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Mike's Mash | June 2011

June 30, 2011

Mike's Mash Up
Michael Akira West is the Owner and Creative Director of 686 Technical Apparel. The following are some of his experiences inside and out of the industry across the globe.  *Add Comments at Bottom of Page!

The World Famous Ironman
June 30, 2011 

Yes, July 4th is around the corner and we’re continuing the tradition for the past 39 years and putting on the world famous Ironman (no not that one). Our homeboy, Mel crafted the artwork together and as always, he killed it.


this special event, we’re giving away a few custom 686 x Ironman boardshorts starting Friday at


Besides everyone trying to stop the event for nearly four decades, the event will always continue. It’s probably the only time of the year we get to act like idiots, but then again, probably not. If you don’t know what it is, I’ll spare you the details and the best way to understand it is to watch the video below.

2010 Hermosa Beach Ironman from Phillip Rogna on Vimeo.

June 29, 2011 

Just when I thought that winter was over, it's back. Can’t deny the progressive shit that our boy, Forest, is up to. Check what Givin’s doing with their latest “One” teaser with Mr. Bailey.

GIVIN presents 'One' the teaser from Jon Francis on Vimeo.

Research & Design
June 28, 2011 

We’re just about to deliver our 3rd season of the NB 686 boot line up and on the finishing touches of the 4th collection. One of the perks of our ongoing relationship is that I get to be part of the cool things coming up. Bean town is about 2600 miles east from LA, but if you’re like me, 24 hr. trips ain’t no thing. A red eye flight, no sleep and a few hours to their Global Design facility in Lawrence, MA... I’m here.


Lawrence is a working man’s town, but you wouldn’t notice it from this view of the Merrimack River.


On the right, probably the longest manufacturing building I’ve ever seen.


Few heads get to come inside here, so I’m limited to what I can show. Lets start here.




Ideas, ideas, ideas.


Tinker this.


If I had one request, it would be to have one of these in my office.


Rapid proto-typing makes it a lot better. Can you believe this came out of that machine?




Team 33, circa 2007.


Made in USA- Semper Fi!


The New Balance mantra is Quality-Fit-Heritage-Performance and most importantly the only footwear company in the world that produces footwear in the USA. Did you know that NB has their own shop in the Pentagon? The swoosh got nothing on this Son!


Don’t believe me, just ask Bob.

June 27, 2011 

Modern design is often interpreted by the symmetry of lines from point A to B. This simple, yet complex process has naturally drawn my attention over my career. I think it's also a reason why I’ve always been interested in architecture. Anytime there’s a reason to learn more about this, I’m there. Dwell Design was over the weekend and it's more of a reason to check out some homes around the way.

Geometric lines come in all shapes and sizes.


They also come in different forms of textures.


Slope this.


Floating back.


Floating front.


Up, side and down.

New Work
June 24, 2011 

Chinatown in DTLA has been slowly growing into its own. With the steady youth uprising happening all over town, the art scene in Chinatown is very small but promising. A few days ago, I stopped by to see what was going on. Chung King Road looks the same just as it did 20 years ago.


The things that have changed are the people. There’s a steady movement of young artists making their own name. Case in point is at POV.


My friend, Marco Zamora, was showing his New Work exhibition before he headed out of the country for a minute.


Let's take an iphone look.





Thanks Marco- Safe travels wherever the future takes you.

Coming Soon…
June 23, 2011 

Stay tuned for something that you’ve never seen before. Coming November 1st.


June 22, 2011 

Bad tattoos x laser removal = Pain in all shapes and forms.


Teva’s x Socks = No clue.


June 21, 2011 

A few days ago, I was out in Hollywood finishing up some meetings when my homie Eric texted me. “Are you going to the Design for Humanity gig?” Soon after I realized that it's been well over a year since the last time I was there, I headed down the street to Paramount studios to meet up. This year, the 5th annual event was bigger and "more" than ever- More people, more skin to show (bikinis on the boulevard), more drinks to flow (Pelli in the house), more music to listen to (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros ruled), more art to bid (I won this year), more food to eat (Grilled Cheese truck!) and more importantly, more of a reason to give (Benefiting the VH1 Save the Music Foundation). Since my camera took a dive, the iphone will have to do this week.






Or better yet, watch the video to see it for real.

2011 Design For Humanity fashion, music, art event from Billabong Girls on Vimeo.

9.5 Miles- Ain't No Thang
June 20, 2011 

Fresh off the plane from the long haul in Asia, we had our monthly work outing over the weekend. Let me explain- it's a given that we all work our asses off in the offices, so I wanted to make it mandatory that we get outside and do something. We headed out of LA about 1-1/2 hours from the beach area to the San Gabriel Mountains. If you recall, I did this so called “hike” last year, so I wanted to share it with my crew. It was a great day- not too hot, not many people around, perfect for the 9.5 mile hike to the Bridge to Nowhere. Newly appointed TM, Mr. Pat McCarthy spraying it all down.


Fuel the charge.




Over the hills and through the streams.


Dangerous animals lurking.


Yeah, that way.


Pat and I leading the charge.




