Mike's Mash-Up 6/1/2013

Mike's Mash | June 2013

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!

99 problems
June 28, 2013

Hova doesn’t seem to have many problems these days, let alone 99 of them. On July 4th, Jay-Z will release his next album, Magna Carta Holy Grail with a little help from S. Korean mega giant, Samsung. They’ll be giving away 1 million downloads of Jay-Z’s latest. In preparation for world domination Samsung released this little incredible joint.

Snowboarders in Hell
June 27, 2013

Irony comes in many shapes and forms. My friend send me this little thing.

Dreams made here
June 26, 2013

After 3 long years of dealing with contractors, subs and the city, we’ve finally moved into our new headquarters. Stay tuned for a full update on the whacky things I’ve done to the building, coming soon.

Until then check out the sign we just put outside. #dreamsmadehere

Dwell & Create
June 25, 2013

I’m a student of learning. Long ago when I had the chance to start my little thing called 686, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. As a kid, you may have the drive and passion to do something, but you’re naïve and inexperienced. I combated this by first having a Point of View, but really by listening and learning from my peers and traveling across the globe. For me, the idea of listening and exploring outside will never stop. At the same time, I’ve always had the passion for Modern Architecture and the fascination for keeping things clean and simple.

Dwell magazine recently showcased their Dwell on Design Show in LA so I stopped by to see what’s up.

It all begins somewhere.

The draping of textiles can make or break a design.

Introducing the...

I need this.

LA has one of the best schools in the world for Design. Art Center in Pasadena and their Industrial Design dept kicks ass. Check out a student project on the re-branding of Craftsman, a la Heritage Edition.

Modern design involves the art of being clean. Take for instance the geometric lines of this chair.

While it transforms into this.

There are many interpretations of clean design. This company adds wall art to a common problem in households.

Underneath the visuals, house the wall plug.

Fridges are the core of the kitchen.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

A FLUSH always wins.

Chairs are extensions of a human body. Although we have legs and arms everyone is different including these.

Check out some highlights.

Support the next generation of whats next like the Minimalist wallet from Capsule.

Have fun-Keep it clean-Make it yours.

Matix show and tell
June 24, 2013

We just wrapped our Matix Spring 14 sales meeting at Westlife HQ. I couldn’t be more stoked for the El Matix Familia and all the incredible things we’ve managed to do in the past 11 months of having the brand. Considering it takes about a year from design to when it hits retail, Fall 13 will be the first season our stockists will finally see how we do it.

A few days ago, we brought about our reps and distributors to the HQ and went over plans for Spring 14. View from the top.

View from the bottom. Check El Presidente BD rallying the crew and making sure we have the right tools.

Literally, the right tools.

We also brought a tight crew of stockists from all parts of the states to tell us how we can do things better. We discussed topics from design to merchandising to marketing.

Spring 14 isn’t going to be out until about another 7 months but I’ll give you a sneak peak of what’s to come.

Our Matix Wovens kill it.

Shorty Shorts.

Later in the evening, we brought it all home and invited a few hundred of our closest friends for a banger to remember. Skateboard Mag documented the whole thing. Check it HERE. God Bless America.

Girl Power?
June 21, 2013

The French have a certain way of doing things. They eat there fries with mayo and they don’t call it French fries, there called “frites.” Although they have great taste in fashion, there a little “off” when it comes to picking the right moment to make a statement. Well I mean not all French people, just the radical French feminists. But I guess if this is the way they’re going to make a statement, I guess I’m cool with it.

June 20, 2013

I have this fascination with numbers...Those that know me know what this means. Those that don’t will have to deal with my numerical mashes. After Zach Snyder’s epic showcase, 300 in 2007, I was eagerly waiting what would be next. Well finally later this year, the sequel is finally out.

300: Rise of an Empire is gonna kick ass. I can’t wait!

One in None
June 19, 2013

When I started my business, I used a fax, a beeper and a land line. No mobile and no internet. Today it seems archaic that this didn’t exist back in the day. Being connected should be a right to everyone but in reality One out of thousands have no access to internet at all. The visionaries at Google are taking one step forward to see what can be done to allow proper communication via the internet to all through their “Project Loon.”

I’m into anything that takes me one step closer to stop dealing with AT&T. Check the zany ideas coming out of the Silicon Valley.

