The Tim Gavin Interview
We think Tim Gavin might be even more prolific in skateboarding off the board than on it. If ever there was a way to follow up an eleven year pro career it would be by founding companies like Lakai, Matix, DVS, and more recently, PORT LBC, Knox Hardware and Filament Brand. Instead of descending into TM obscurity and talking about the good 'ol days, The Gav has built multi-million dollar brands and seems on a singleminded mission to take skateboarding's apparel industry back from the Dark Men who have infiltrated it. And did we mention he's got one of the great frontside heelflips of all time?
This is The Tim Gavin Interview
When’s the last time you were on a skateboard? You still got it?
The other day I was cruising around with my kids. I mean I got a little something but you won’t see me in Street League anytime soon.
What was your worst fat guy moment back in the day?
Everyday I went to tie my shoes and I was out of breath!! Feeling fat is the absolute worst!!
You’re pretty damn healthy these days yeah? When you feel like pigging out, what’s the go to?
When I first got on my regimine I lost 35lbs in 3 month’s. I was militant about working out and eating right. I let loose a little bit as of late, sweets are what gets me these days. Chocolate is just insane.
You still drink beer at all? Smoke weed?
NO, I’m so focused on my business that I can’t have those distractions.
How did you initially find yourself in the shoe business? We understand you had financial backing, but making shoes seems like a pretty niche skill set... Did you go to aglet school?
I first got into the shoe business when I started DVS back in 1995. It was trial and error and live and learn as I went thru it. I got my GED as I left highschool to move out to California to live with Guy Mariano. So, I chose skateboarding over school and it worked out to no surprise. Skateboarding has given me everything. Its taught me business and I never went to school for business. You just need a good team around you and you need to have the drive and focus to succeed and anyone can pull it off with the right tools around you.
Do shoes have better profit margins than most other skate goods?
Depends, in the beginning when your volume is low you pay a higher price per shoe so, it's hard to say. As a new company we are fighting every day to make this shoe company work the right way and it's not about making a ton of money in the beginning, it's about establishing a new skater owned shoe company that has a core vision in mind for the consumer and the retailers quite frankly.
Click to watch Tim & Henry's Pack of Lies
We were lurking on your LinkedIn page a bit... Was 2012 the most hectic year of your life? Seems like you had about a billion career transitions happening all at once.
Yes, no question. I had just sold DVS, Matix and Lakai and was given a lot of opportunities but I knew what I wanted to do and I knew what this industry needed. I know there are a lot of corporate footwear brands out today but I strongly feel that a new core footwear company is needed for our industry to maintain its integrity. The industry is loosing its core values and its going to implode if we all do not support one another. Every core retailer will look like a footlocker soon and they will all look the same. SCARY.
How was it you were involved with both DVS and Lakai at the same time? How was that not considered a conflict of interest?
NO, I had a vision. I wanted to take DVS Distsribution broad, as my partners had genuine interests outside of skateboarding. But my longtime friends Rick Howard and Mike Carrolll wanted to do a shoe company so I wanted to create a core skate shoe brand that would not compete with the same distribution model DVS had.
You ever accidentally walk into the wrong place wearing the wrong brand shoes?
I support my friends so sometimes I’ll wear a pair of my friends brand to support them but no, I really love the new Filament vulc shoes that we have coming out in August that I wear literally everyday.
How does it feel building brands most of your life and then suddenly you’re no longer a part of them and they carry on without you?
It's business, not to sound cliché but we go thru life with changes. It's just how you handle those changes. No one is owed anything you have to go and get it and work hard.
Do you still ever look at current ads for those brands and think, “I would’ve done this or that differently.”?
No, I don’t look at those brands. I focus on my current brands.
Do you think the skateboard industry would be more successful if everyone took a class on supply chain management?
Yes, no question about it. That is going to be a key issue when the corporate brands just flood core accounts and demand them to take X amount of business that the core retailer really has no business selling. It is plain as day whats happening out there.
