After years at the top of the snowboard food chain, Jake and the boys at Burton were considering ways to expand upon their product offerings-without diluting the strength of the brand. They planned a departure from snowboard-specific gear, something totally new-and on that premise, Gravis footwear began to take shape.

Most shoes are constructed around a sort of standardized model, but Gravis set out to break that mold, literally. Before the new company designed its first pair of shoes, it measured thousands of different feet to develop a truer, more natural fit-after all, these would be shoes for chillin’. Though technically sound, the Gravis project focused more on creative styling and progressive practicality.

Before the Gravis wheels started turning, Ricardo Camargo ran the boot program at Burton for a few years, and Alan Johnson was working for Scott USA as a sales manager. But in the fall of ’98, these two were sequestered in a windowless, fifteen-by-fifteen-foot room in the back of Burton headquarters. With heavy input from snowboarders, skaters, surfers, and fashionistas, they worked furiously to get Gravis off the ground. In this small room, the two became close friends.

As designs and plans took shape, it was clear they’d need more space and more manpower. Frank “Pooky” Fernandez was brought in to handle promotions and get momentum going for the team. He transplanted himself from New York City, where he ran Supreme-the city’s foremost skate- and urban-style store. They quickly outgrew the space at Burton and moved down to Pine Street in Burlington, Vermont. Things began to snowball-the staff was growing, as were the product line and distribution base. Plus, Pooky was putting together a mean, multi-sport team.

At Pine Street-a restored old factory building-the skeleton crew labored feverishly to keep up with the swelling demand. Products such as travel bags, backpacks, and clothing were developed, further fleshing-out the brand. Within a year, the staff had grown to about a dozen people-but soon this workspace, too, became cramped. Pooky recalls, “It was crazy, after a while I just started working from home so there’d be another chair in the office for someone to use.” In light of growing pains, Gravis has kept on track. Its current line consists of 24 shoes and nearly 100 colorways, along with the other gear the company’s pumping out. Team Manager Dave Mills credits the success of the brand with the riders. “Our team has so much input as to how the shoes should look and how they should perform. They really know what they want-which is great for us. These are the people out there traveling around, working and representing the company-they’re crucial to what we do here.” And the team is a talented, eclectic group, much like the staff behind Gravis.

The operation has moved again, to a more ample building. The new two-story building houses 26 employees-plus DJ tables, bikes, a few dogs, a new demo and showroom, and Pooky’s toy drum kit. This new space should contain the staff for a while. Embracing its creative, progressive roots, Gravis has just released a series of footbeds, which feature limited-edition artwork from a hand-select crew of globally renowned urban artists, including Stash, Futura, SSUR, Kostas, and Phil Frost.

Gravis Nocturnal is another exclusive offering-backing 100 of the world’s hottest DJs. Marketing Director Luis Calderin is hooking DJs like Greyboy, Mix Master Mike, and DJ Shadow, among others with a kit full of tricky little signature products. Calderin calls the low-key effort, “Expanding our family, recognizing our influences.” Inventive undertakings like this keep things fun for the Gravis crew, and leave everyone guessing. Is it a shoe company or an art project? Maybe it’s a little of both.

Daily Ops Team ListMichi AlbinKeir DillonBryan IguchiAnne Molin KongsgaardErik LeinesJaime MacLeodJason McAlister