Rasa Libre Profile

It’s a brisk autumn evening in downtown San Francisco, and seated at a large round corner table at five-star vegetarian restaurant The Millennium at the Savoy Hotel, is an eclectic group of mildly drunk personalities who together become the team behind Deluxe Distribution’s newest venture: a skateboard company called Rasa Libre.

Rasa Libre’s spiritual leader, Matt Field, is examining the wine list, opting for an organic California red, while fellow visionaries Nate Jones, Reese Forbes, talented yet modest Art Director Michael Leon, and filmmaker Dan Wolfe all discuss the menu.

Throughout the meal, those seated take turns discussing Rasa Libre and what it means to them.

Eric Sentianin, managing editor of TransWorld SKATEboarding is also present, and between the motley crew of characters at the table-who are simultaneously running half a dozen conversations, discussing the birth of a new company becomes a unique and entertaining challenge.

And all things aside, Rasa Libre has managed to stir quite the buzz.

The Birth-Why Them?

The idea for a new company at Deluxe was born in the spring of 2003. Field explains that Deluxe’s General Manager Jim Thiebaud and Team Manager Mic-E Reyes approached him and asked if he wanted to do a company, “And I said sure.

“I’d been on Real for ten years, and I’d always wanted to do a board company that would have some contribution to skateboarding. I didn’t want to just make another board company-and that’s why Rasa Libre was formed,” he says.

Nate Jones agrees, explaining that he was also approached by Thiebaud, who asked if he was interested in starting a company with Field, which would also include Reese Forbes.

Asked what his initial response to the idea was, Jones explains he was surprised many skateboard companies weren’t doing as well as they had been in the couple of years prior, due to a recession in the U.S. His first thoughts were simple: “Wow. Right now? Is that a good idea?”

At the same time, Jones says he doesn’t feel there were any next thoughts beyond the initial surprise. “I was just like, let’s do this. Let it ride,” he says. “I’m a man of few words, what can I say?”

When Forbes was first approached with the idea of Rasa Libre, he says he felt instant confidence in the idea: “I knew I wanted to ride for a Deluxe company for a long time because of the riders, and the history, and everything. I guess all the timing just came together. Between Element (his former board sponsor) and Rasa Libre, there was a time period that I was floating, but hearing about what they were starting and what it was about, its creative freedom. It all sounded right.

“I’m just a teamrider and not one of the co-owners. I kind of wanted it that way because I didn’t want any of the financial burden that comes with keeping a company afloat,” adds Forbes. “Right now, Matt is really the visionary of the company-and it’s kind of hard for me to keep my opinions at bay because I’ve been in the industry for ten years, and I’ve helped Element and other companies develop teams. My opinion is always welcome, but now I’m sitting back and watching it develop-so whoever comes that we all agree on-that’ll be who it is (who gets on the team).”

Field, Jones, and Forbes are the only three pros on the team at present, and ams are constantly being considered. “Right now I don’t think we need to have this huge team,” says Field.

Forbes explains that what Rasa Libre means to him is something very genuine. “Right now it (Rasa Libre) means a true skateboard company where the riders matter and what you say counts,” he says. “It’s something we’re creating and will be creating along the way. That’s my perspective. I know Matt and Nate have their own perspectives, and that’s what makes it beautiful.”

Rasa Libre: What’s In The Name?

For a brand that has grown in popularity as smoothly as Rasa Libre h, one question that has crossed the minds of many onlookers is what’s in the name? Field explains: “Rasa is the feeling or essence, and Libre is the freedom of it. Rasa is Sanskrit for transcendental dancing and libre is Spanish for the freedom to do whatever you want.”

Thiebaud approached Field with the idea of doing a new company in May of 2003. Field was leaving to spend a month in India to study yoga with the instructor Pattabi Jois, skated the city of Bangalore, and hung out with Sadhus. A Sadhu is a male ascetic in Hinduism who is identified by his succession from the founder in the Vaishnava or Shaive traditions-one of two Hindu sects or traditions. “Outside of Bangalore, in a little city called Mysore, I’d go up to my care every day and do pooja (worship) with Sadhus and my guru,” explains Field.

“India was a personal mission. I had to go on my own and experience some things in order to confirm some things I felt in my life.”

