About four years ago, in hopes of doing something a little different from the norm, Austyn Gillette and Dylan Rieder (before his untimely passing) teamed up with their big-name surfer friends Dane Reynolds and Craig Anderson to start their own clothing brand. Walking away from traditional big-time clothing deals, this crew of friends decided to take matters into their own hands and do things their way while not having to answer to anyone. I reached out to Austyn to break down the back-story of the brand and to see what's in store for the future and to see how things have been going for him after starting his first company.--Jaime Owens
Photography by Ryan Allan
An interview with Austyn Gillette:
How's Former going so far?
Well, we've been working on it for about three years or so and it's only actually been in production for about six months. But Jake and I went to Mexico City to start filming for our video parts that we're putting together for the brand.
Rad, you guys working on individual parts or a little Former team video?
Yeah, individual parts. The way we're doing it is to have a video part drop for every line. When we put out our first line the Luxury 29.99, people were a bit confused on the name because we couldn't get the Instagram handle for Former and attempted to buy it off some Russian guy, later to find out it was a scam. So we had to use the name of the line for our Instagram handle. But we finally got the Former handle after some time. But yeah, each line will have a video part to go along with it.
Give me the rundown of who all is involved and the backstory?
We'll start with Dane Reynolds (surfer/owner of Former). He pulled out of his contract with his longtime clothing sponsor and at the same time, Dylan and I hadn't had a clothing sponsor for years since Analog went out of business. All of us were already friends along with Craig Anderson, who is the other surfer on Former. Campbell Milligan who does Monster Children sparked the idea. He emailed us about four years ago saying what do you guys think about starting a clothing company with two surfers and two skaters? It was an opportunity to start a company with full creative control. Once we got word that Craig didn't resign his contract with his previous clothing sponsor, it was on from there. It took us almost two years to come up with a name. Dylan was in the hospital at this point. As soon as we decided we were going to do it, Dylan was going into remission and we found a designer and started mocking up some clothes. It was hard to find the aesthetic for a long time. We were just pushing up hill for a quite some time. Dylan was able to put in his two cents and be very hands on for the first line that came out, the Luxury 29.99. He even did some stuff on the second line. So, about four years total to get this thing going. And just having full creative control was the best part.
Did you guys fund it all yourselves or did you have any backers?
We funded it all on our own. We don't have any investors. And we'll hopefully keep it that way forever.
There's never been a clothing company started by surfers and skaters together, right?
No, and that never happens in surfing. No surfers start their own clothing brands. In skating, it's quite the opposite.
Explain who Craig and Dane are to the skate crowd? Like, who would they be equivalent to in the skateworld?
Dane is the most powerful surfer to date. He's like the AVE of the surfworld. Craig is the most stylish and creative surfer out there, so he'd be like a Dylan. They fund their own surf videos. So they have total control over them. And you're kind of seeing that now in skating like with Jim Greco doing his own stuff, which is rad to see.
Yeah, that's what I wanted to get across was that these were two huge surfers who could have big time clothing deals in the surf world but chose to do their own thing with two skaters. Was there any background to running a clothing brand from you guys?
Fuck no! We knew what we wanted and that's about it. A couple buzzwords will come out of ours mouths from time to time, but we don't know a damn thing.
Not all of those shirts are the loose necks right? I mean, you look good in them but not all of us can pull those off?
No! We don't have any loose neck T-shirts to tell you the truth. I think I kind of grew out of that. I'll definitely let it droop a little bit but not as drastic as it used to be.
Were there other brands you paid attention to that stoked you out?
Yeah, of course. We wanted to be competitive between mid-range fashion to a shop skate T-shirt. We definitely did look around and see what people were doing and wanted to find the area that needed some attention. In an oversaturated world, I believe there's always room for something new if the attention and quality is there.
Where's the main distribution going to be, online or skate shops?
We started online, but we would like to get into shops once we can take it on.
Was Jake Anderson your first pick as a team rider outside or the original four?
Yeah, he was the only one I saw that fit. Just skating with him on HUF trips through the years, it made sense. Just trying to keep him on the right path [laughs].
What made you pick Mexico City for first trip?
I'd never been there and I remembered seeing an old 411 with the Vans team down there. You can't beat that colorful makeshift architecture. Extremely pleasing to the eye.
How's the pressure being on a trip with just one other skater?
With a small pack like that, there is some pressure but you can be way more efficient.
You adding more dudes to the team anytime soon?
I don't know. You know anybody?
Do you see yourself being part of more companies as you progress in your career?
Who knows? That's a hard question to answer after just starting a company [laughs].
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And pick up some Former goods while you’re at it.