StartUps: Holden

Jesse: Where are you right now, and what are you doing?Mikey: I’m in my kitchen, typing.

When did the idea for Holden come about?

I always got bummed when all the boxes of outerwear I used to get from my sponsors, outerwear designed by some person who had this idea of what zany snowboarders should look like, would show up at my pad. I just wanted to look and feel good, and dress how I’d dressed all my life—not feel like I was a “snowboarder all the time. It’s that identification thing—some people like it, and so do I … but more to my whole lifestyle, not just snowboarding being my only lifestyle.

How long did it take to become an actual company?

I quit my sponsor (Volcom), giving up millions and millions of dollars in sponsorship loot, and set out on the long hard road of finding the millions and millions of dollars it takes to get a company going (hahah). I was attacked by many wolves and almost tricked by many tricksters along the way as they were attempting to tame me, chill me, trick me and kill me. It took upwards of three years to find the right folks to settle down with. Old Chris Miller and the kind folks at Earth Products Inc., the makers of fine quality Adio footwear, and Planet Earth Clothing Co. were the final resting place for me to get started with that. They do exactly what I wanted them to do—let us do what we know how to do, unobstructed.

What did the start-up process entail?

Whelp, it was hard day’s nights—we were working like dogs. I contacted my best buddy and amazing workaholic designer pal Scott Zergebel, and it was on. That first year we learned almost everything about outerwear and the way garments are put together in a trial-by-fire design process. In hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise that neither one of us had ever done outerwear design before because we had to educate ourselves from the ground up. We did a hell of a lot of neurotic research and explored a shit-ton of possibilities for making our designs work. I believe we invented a few new ways of doing things along the way as far as making certain designs possible and still keeping them very functional as far as waterproofing the garments. Which brings me to a point of notice—people out there are undeniably biting us as we speak. I encourage the people to look very closely at the manufacturing of the originals and the biters—thought vs. no thought goes beyond the style, into function as well. Details, details, my dears. (Wicked-witch laugh)

Any grimy stories?

Ha, definitely. The first trip Scott and I went on was to China in December right before the first line was to be released. Scott hadn’t seen any of the designs before, as I had submitted my ideas to another designer and he had interpreted them in his own way to say the least. So we both had basically no idea what we were about to see. We get to China and are standing across the table from four Chinese people with a severe language barrier up the ying yang. We’re in a tiny-ass room and the sun is beating through the window that is six inches behind me. They are pulling out these totally wack outerwear pieces from boxes … killing me. I’m sweating and smell like cat piss. Every time they pull out a new piece Scott makes this sound: “Ooooo ho ho ho ho and laughs his ass off, giving me rib shots. The fucking hair is standing up on the back of my neck. I am near breakdown it’s so bad. I’m near tears at some of this shit. But … we work for twelve hours a day with them. I step the fuck up, Scott Z really steps the fuck up, and we do this shit. Then when we leave there, we walk for five hours more, shopping, seeing, laughing, yelling, drinking a lot of beer, then we sleep crammed in a tiny room. We get wasted every night, eat questionable food, perv on all the amazingly beautiful Chinese women we see every twenty seconds over there. Shit. Oh yeah, and the heat is like 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity. So the second yoset foot out of the hotel, wherever, you are covered in sweat. We revamped the entire line, completely trashed entire styles and redesigned new ones, designed an entire softgoods line, and had so much fun in ten days … now that’s some grimy in-the-trenches shit. It ain’t easy, but as we say around here, OLD-SCHOOL EASY SHIT. It really is, ha.

When did you (Mikey) and Zergabel meet up?

M3, back in the dizzay. Simply put, an east-coast brothers connection living on the west coast. We were both driven and had similar interests.

When did you know that the idea was going to work out?

I knew the minute Scott Z signed on we’d make the best outerwear in the biz. But as far as start up, I knew when I signed the deal.

Where did the name come from?

I loved the book “The Catcher In The Rye, since I read it back in the day, in high school. Holden Caulfield is the main character. He is O.G. punk rock, O.G. NYC Zen kid. It was written by J.D. Salinger over a span of nine years. He’s still alive and refuses to make it into a movie. Anyway, Holden just loved the little things in life and called bullshit on everything adult. Adults being caught up in all the crap that is. But when picking Holden, I also chose to use a name that meant nothing to most people, so that we could make our own meaning by our actions and style as a company.