Field explains that both he and Mic-E Reyes came up with the name: “Me and Mic-E-half and half,” he says. “I had Rasa Lila, and Mic-E had thought of Libre. Rasa Lila is a dance where Krishna is playing his flute and hundreds of women start dancing around him-and they’re all so entranced by his music that they just keep dancing and don’t notice any of the other women.

“It ties into Rasa Libre because we’re all skateboarding with the sacred feeling of energy-the Shakti or whatever you call it. We don’t care who’s around us and watching. The fact is, we’re entranced with skateboarding and it’s become our spirituality,” Field explains.

The Artistic Vision

In March 2003, former Girl Skateboards artist and the man behind Commonwealth Stacks T-shirts Michael Leon planned to simply focus on his artwork. “I was planning, at the time, to stay away from the business of skateboarding and just work on my own artwork. I had become disillusioned with the mechanics of the business and just kind of fed up with how conservative and sales-driven it had become.

“It just wasn’t a good environment for a person who really wants to be creative. I rented a studio in L.A., and my wife Laura quit her job so that we could pursue a life of working together on our own projects,” says Leon.

Then Leon got an out-of-the-blue call from Thiebaud. “I guess they were ready to do a new company with Matt and Nate, but had no creative director to get it started,” explains Leon. “If anyone else had called me, there’s no way I would have been involved, but I know what Deluxe is about, and when it comes down to it, they represent real skateboarding and they were one of the few companies not following the fashion brigade.

“I knew there was a chance we could do something with a fresh new feeling, or an old forgotten feeling of what its like to ride a skateboard. Everything stems from that. So the next day, I was on a plane for San Francisco and I had the first meeting. I knew within five minutes that I wanted to do it,” he continues.

Leon says his inspiration for the brands comes from a couple of different places: “The first being the team and the vibe they project when I’m around them. Making that something visual is a matter of taking a mishmash of graphics and ideas that illustrate what these guys and I are about.

“Its a hard thing to explain, but if you look at Nate’s Thumb board or Matt’s Dove board or any of them, I think they project that feeling of freedom we are trying to get across. Of course I can start with ‘Matt’s into India,’ but it’s got to be more involved that, or it just comes across as a one-liner. Hopefully these graphics will be open to many interpretations while still summing up the parts that make up the team.

“Each rider has a distinct and separate vision, and I do my best to design boards that tie them all together. Lucky for me they have a lot of great ideas. I think we just come up with themes and I’ll take them back to my cave and try to make them fit into Rasa Libre,” adds Leon.

To date, Rasa Libre has produced eleven boards each season, and five to six T-shirts. The group is working on a cut-and-sew line they’re planning on releasing within the next few months. “This will be in a few high-end skate shops and also in boutiques,” says Leon.

The Image And The Market

“I would compare Rasa Libre with anything higher end that you’d want to buy. As far as the brands go, we want to have the kind of boards that you could take from the shop and hang up on your wall,” says Forbes.

Field feels the brand has a place in a sophisticated or fashion-influenced market. He attended the relatively small fashion- and streetwear-inspired POOL trade show in Las Vegas, during the MAGIC trade show last August, where IPath-of which he is part owner-exhibited. “I think Rasa Libre has a place in that cornerstone of the market-it is our market,” he says. “The POOL show is in some respect what happened because of skateboarding, and that leaked out to the masses, and they took to it. No one at that POOL show was a skateboarder, even though skateboarders have been doing that for years-always seeking out different ways to do their thing with skateboarding. Shoes, pants, clothes, hats, and expressing themselves-that’s where Rasa Libre finds its life, itself-in always being a lifestyle company, and being appreciated by anybody, and filling that gap between skateboarding and high-end fashion.”

Field says where Rasa Libre fits in the scheme of its market is rather simple: “It’s not ASR, it’s not MAGIC-it’s the middle path.”

Clearly, Rasa Libre as a brand has its own unique spot under the Deluxe umbrella with a distinctly different image and ideology next to a brand such as Antihero or Spitfire. Leon explains, “I think it sits to the side of the other companies there, while still being involved in their overall thing. I think it’s like a little independent press, you know? Maybe Krooked is kind of like that, too. But whereas Krooked is Mark’s vision, Rasa Libre is like a gang or a band traveling around playing our music, and it includes Dan (Wolfe) and everyone involved.

