.
When is this Supreme video out?
It comes out in March.
It sounds like a super good mix of people. All the FA guys, you, Gonz, the Supreme kids.
Yeah, I think that was kind of the premise of it. Supreme has always been sort of a style-based company and I think this video could be sort of a trendsetter for kids to see that it doesn’t have to be the hardest trick or biggest rail. I can be something that you can relate to. Like it’s not this three-year in the making video of everyone trying the hardest thing they can possibly do.
It has always kind of gone through these type cycles though. Like Powell was super high production value in the ‘80s, then H-Street and World were kind of this super low-budget footage through to New Deal which became like the epitome of triple flip noseslides and finally Stereo just came with Visual Sound and it all got cruisy again.
Well we’re trying to do a disco Stereo (Laughs.) I love Stereo videos though. But yeah, it’s going to be more style based in that sense. No one has seen the video though outside of Bill (Strobeck) and Kyle that works at Supreme.
I feel like Supreme is sort of the heart of the subculture side right now. Like if Street League is the heart of the sports side, Supreme is the polar opposite to that.
Yeah. I guess. But all you have to do is look at who their demographic is.
But I think this video will set the course of what one side of skating will look like for the next few years.
Yeah. I wonder if pigtails will come in as the new style.
You launched it bro.
It would be funny if everyone had pigtails (Laughs.) No, but I remember being with Dylan in Australia on that Transworld trip where we were all ams. We were talking back then saying we should just fuck around with people and just wear something so ridiculous and just see if it catches on.
I feel like that’s what Muska did for his entire career.
(Laughs.) You know what though. To his credit, the dude popped off a whole style in itself. Many times. Even if you just look at the Skytops. You look at that and he’s like super into Rick Owens stuff. But look at Alexander Wang and all that. I know Chad didn’t start that off but he always had that all black tights with shorts. He’s always been on the forefront and I respect him in that way. It’s too wild for me but he’s great. He almost has a weird Gonz thing. He was ahead of his time and he has been for a long time.
Let me ask my Dylan (Rieder) questions then. I feel like what you were saying about messing with people by wearing something ridiculous is the same as what you guys do with the sexually suggestive shit between you two.
I don’t know if he’s playing with it. He’s just a sexy guy. Dude, there’s this thing on Instagram called Porn for Women. I posted a photo of him and some girl added @pornforwomen. I’m like what’s porn for women? So I look at it and it’s just like you know Paul Newman, and Ryan Gosling…
Yeah. Exactly. Literally just black and white photos of powerful jaw lines basically. So I’m like, all right that’s cool. And then I see one photo of Dylan. Then I see his boy. Then I see another photo of Dylan. Then another. Basically, Dylan was like the dominant dude on that feed.
Can you compete? Who has better contacts in the fashion/modeling world?
He has an agent and stuff.
Do you have an agent?
Not for that, but for photos and stuff.
I tried to ask him a few month back for an interview but have you guys made it to first base yet?
No not yet. We’re not that Mick Jagger and Bowie yet.
Would that make it to @pornforwomen?
No. I think that turns them off. They can’t envision themselves in that mix. But then again, maybe if there’s some weird ones with some daddy issues. But no. I think a guy just looks at two women and thinks (deep voice) “Yeah”. I think for girls it’s different.
So that’s what’s keeping you and Dylan from making out?
No. That and a couple of other things. Making out so we get more girls? I don’t think that’s how it works. I think that might fog up the message.
You never know.
Exactly. Stay tuned.
What do you think about what’s going on with Alien Workshop right now? Is it weird to see people leaving? I know you have been a longtime fan.
It’s a little sad. It’s funny because there are so many art kids out here and I was talking to a friend that’s an artist. I forget how Alien came up but at one point I was just like, “Workshop was probably your introduction to why you got into art. Because of all that weird abstract video art, it showed you what was out there and opened your mind to it.” I think it did that for so many people. For that, it’s really sad to see it struggling. I think in some ways it started becoming a caricature of itself a little bit. I think that happens to everything with time. But Workshop’s ill. I don’t want to see it go. But it’s changed hands so many times now; it doesn’t have its foundation anymore. Who knows? We’ll see. But they’re trying to sell it. Maybe those dudes are just tired of doing it. Imagine how hard it is to come up with ideas for the same theme for the last twenty years. It has to be pretty hard to come up with fresh ideas. But it’s one of those things were it’s one of the forefathers of skating now. It was such a staple for a lot of people. I looked up to it. I think it’ll stay around. They still have a heavy team. That’s what’s funny. Jake (Johnson), Gilbert (Crockett), Omar (Salazar), (Tyler) Bledsoe. It’s almost good in some ways with the smaller team now. Photosynthesis was such a big video for me growing up.
Watch Alex, Dylan, and the rest of the crew in the upcoming Supreme video “Cherry”.
Photosynthesis was like the trendsetting video, like how we were saying this Supreme video would become the model, Photosynthesis layed the bricks for like ten years at least.
It definitely layed the bricks for a lot of people in my generation. Dill and Anthony’s parts. Any time I ever filmed a part I always wanted it to feel like Anthony’s in Photo. Just the Iggy song and the attitude. It just seemed kind of fast.
I feel like music almost doesn’t get enough credit for those parts. If those parts had different songs they would be so different.
The song is everything almost. But now, you have these videos and it’s just so much B-roll footage too. Like a guy tying his shoe, guy not making up his mind, guy waxing. I mean B-roll’s cool when it adds something.
Like the shot of AVE smoking with the snow behind him in Photosynthesis. That I feel adds something.
Yeah. It’s not obnoxious. It’s not contrived. Now it seems like they think they need B-roll just for the sake of it.
Or the Gonz Israel shirt shot in Video Days.
Exactly. Or Dill in the all denim cowboy suit in the bodega. What the fuck is that? So good. It just seems natural. It just has more depth than like a crane shot or something.
Do you keep up with Theories of Atlantis and Josh Stewart and all those companies? Would you ever go under their distribution?
Not really because I’m just trying to do it really small.
Five hall of fame company founders/owners:
Mike (Carroll) and Rick (Howard) for Girl, Julien (Stranger) and John (Cardiel) for Anti Hero, Ed (Templeton) for Toy Machine, (Steve) Rocco for all of his, and Mark (Gonzales) for Blind. Oh and Neil (Blender) as a bonus for Workshop.
Last one—favorite current skateboarding company, besides your own?
Polar. I think out of all the small companies, they just do it right. I’m a fan.
Scroll through more photos of Alex below:
Follow Alex: @olsonstuff
Follow Bianca Chandon: @biancachandon or head to biancachandon.com
Follow Bill Strobeck: @williamstrobeck
Follow Mackenzie: @deadhippie