What did you want to offer the world of shredding that other outerwear companies didn’t?

Basically, mellow, simple gear that had fine details and better construction. It seems like the mellowest stuff is always price point and crappy on the construction. There are definitely some companies doing it right, though.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I get mine from what I saw when I was a kid and I was at my happiest.

Who are all the players back in Portland?

Scott Z—head design and overall feeling of the deal perspective, wrapper upper of all loose ends … and killer.

Fasil Debeb—Excel killer, production manager, social butterfly, and all around great guy.

Goo—true artist, graphic design guru, Dotty’s dad, the man that never gets shaken.

Where are you guys housed right now, and how has that changed since the beginning?

We’re in the Pearl District in downtown Portland—quite a step up from the olden days of being in a rat-poison-infested, no-heat-havin’, no-ac-in-the-joint place across the river. Don’t get me wrong, that was romantic and all … back then it was mostly Scott Z and I in there, and we got neurotic as hell. In the cold, in jackets, or sweating our balls off, up at all hours learning the ropes and doing it with all the heart we had … but as of now, the pearl is dope—clean, nice bathrooms, walk outside to get a tea, walk to lunch. People watching, etc. Two blocks from Powell’s books—a lot of inspiration is about down where we are to say the least … Portland, Oregon is a hotbed for style and cool people doing their shit.

What is your opinion of the recent increase in D.I.Y. start-ups in snowboarding?

I think it kicks ass. Please take back what is ours. Get funded by someone. Do your thing, do it well. And give the heart back to what has given us a renewed sense of heart, a return to play as adults in snowboarding. I love the D.I.Y.’s—the more the merrier.

Would a business venture such as yours have been possible ten years ago?

I think so … look at Twist, Bonfire, Yang, Burton, Sims, etc, etc.

How important is it for snowboarders to start/own/get involved with the businesses that make the products and/or media they buy?

Very important if you want a good product and an industry to be “real.

Give us just a sample of the frustrations and joys of owning your own company.

Well, I have a simple theory, and it’s one example of the joys versus frustrations of owning your own company. The first person to do something—for instance maybe some nice well-thought-out outerwear designs and a unique company direction—gets the joys of making art, progress, expanding their mind and knowledge of something, the joys of knowing the entire process, the joys of being creative and making others happy as well. That’s heaven. The frustrations that may come (if you take the time to care about them which will only set you into some bullshit) is when the second and the third companies come along. The second company gets all the credit and the third company makes all the money off the first person’s ideas …. I am not mentioning names here, but it’s happening. And you know who you all are. And you can be sure of something. You can go to your grave knowing you were a biter. hahahahhahahaha. And that’s what hell is my friend, knowing you weren’t O.G. hahahahahhahaahhahaahahahahhahahahahahahahahaha!hahhahah.

If there were another business you could start, what would it be?

A religion that wasn’t really a religion, but rather an affirmation of all religions and belief systems so that no one felt less than perfect in their beliefs, so that we all could “… just get along like my man Rodney King said.

Last words?

Thank yous and much love to everyone … you are all all right. Peace—HOLDEN.rwear designs and a unique company direction—gets the joys of making art, progress, expanding their mind and knowledge of something, the joys of knowing the entire process, the joys of being creative and making others happy as well. That’s heaven. The frustrations that may come (if you take the time to care about them which will only set you into some bullshit) is when the second and the third companies come along. The second company gets all the credit and the third company makes all the money off the first person’s ideas …. I am not mentioning names here, but it’s happening. And you know who you all are. And you can be sure of something. You can go to your grave knowing you were a biter. hahahahhahahaha. And that’s what hell is my friend, knowing you weren’t O.G. hahahahahhahaahhahaahahahahhahahahahahahahahaha!hahhahah.

If there were another business you could start, what would it be?

A religion that wasn’t really a religion, but rather an affirmation of all religions and belief systems so that no one felt less than perfect in their beliefs, so that we all could “… just get along like my man Rodney King said.

Last words?

Thank yous and much love to everyone … you are all all right. Peace—HOLDEN.