“We just kind of do our thing, and at the end of the design period it gets sold by the same salespeople as Antihero and Real, but I live in L.A. and the team is always traveling, so I feel like we are separated a little bit-but hopefully still living up to the standards of quality set by the other Deluxe companies,” says Leon, adding that if he could explain something to the effect of a one-year or five-year plan for the company, he hopes in a year that they will have continued to develop the Rasa Libre world into a complete vision. Leon speculates, “In five years, who knows, we could be printing our own money on another planet.

“If it goes as smoothly as it has gone so far, it will be something we can all keep pushing and doing things that skaters haven’t seen before. The rest of the world will have to catch up.”

The Best Of Rasa Libre

Stuff they actually said over dinner:

“I’m basically not the brains behind the whole situation, as you can see. That’s why they hire people.”-Nate Jones

“Nate’s gonna teach everybody how to relax.”-Reese Forbes

“I really don’t know what I’m doing here. But I guess it was important for me to be here for some reason. That’s quite the chicken-scratching there. Can I get some cream? This is organic sugar. Rasa Libre-yeah, that’s it.”-Nate Jones

d try to make them fit into Rasa Libre,” adds Leon.

To date, Rasa Libre has produced eleven boards each season, and five to six T-shirts. The group is working on a cut-and-sew line they’re planning on releasing within the next few months. “This will be in a few high-end skate shops and also in boutiques,” says Leon.

The Image And The Market

“I would compare Rasa Libre with anything higher end that you’d want to buy. As far as the brands go, we want to have the kind of boards that you could take from the shop and hang up on your wall,” says Forbes.

Field feels the brand has a place in a sophisticated or fashion-influenced market. He attended the relatively small fashion- and streetwear-inspired POOL trade show in Las Vegas, during the MAGIC trade show last August, where IPath-of which he is part owner-exhibited. “I think Rasa Libre has a place in that cornerstone of the market-it is our market,” he says. “The POOL show is in some respect what happened because of skateboarding, and that leaked out to the masses, and they took to it. No one at that POOL show was a skateboarder, even though skateboarders have been doing that for years-always seeking out different ways to do their thing with skateboarding. Shoes, pants, clothes, hats, and expressing themselves-that’s where Rasa Libre finds its life, itself-in always being a lifestyle company, and being appreciated by anybody, and filling that gap between skateboarding and high-end fashion.”

Field says where Rasa Libre fits in the scheme of its market is rather simple: “It’s not ASR, it’s not MAGIC-it’s the middle path.”

Clearly, Rasa Libre as a brand has its own unique spot under the Deluxe umbrella with a distinctly different image and ideology next to a brand such as Antihero or Spitfire. Leon explains, “I think it sits to the side of the other companies there, while still being involved in their overall thing. I think it’s like a little independent press, you know? Maybe Krooked is kind of like that, too. But whereas Krooked is Mark’s vision, Rasa Libre is like a gang or a band traveling around playing our music, and it includes Dan (Wolfe) and everyone involved.

“We just kind of do our thing, and at the end of the design period it gets sold by the same salespeople as Antihero and Real, but I live in L.A. and the team is always traveling, so I feel like we are separated a little bit-but hopefully still living up to the standards of quality set by the other Deluxe companies,” says Leon, adding that if he could explain something to the effect of a one-year or five-year plan for the company, he hopes in a year that they will have continued to develop the Rasa Libre world into a complete vision. Leon speculates, “In five years, who knows, we could be printing our own money on another planet.

“If it goes as smoothly as it has gone so far, it will be something we can all keep pushing and doing things that skaters haven’t seen before. The rest of the world will have to catch up.”

The Best Of Rasa Libre

Stuff they actually said over dinner:

“I’m basically not the brains behind the whole situation, as you can see. That’s why they hire people.”-Nate Jones

“Nate’s gonna teach everybody how to relax.”-Reese Forbes

“I really don’t know what I’m doing here. But I guess it was important for me to be here for some reason. That’s quite the chicken-scratching there. Can I get some cream? This is organic sugar. Rasa Libre-yeah, that’s it.”-Nate Jones