Mike's Mash | June 2012
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!
Idea's Coming Soon
June 29, 2012
June 28, 2012
There are a few things that I enjoy more than anything else. Good food x Good people is at the top of the list. With both our crazy schedules, it took some time to meet up with my friend, Will. Will’s the founder and fearless leader of Dragon Alliance. He started the optical company about the same time I started 686 close to twenty years ago. After a roller coaster ride and an incredible season, he recently sold his business to Marchon (one of the largest optics companies in the world). We rapped about this past winter season, the change in retail, the need for the small guys, living and learning. I’m stoked for him and the entire Dragon Alliance. Their ride is only just beginning. Stay tuned. . .
June 27, 2012
After mashing about Rodney at TEDx, I remembered a post I did a few years ago about designer, Stefan Sagmeister. The thought about “retiring” may be distant for a lot of us, let alone what that really means when we’re ready doing it. I wanted to send a little reminder to ya’ll about the idea of splitting the “retirement” idea into a lifelong process.
The most intelligent man in Skateboarding
June 26, 2012
During my amateur photographer days skateboarding in Hermosa Beach, I vividly remember meeting for the first time, a quirky dude named Rodney. Super tight shorts, no shirt and a funky and contagious laugh. Rodney Mullen is one of the legendary Bone Brigade members and a freestyle champ. Keep in mind, freestyle skateboarders were a different breed. I think back in the 80’s, it was more accepted as something different (however it was still accepted as skateboarding vs. what heads think today about longboarding). As skateboarding progressed into the 90’s and into the new millennium, freestyle nearly disappeared and anyone that associated in this realm, were outcasts. Ironically in the skateboarding world today, freestyle skateboarders pretty much rule the industry. From Pierre Andre at Sole Tech, Kevin Harris at Ultimate Distribution, Per Welinder at Blitz, Frank Messmann at Black Box and Rocco retiring from World Industries/Duffs/Big Brother/Blind/101. Rodney Mullen was Rocco’s partner during the heyday, but what set him apart from anyone else in the industry were two things. He’s the only one that transitioned from freestyle to street in a reputable manner AND he’s incredibly intelligent. Don’t know if y’all seen this, but Rodney was invited to the USC campus for TED’s iconic leadership series. Always stoked to see him do his thing.
Close but no cigar
June 25, 2012
We’re a brand by the people, for the people. We’re blessed to have relationships with incredible people, retailers, riders, reps, fans, personalities. If along the way, we can carry forward this standard to others, we do it. This past week has been incredibly exhausting and all I can say is we were “close, but no cigar.”
June 22, 2012
Enjoy the weekend
June 21, 2012
I feel like a kid on Christmas day every time I come back from a trip. Look what’s sitting on my desk
Hello black, red, blue and pink
Finally a place to put all my ideas
Black and …
Rider Owned and Operated
June 20, 2012
When I first started 686 in the early 90’s, we had a joke around the office, “we get the job done right the 3rd time around.” It wasn’t that we didn’t care how it was done, it was because we didn’t know what we were doing. So it took a few times to get it right. With anything new, this is a natural process. Now a days we do it to get it right the first time.
Everyone at 686 bleeds the brand and most importantly have a “say” in what we do. From the person sweeping the floors to the girls in accounting to my right and left heads, all ride. Our faction of athletes are the core of who we all are. A few days ago some of our team dropped by the Westlife neighborhood. Interestingly enough, we were working on some futuristic designs, so they all chimed into to say what’s up. Phil, Joanna and RP rapping with the design crew.
All the while, 686 general Pat McCarthy can’t keep his hands off our new Smarty Compression liners, coming your way September 1st.
Xgames Street Silver medalist, RP likes to touch and feel
Senior technical designer, Leila breaks the fabric and color process to the posse. BLACK is BACK!
Made in “_________”
June 19, 2012
You walk into a store, you like what you see, you buy it, you use it, you throw it away (repeat). As simple as this sounds, it’s what a lot of heads do when they buy something. Do you really think about how many hands it passes to make it or where it actually originated? To most, hell nah. If the price is right and you're into it, you get it. Simple as that. To me, it's quite the opposite, as I’m one of those hands in a lengthy design-development-manufacturing process. I grew up learning what it took by doing it yourself twenty years ago on 6th and San Pedro, downtown LA. Back then, one of my homies, Mike Maceda, took me under his wing to show me this handmade process of designing, pattern making, marking, grading, cutting, sewing. The rest is history with 686 technical apparel. Mike’s been all over the world and back and is still going strong today. What up holmes?
Mike, aka “Atomic” has been hustling for three decades doing way too much shit. His latest joint by day is ring leader for one of the best Bag manufacturing in the states. They do it from concept to delivery using American Made materials and trims. The US Military is one of their clients
His other side gig
I think he told me not to shoot any of his upcoming prototypes. Oh well, I have bad hearing
Coming soon via Full Clip
Special ops, Seals, SWAT, they all come see Mike and tell them what they need
Every aspect of the mfg process is done here
Let's take a walk around and see what else I can find
. . . . . and ACTION!
We’re coming in hot with some fresh things this Fall. What you got there, son?
Some sneak peaks behind the scenes. It all starts with a concept that somehow turns into storyboards
That somehow turns into too many people invading our “office”
Roll film, action!