(photos by Marc Vasquez)

The Process- Part 2
June 17, 2011 

This trip may look like a vaca, but it's far from it... heads that know me, know that I’m always moving, always working, always thinking, always hustling. My process is never just one thing. It leads to many but there's a constant goal to create unique products and services that have substance behind it. Quality and Craftsmanship is at its core and never just one person that defines the final product- We are a team of like-minded, quirky SOB’s that are in it for the long run.

Behind the battlefield of production, it’s a war room of countless teams of people in multiple regions of the world. Here is a non-descript location somewhere in China where our lead factory is. A lot of time and $ has been invested here over the 13 years we’ve been with them. It looks messy, but there’s a lot of shit going on.


Yes, it takes about 2 years when we start to design products, until it hits stockists shelves. From the conceptual phase of inspirations, color stories, historical info to the design phase of sketching, illustrating, spec-ing to the developmental phase of new concepts/features, fabrics, waterproof/breathable technologies and engineering to the final merchandising phase of architectural directing, there’s a lot of shit that goes on which is nearly invisible to the outside. Its all good, but we do it one more time before it goes to final production. What I mean is once we get protos and samples, we test the hell out of it. From our world class team of riders to our reps, distributors, shops and our in house crew (including myself) we all critique the shit out of it. We make the improvements and mark up the garment like this.


Final protos are made and approved. Then the production process kinda starts like this. Every aspect of the complex jacket is made into a pattern of hundreds of pieces.


Pattern makers are the architects of the process. Better have a good one or you’re gonna lose.


Once patterns are designed via the computer they can be made into other formats such as paper patterns.


Cut, cut, cut- Yes, we recycle these.


Prep the fabrics Maestro!


Did I mention that its important to have a good pattern maker and marker?


These dudes are sharp.


To a normal factory, this is trash. To 686, this is part of our ongoing Reclaim Project of using existing left over materials and trims for a new life. Stay tuned…


Fast forward to the sewing process. Every aspect of the garment is constructed by hand with help of the machine.


Just one part- Our patented pass pocket wrist cuff.


Trim placements are marked...


and checked before applying.


Metal parts are tapped


and capped.


Seams are waterproofed


and tested.


Panels are individually checked


and gathered to be assembled.


Finishing takes on a different process of trimming, cleaning, steaming, tagging, folding, and the final 686 QC standards. Not only do I need to check it out myself, I want to make sure it's according to our specs, including every detail you can and cannot see.


Hand # those boxes.


Pack 'em and ship 'em.

The Process- Part 1
June 16, 2011 

I used to think that doing something was purely to get things done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m obsessed with finishing what I started, but my wisdom has shown me that “living” is something you do over time. Hence I like to explore and always make my journey different each time. The process is much more important to me now than ever. Out of Vietnam and straight into China... here’s a few snippets of the quick trip.

Good morning.


If you go fast enough, this thing can really fly.


In China weather changes fast. One minute it's overcast, the next it's pouring rain. You can’t see it here, but there’s a family of 6 under this scooter jacket.






I always give Mr. G shit that he smokes too much. He tells me to screw off, then continues to do his biz.


Yeah, right back at you.


Every office or factory you go to, there’s always a mini shrine. Asian culture is religious in all aspects. Here, I’m praying that my goods will come off line in time…


Kinda looks familiar.


What do you think?

Good Morning Vietnam- Part 2
June 15, 2011 

My trip to Southern Vietnam was shorter than ever. Time was tight and I didn’t want to check out random oddities, however, there’s always room for the food. How about some Pepsi?


Around the way from our office is some of the best Vietnamese lunch joints. I wonder who makes it better?


Chalk one down for the South.


Damn those are some big ass snails.


Grill 'em all!




Scary but tasty.


Yes, I am here for work, but I can’t show you too much or else this special ops trained security officer will take me down.


See it even says it here.


Ok, maybe just a little, but that’s it for now…

Good Morning Vietnam- Part 1
June 14, 2011 

As Mr. Williams would say...


If you haven’t noticed, I’m doing our annual Asia Production trip. For the past 19 years, I’ve personally inspected our products with my production crew about this time of the year. As we finalize our orders in mid-February, the production of goods is already in effect. Around late May to beginning June, our first batch of orders are already shipping out. Since we guarantee every product we make, it's mandatory that we do the face to face and I sign off before it's sent out.

In Asia, breakfast is included even at the dive hotels. Contrary to lots of others that do these trips, I stay away from fancy westernized star-rated hotels. I wanna go as local as possible to get the real experience. As long as the room is clean, has internet and the breakfast is good, I’m good.


Don’t know if my man G is good. Please drink your coffee.


The thing about big cities in Vietnam- traffic sucks, big time.


Scooter hell.


Gotta be efficient.


I’m no boss.

June 13, 2011 

Guess where I’m at?


Any ideas…


Respect the respect.


Hint- In this alley, the “delicacy” is Snake Penis.


Gotta get outta here, stat. Yes, more my style.


Aight- I’m at the Taiwan Night market where everything and anything is available for the right price.




Street food at its finest.


A little Aloha to tap off my night.

