When éS disappeared from the shelves almost overnight back in 2011, many of us couldn’t believe what we were witnessing. One of the most-respected and loved brands in skateboarding crushed by the Goliaths of the sportswear industry? Another victim to the global recession that hit sports and leisure? Whatever it was, we were left disappointed and a little wary for the future: if one of the best brands ever couldn’t survive, what more bad news could we expect?
But, just as quickly as they disappeared, we heard that éS was coming back! We’ve had a good look at the first three models to hit the skate shops already – and we’re impressed.
Our friend at Sole Technology, Tom Henshaw, kindly connected us with founder and CEO Pierre-André Senizergues (pronounced ‘Sin-e-zerg‘, in case you were wondering) for a chat about the exciting return of one of our favourite brands.
Hi Pierre-André. To kick off with, could you give us a quick overview of your background. We know that there’s more to you than people might realise!
I am a skateboarder: I discovered skateboarding in 1978, and from there it became my passion. I had a dream to go to America and skate in California and I ended up riding for Sims as a professional skater, which was great, as that was my favourite brand growing up. When I turned pro, that was a dream come true for me. Still today, that brand is pretty amazing: if you look at the imagery and graphics from the early years of Sims, it’s still amazing.
It’s funny how so many of the freestyle skaters of the mid-late ’80s have gone on to have great success in the skate industry… You’re a perfect example of that!
In a way, as freestyle skaters, we had to create and innovate back then, so maybe that has translated. We had to push the tricks all the time – and the world is tricky!
As my professional career developed, I had a lot of problems with skate shoes and although I was sponsored by a lot of different companies, I couldn’t find the right one for me. Shoes kept falling apart and none of them really seemed to be made for skateboarding. So I started Etnies in the US first. The original idea was to make skate shoes that had a very good board feel, that were durable and would absorb impact. Until that point, we were using a lot of duct tape or Shoe Goo on our shoes to try and make them last. We were the first shoe company where the products were actually made by skateboarders: we had gradual success and in 1995 I wanted to create some new brands around skateboarding and start a movement, rather than just one brand. So I started éS in ’95 and in ’96 I started Emerica – they were all meant to be targeted towards different types of skateboarders, as skaters had different types of personalities. éS was definitely a brand that was developed for people who were interested in style and design. People who were interested in advancing innovation.
I always thought of éS as a brand that bridged the gap between performance and lifestyle. You’d see a lot of skaters who’d be wearing the shoes when they weren’t actually skating too, which was interesting.
Yes: there was nothing like this on the market at that point. Some of the bigger sport brands that have tried since, but you look at the shoe and wonder how people can wear that! éS tried to be a little more sophisticated than the regular skate shoes, but still focused on performance.
So why did you take éS off the market in 2011?
When éS started, I felt there weren’t enough skateboard shoes, or brands that really represented diversity in skateboarding, so I started my brands to create a movement. When we hit the global recession around 2008, I realised that there were so many brands at that point. I was more interested in keeping the focus on a few really good brands rather than spreading it across so many different ones. So I decided to put éS on ‘creative retreat’ throughout 2012 – I knew it would come back, but it would be down to timing so we could rethink what was happening in skateboarding. The term ‘creative retreat’ is a place in our minds where we can be free and independent – in many ways, it ties back to skateboarding. We can think independently and create new things. We’ve worked hard with the team here at Sole Technology to look at the world and think about what could be coming in skateboarding and what éS can contribute.
Was there a particular reason that made you decide to bring it back now? It felt like it got taken away really quickly… and this relaunch seems just as spontaneous.
In a way, it’s not officially ‘back’: it’s still in creative retreat. When we took it away, we knew it was still a good brand. We realised just how iconic it was when we saw people buying up the old product and we started getting calls from a lot of people asking if they could get some shoes. We got so much demand, especially from Japan – which wasn’t that surprising, as the people in Japan have always been extremely loyal. They asked if they could get hold of some pairs of the original Accel model in the original colours: the black, the brown and the white. I designed that shoe in 1995 but they were still asking for it! So, I said, ‘yes, and I’ll make a new colour that didn’t exist before too’ – a red one, with a white outsole and gum – and we dropped some into the stores in November. To our surprise, it became the number one shoe right away.
We realised just how many people loved the brand, so we thought that maybe we should drop some more shoes. We had some really good designs that we’d been working on. I like the Accel – I really like the shape – but I also like what’s happening today with cup soles and vulcanised soles. I work with a group of designers here at Sole Tech – my biggest passion is still designing shoes – and we asked the designers to create three new models based around the Accel: the AcceLite, Accelerate and Accent.
The reason for being on creative retreat and returning now is that we need a return to authenticity. We need to have more face-to-face contact – in this digital age we shouldn’t lose our own identities. As everything is global, we shouldn’t neglect things locally too. We decided to drop these shoes into selected skate shops that represent the community where they come from and, most importantly, they have to have the passion for skateboarding. We chose mid February to launch these, as Valentine’s Day is a good time to show that we love skateboarding!
We like the way that this has been done. A lot of brands just continually flood the market with new product, but you’ve put some serious consideration into what you’re doing here. Once these three models are out, what’s the next step? Will you be putting together a new team?
At the moment, we’re purely focused on design and product right now. We have to keep focused on that and the community aspect of skateboarding right now. That’s the key. Technically, we’re still on our creative retreat, so I’m not certain what the plans are right now for creating a team at this point.
We’re dropping three styles, with each style having two colourways: red and black. There will only be 8 pairs of each colourway in each store. We want to keep it limited and make it special for these shops that will be carrying the line. The red and black packs are dropping now, with another pack dropping in March in navy.
What are your personal plans for the near future?
I’m still involved in every brand we have at Sole Tech: Altamont, Thirty-Two, Emerica, Etnies… and, of course, éS. I don’t sleep much but I have a fantastic life!
Well, we’d like to send our congratulations to you and the team for the return of éS and also for all the amazing work we’ve seen over the past few years from Emerica and all of the other Sole Tech brands.
Some images and ads from the éS archives:
The new éS shoe range: the ACCELITE, ACCELERATE & ACCENT: