A Cliché Tribute:
Words: Mackenzie Eisenhour
"Better a thorn in the woods than a flower in a greenhouse."--François Truffaut, The 400 Blows (1959)
"I would like to thank everyone who put so much love into this adventure: all the riders, shops, distribututors, filmers, music composers, photographers, artists, contributors, mags, websites--all the people I've worked with and all skateboarders around the world. Merci." --Jeremie Daclin, Cliché founder
The news that Cliché Skateboards would be ending their near two-decade run this past week was initially met with appropriate sadness and a sense of loss. However, while we continue to mourn the demise of not just another marquis board brand, but a true geographical industry game-changer, let's take a minute to celebrate everything that Jeremie Daclin, Al Boglio, Eric Frenay and their crew from Lyon, France managed to accomplish over their impressive 19-year-calvacade.
I've already written a fair share about the brand. Back in '09 we released the 320-page book, Résumé, chronicling their first twelve years in the game. At the time, they had just been acquired by Dwindle Distribution in El Segundo and were in the process of relocating from their longtime Lyon warehouse to the heart of the California-based industry. To some degree, it could be argued that the brand changed for good with that move alone.
Without re-writing the entire book--here are the broad strokes--the Cliffs Notes if you will, as to why the brand matters (and will continue to matter, now perhaps even more so than while they still existed) so much.
In the simplest sense, Cliché was the first major board brand to piss with the big boys whilst being fully headquartered outside the US. When Jeremie birthed the brand in 1997, majors outside of California alone were rare (Alien in Ohio, Zoo or Shut in NY, Zorlac in Texas etc...) Sitting outside the country, across the Atlantic Ocean in the EU was more or less unheard of. The closest equivalent would be Flip, formerly Deathbox in the UK, however they moved to the heart of So Cal before truly becoming a force (in '94).
As a result of being centered in Europe, Cliché blew open the doors to a more inclusive skateboard culture. Right at a time when generic Cali schoolyard spots, cookie-cutter ams and El Toro fever had seemingly pigeonholed the entire pastime, Jeremie and company offered an entirely new alternative. Not only to showcase far more diverse spots, architecture, and cultures but also to do so as locals fully immersed in those cultures--not simply another visiting team of Yanks safely insulated in the tour van.
I would argue that skateboarding as a whole is infinitely richer today thanks to that alternative. One need only look as far as Magenta, Palace, Polar or even Supreme's fixation with Place République in Paris to see the continued dividends. Outside of the obvious geographic and linguistic NBDs, Cliché also came correct with year-after-year of well thought out graphics, videos, tour concepts, ads, books, and anything else you could make a mark with. No opportunity for creativity was wasted. Nothing was ever phoned in.
They gave us the Gypsy Tours--more or less instructional videos on how to tour Europe broke--even if you happen to be traveling with Fred Gall, Chet Childress, or Lee Smith. They gave French Fred a home long enough for him to produce Bon Appétit (03), Freedom Fries (04), and Hello Jojo! ('06)--three of the greatest videos ever produced. They probably gave former teamrider Pontus Alv the balls and blueprint (no pun intended) to launch Polar. They turned Sammy Winter, Lem Villemin and Daniel Espinoza pro.
They gave us Lucas Puig, Cale Nuske, Flo Mirtain, and Brophy. They gave JB Gillet a home after he was banned from the US on Visa grounds. They made Lyon, and the legendary Hôtel de Ville spot one of Europe's reigning skate capitals. They showcased some of the first footage of MACBA and BCN. They did the same for Bercy, La Défense, and Le Dôme in Paris. They gave us decades of Javier Mendizabal footage and photos. Introduced us to music, from the band Beirut to Jamie Lidell's "Multiply" to Dani Lebron and Jesus Fernandez' strumming Flamenco in Clé ('08). They gave us Ricardo Fonseca and Vincent Bressol.
They gave us Max Geronzi in full glory. They gave us Joey Brezinski; version 2.0 after Arcade had left him high and dry. They gave us Gonz, Brian Lotti, and Elvira Fernando graphics. They gave us HUF, UXA, Adidas and infinite pitch-perfect collabs. Along with Lakai, they gave us the "French Connection" as showcased in Fully Flared. They gave us the photography of Olivier Chassignole and videography of Junior and Boris Proust. They gave us Mark McKee's Last Supper and Sean Cliver's American Icons 2 graphic--all the way through Jon Horner, Mr. Minute, and even the first unsanctioned Andy Warhol graphics back in '98.
They gave homes to Pete Eldridge, Thibaud Fradin and Charles Collet. Most recently they were grooming Paul Hart, Kyron Davis, and Adrian Coillard. They gave us three full parts from JJ Rousseau, the definitive Daclin parts (outside of 1281), and our first good look at Pontus in the nude. They gave literally hundreds of artists, photographers, skateboarders, and musicians a chance to shine on their creative platform. And they gave us all a chance to witness the impossible become possible.
For everything they have given us, today we say thank you. Write in your favorite Cliché moment below in the comments. As we close the book on Cliché--news that Jeremie, Al, Eric and crew are already working on a new project helps make the pill a little easier to swallow. Stay tuned for imminent announcements on that front. In the meantime, sit back, cue up the end credits to Bon Appétit and sign along to Bran Van 3000, "You're my Love Cliché." Merci pour le tout. --TWS