How are the challenges of Filament different than past brands you’ve worked with? Is it any easier for you to launch a brand and get it in stores given all of your existing connections in the industry?
There are too many corporate brands buying real estate on the shoe wall at retail. There are about 4 brands that are demonating the shoe game and none of them really care about skateboarding!!!!
Click to watch Park Crashers featuring Filament Brand
What other forays of fashion footwear do you intend to pursue with Filament Brand other than skate shoes?
I feel a lot of kids might have a 2nd or 3rd pair of shoes in their closet that aren’t necessarily skate shoes, those are the styles that I want to get into down the road.
Is it hard to evangelize things like craftsmanship and superior materials to kids you’re marketing to when all they want to know is who skates your shoe?
I disagree. Kids are smart and they don’t have a ton of disposable income to spend constantly on shoes. So shoes that have comfort, durability and are conducive to skateboarding will be return customers. Product prevails in any market.
What does it take to launch a hardware company? It seems like a fairly ubiquitous product that has more to do with branding than anything else... Kinda like bottled water. Are we wrong?
KNOX Hardware is going to be a rad company when we get it up and running. We just signed Chris Joslin and we have a lot of super unique hardgoods coming out that are a different look and feel than whats out there.
What can you tell us about PORT LBC?
PORT LBC is a clothing brand that my friend Jim Leatherman and I started back 5 years ago. It’s a retail store in Long Beach, CA and the clothing was stuff we made that our personalities were incorporated into. We love making clothing and product that we actually wanna wear and the response on PORT has been super rad. Theres so much of the same product vibe out there so I feel there is a space for PORT definitlely.
You launched DVS, Matix and Lakai only a few years time and ran all three simultaneously... Now you’ve got Filament Brand, Knox Hardward and Port LBC... Do you have a short attention span? Is the responsibility of running just one company boring? Do you think if you put all of your energy into just one brand instead of three it would be more successful?
No, I always have firmly believed in a multi brand strategy. I have partners in each brand so with strong direction, a road map established for each and great product why not have more than one brand.
How do you go about selecting ambassadors for Filament? What if there was a really cool, independent skate site authored by two individuals who would totally wear the shoes you send them? Think they could become ambassadors?
Absolutely, anyone that has a love for skateboarding that has a creative expression behind them can be an ambassador to the brand, 100%. Obviously each individual needs to have a keen style to them that we feel is a good match.
Click to watch Park Crashers featuring Knox Hardware
Let’s talk 90’s for a bit... Got any good stories from the H-Street house worth telling?
I remember meeting Eric Koston for the first time. I took him under my wing but I remember him walking in looking goofy with sweat lines in his hat and some baggy ass clothing and Sal Barbier and I were just clowning him .
You’ve mentioned in the past there being some extra footage from Pack of Lies... Did that eventually ever get to see the light of day?
Socrates Leal who filmed us has that footage. I haven’t seen it but I would love for it to come out some day. I’m talking to the berrics to see if they would want to do a retrospective on that video.
How did you convince your parents at 15 to let a dude like Steve Rocco fly you out to LA every weekend?
Because we were his future and he knew it!
As a parent, if your kid came to you and asked to do the same thing would you let them?
Any shady moments kickin’ it with Rocco that still stand out to you?
Yeah, I’ll share those with you in person.
Once everyone dipped out for Girl, where did you live? Were you old enough to be living on your own in California by then?
I took Koston under my wing and him and I got an apartment in Hollywood that everyone stayed at basically.
Where is that spot with the 3, ledge, down, 3 everyone skated in Goldfish? The one you heelflipped over a barrier off of?
California State University, I forget which one but its kind of by downtown LA.
Click to watch Tim Gavin in Girl Skateboards "Goldfish"
Best advice you ever got from Gonz? Or from anybody else worthy of note?
Make sure to have balance on your board and practice manuals on the daily.
Greatest un-sung skate legend of the 90’s?
Best frontside heelflip you’ve ever seen?
Alright, that’s probably enough interrogating... What’re you going to do now that you’ve finished all these damn questions?