Inside Out
June 10, 2011 

Hailing from Southern California, its mandatory you’re outside. The weather’s always nice and we keep it casual. When I started to remodel my pad a few years back, I wanted to accentuate the Cali lifestyle in the design. Things turned out cool, but when I saw this little design from Brazilian designer, Fernanda Marques, I nearly shit my pants. The multiple textures of natural elements, the geometric clean lines and the modern approach to living is at the top of my list. Big ups Brazil.

The Worse Logos- Part 1
June 9, 2011 

When there’s good, there’s always bad. Actually there’s a grip of crappy logos out there- too many to list. Here’s a few you may or may not have seen.

I remember about 10 years ago, when we designed this pant that had curved colorblock patches near the crotch area. This was during the good ole days of stripes with piping accents. Unfortunately, we got carried away and didn’t realize that after it's worn, the curved areas looked like someone wearing a g-string. I truly think this place didn’t realize what they were doing until after the fact- or did they…


No I’m not a dirty old man, but sometimes you have to wonder what the hell people were thinking when they name their brand, let alone create a logo that further dilutes the purpose... oh well.


This is a good example of over-doing it. Some people may think its ok, but in my mind, a good logo is simple, timeless and doesn’t try too hard. I think the dude making this one was a little confused or just too agro.

The Best Logos- Part 1
June 8, 2011 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to logos, it can be the difference between success or failure in biz. There’s been countless interpretations of what’s good, but let me give you a brief rundown on what I think is the best and why.

Yes, we’ve all seen it and probably use it as well, but Fed Ex, (i.e. Federal Express) is a true example of a great logo which interprets into a great business. A true pioneer in the world of “overnight delivery” service, the revised abbreviation of the logo is short and sweet- Two colors that visually interpret their service in a timeless bold font style.


Too many nods to the “swoosh” but it's one of the best for a reason. When a shaped logo without text can mean so much to the world that’s a powerful thing. Originated from a Portland design student in 1971, the one color, curved shaped brings harmony and strength at the same time.


The rings of the Olympic games is probably one of the most costly logos to produce due to the multiple colors, however it's probably one of the worlds best. The symbolic nature of Rings brings Unity front and center in the universal language of sportsmanship.


The best logo doesn’t have to be a billion dollar biz. I really like this logo for a few reasons.

1) It can be split into two versions- One with and one without the cup logo.
2) It can be one color or multiple.
3) Like Fed Ex, the logo or brand name is descriptive to the actual service. It's not confusing and it's straight to the point.
4) The only downer is that you might have a tough time trademarking papercups, but you can trademark the actual cup illustration.

I Command You
June 7, 2011 

The most powerful brands can make you do some pretty incredible things without actually telling you to do so. Apple is considered the world’s best and has literally created cults with ordinary people. Last week, there’s been reports that a 17 year old kid from China actually sold his kidney in order to purchase an iPad 2. You joke about it, but it's kinda scary when someone actually does it. I love my iPad, but I’ll keep my left nut.

It makes me quite sad to report this, but a young 17-year old student from Eastern China has sold a kidney in order to purchase an iPad 2, if reports from The Global Times are to be believed.

The most powerful brands can make you do some pretty incredible things without actually telling you to do so. Apple is considered the world’s best and has literally created cults with ordinary people. Last week, there’s been reports that a 17 year old kid from China actually sold his kidney in order to purchase an iPad 2. You joke about it, but it's kinda scary when someone actually does it. I love my iPad, but I’ll keep my left nut.

They Don’t Make 'Em How They Used To…
June 6, 2011 

…and it's probably a good thing. I ran across this little pointy thing the other day and it brought back a shit load of memories.


Cross rocket, back scratchers, butter nose blunts and a bunch of other silly stuff I used to do on my board a while ago. Bert Lamar was the man back in 1990 and I guess Look also agreed and gave him a pro model.


I had this board back then and recall actually using the nose as a weapon.


Surf's up bro- gotta strap on my leash and go go go.


Check Bert go go go at Summit.

June 3, 2011 

I'm a car guy for life, but for me it's either rugged and tough or classic and cool. The Euro supersport machines are dope, but they never really appealed to me like a US made 64 rust-free continental would. However it's fascinating to see what the Italians have conjured up. Named after a famous Spanish bull legend, check out Lambo's new 700 hp Aventador.

Lamborghini Aventador from Sehsucht™ on Vimeo.

Forever Forward
June 2, 2011 

The spirit of being independent starts with the passion to do your own thing. There is no road map on how to get things done. It's up to each individual on which direction he or she chooses to go. A lot of it belongs to the passion of "doing" and finding your own way in what success really means. Most of the time you know when it feels right. One example is what Dustin from Cadence has done with his upcoming brand of apparel and related accessories in the track bike world. I mashed about it last year and DK keeps coming up with new ideas definitely worth looking at. Please support the independents.

The Grand Prix


The Reversible


Forever Forward-big ups DK/BD!



June 1, 2011 

We get quite a bit of submissions of random 686 findings- Lots of license plates, phone #'s, receipts and even some tattoos, however, I think this is the first time I've seen something like this.


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