June 14, 2012
Good thing about Dim Sum is that your food comes out FAST in small portions
Bad thing is that you never know what’s inside these little puppies
Work (still) in Progress
June 13, 2012
For those checking out the Mash Up’s over the years, you probably know that I was (I mean am still) under construction on our headquarters in LA. I haven’t mashed about it for a minute because we’ve been held up for just as long. You name it- -the city, general contractor, bank, subcontractors, myself and all of the above. REWIND---About 2-1/2 years ago, we moved from Orange County back to our roots in Los Angeles. I found a few acres with an industrial old truck warehouse and had a dream to gut it and make it our own. The dream's still alive and kicking, but construction has been difficult to say the least. We’ve been at temporary locations in LA and have never quite settled in our own home just yet. However we’re finally back on track, and I’m proud to say we’ve finished framing, rough plumbing and electrical! You can see through my eyes and “imagine” what it will look like. This will be the back art gallery and photo studio
Front foyer lobby, complete with custom built in reclaimed furniture, bike racks, reception, etc.
I’m making a living green plant wall that stretches nearly 20’ high above the reception
We’ll have four glass enclosed showrooms with brand stories of our various projects under Westlife Distribution
Upstairs will house all our Creative, complete with Design, Development, Production, Engineering, Testing and Tinkering. Here’s one side of it:
My home away from home
It’s all about the prep and rough. Word to the wise, get subs that know how to do things like recess track lights into the drywall (instead of putting them on later). When you deal with heads that don’t know, it takes twice as long and twice as much.
Coming next, INSULATION
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
June 12, 2012
Chris “Lewds” Natalio Family
Rest in Peace
Born into Life. Born into Eternity
June 11, 2012
I received a text from my friend Jeri, who’s the chief scionist at Scion, “We’re having a formal dinner to celebrate 10 years. Come down.” I quickly thought, “Formal dinner for Scion?” With my recent travels, I’ve been stubborn to do anything that involves getting into a vehicle. When I found out that she was hosting (and speaking) at the dinner with Prince Paul, I had to roll by. Congrats on 10
Since day one, we’ve been working on miscellaneous projects for the car company. WHY? Cuz they do some cool shit.
3 feet high and rising
Sir Prince Paul
June 8, 2012
The Medium is the Message
June 6, 2012
According to Shepard’s manifesto about, “the OBEY sticker campaign can be explained as an experiment in Phenomenology. Heidegger describes Phenomenology as “the process of letting things manifest themselves.” Phenomenology attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation.” Realizing & Reacting is something everyone experiences in their own manner.
Through Shepard’s life experiences, he’s enabled many people across the globe to realize this process and inspired them at the same time. I worked with Shepard and Amanda during the turn of the millennium and we did some fun things in the world of technical 686 apparel. When I look back, I think we were a little ahead of our time when it launched. The heads that understood it, went crazy for it, but the rest didn’t quite get it. That’s what I like about doing special projects with creative minds. There is no road map, it just flows and takes a life of its own. Here’s a throwback to one of the Obey x 686 projects back in the day
Around the same time, a small group of visionaries within the industry saw similar things what Shepard was doing. A few conversations later, the Obey Clothing Co. was formed, which is based upon the DIY counterculture of punk rock music and art ideals of Shepard Fairey and his Phenomenology sticker campaign. Last week, I stopped by to see some old friends. Don and Chris who run the Obey Clothing Co. along with uber designers Mike and Erin and a few other partners. In my mind they’ve been the ideal model on what it takes to make it in this world. (Not in the sense that there really successful (which they are), but more in the manner that they're doing it on their own terms with the utmost integrity behind the brand, the message and the name. They’ve recently moved into their new facilities in Irvine. Man, this place is a lot different than their old joint in a big way. Btw, I think I know where this came from.
You probably can’t notice it from the photo, but the main showroom is quite large
Hey guys. Sorry to barge in on lunch time
What you eating there, Chris?
The PEOPLE of Obey make Obey
Their HQ’s is absolutely huge with open creative spaces from all facets of a totally vertical company-design, development, production, sales, marketing, admin, etc. However what makes them even more unique is that they print nearly all of their print-wear themselves! (Take it from someone that use to do it ion’s ago on a small scale, it’s a lot to manage in addition to doing everything else)
Oh yeah, they also ship the stuff themselves as well. (That’s what I mean when I say totally V-E-R-T-I-C-A-L)
Can you guys do me a favor and throw this in the goody box for me? Much appreciated
Like I mentioned before, the PEOPLE make Obey happen. Like Shepard’s experiment with Phenomenology, if you somehow touch the right points, things take a life of its own. When Don and I spoke, I can tell that this one of their core competencies in doing what they do. Yes, they went through all the trials and tribulations of starting a new biz and all the BS of running it, just like y’all that are trying to make it. But what clearly makes them one-of-a-kind is that they do it by keeping their heads down and letting their work do the talking. Word to the wise. Doing It Yourself carries a high level of responsibility. Make sure you have the right people on your team with similar intentions and a strong sense of integrity behind your message. Great rapping with you fellas
The Bald Mountain
June 4, 2012
No other mountain in Southern California compares to Mt Baldy. Since my days street skating in the South Bay to my shredding days at Bear, Mt. Baldy still remains the king of local mountains.
1) The infamous full pipe where Gator, Gibson and Miller all skated
2) The best natural terrain (when it dumps) for snowboarding (from back country to drops to vertical)
3) And now it's one of my go to spots for local hiking Since we didn’t have much of a winter this year, I might as well take advantage of the dirt.
The Devils Backbone trail at Mt. Baldy gets packed on the weekends, so get there early to make sure you hit the 11 mile hike right. Safety first kids
This is what my winter season looked like
The hike's not that difficult but also not easy. What's that green thing up ahead?
Hello green thing. This cabin is actually owned by the Sierra Club and was constructed by hand about 80 years ago. A lot of my homies have stayed here during the winter and split boarded down.
Warning-when you come up to Mt. Baldy, watch out for the bears and also men in skirts
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