Playboy Pool Sessions
June 18, 2013

What does TA, Biebel, Stevie Williams and NB# rider, Arto Saari have in common with Playboy? Check it for yourself.

The Deadliest
June 17, 2013

One of the main core competencies of 686 revolves around Protection. We’re mainly known for Protection from the elements during harsh winter conditions. The personality of this core stems from being born in the city and refined in the mountains through our Faction of athletes, artists and creatives. One of our 686 faction members and fellow snow shredder, Elliot Neese lives and dies by the sea and is always in need for his version of Protection. We joined forces and designed one-of-kind 686 technical jackets and bibs constructed from our proprietary Infidry 20 waterproof/breathable fabrications.

Captain Neese and the crew of the Saga are now set to take on anything Mother Nature throws at them on the Sea. According to Elliot “The Saga crew has never been so dry nor had such technical and bomber gear to work in.” Love him or hate him, Elliot works his ass off to get what he wants. Catch them on the Discovery channel to see what happening next.

Let’s get Bent
June 14, 2013

On Tuesday, June 18th, MATIX is opening its doors to showcase their upcoming Spring 14 release. It will be in our newly minted HQ in the City of Angels featuring friends, family, riders, artists, photographers and everyone else that’s been a part of Matix’s 15 year history.

Doors open at 7pm so if you want to roll by and say what's up, pls rsvp@westlifedistribution.com.

Getting it done, Wine Women and Song
June 13, 2013

You’ve heard the expression that “business really gets done outside the office.” Well I think this term originated in Asia...

During my younger days, I traveled to Asia about 6 times a year to create solid relations with our factories overseas. Now a days, it's about 2 times a year as we have a solid crew making it run. My stomach can only take so much of this stuff.

What it can take a lot of is this good stuff. I’m into Teppanyaki no matter what country it is.

I feel sorry for Mr. Lobster.

Hot, hot, hot.


Dinner is served.


When in Vietnam, eat Vietnamese.

Street food in Saigon is a must.

Cheers! Good night sleep tight.

Getting it done, Vietnam
June 12, 2013

Good morning Vietnam!

The first time I landed in Vietnam I was amazed by the amount of scooters there were. I think there’s as many mopeds and mini bikes as people here. Let me see if I can hitch a ride to the factory.

I used to be freaked out how much traffic there was here. Now I embrace it and excited to see what happens on the road. Baby and mommy on a scooter, check.

Doggy and the owner, check.

Family of 4 with no helmets, check.

Once we arrive to the factory, we go through the normal rituals of drinking tea and eating local food before we get into it.

The owner of the factory goes through his as well (praying that I don’t find any problems so he can move on).

I like to touch and feel my garments to not only make sure it's first quality, I also imagine how it's going to look on the rack, on someone and how it performs on the hill. Dickies x 686.

Superior Products.

The next 12 hours is gonna be a bitch, but my crew’s ready.

Getting it done, China, part 2
June 11, 2013

About a 3 hour drive from the 686 Technical Apparel Factory is the New Balance Numeric Factory. 3 hours in Chinese terms is literally down the street from each other.

I don’t get to go to that many footwear factories so each time I check it out, I’m a kid in a candy store. The factory we’re in produces some of the world’s best brands so I’m limited to show you what and where.

I’m here with the entire team of New Balance Numeric, from Sales and Marketing to Operations and Finance to Design and Development. Since Fall 2013 will be our first shipment to North America, the family is all here to give the nod.

Jamie Thomas is my partner in NB#. The Chief and I are making sure shits tight.

Sorry for the blacked out squares. For now you can check out my Brighton’s in Grey coming out in a few months.

You know it’s a good factory when they bring this in for lunch.

Yes, it's edible.

You gotta love it when the factory has inspirational quotes like this.

Getting it done, China, part 1
June 20, 2013

You know you’re not in LA anymore when this shows up for lunch.

It’s been 18 hours since I’ve departed LA and since landed in Xiamen, China. I wonder if the photo looks as good as the actual thing.

Sorta kinda.

It’s hot, humid and hazy. I’m ready to get started with my team on our annual Quality Control trip before we ship 686 outerwear to our stockists around the globe. I brought my weapons of choice, all Black everything.

The process of manufacturing technical garments is very involved from the front to the back changing hands of information, materials, trims and construction to well over 500 people until it ships out from the factory floor. We have a team of people based in Japan, Taiwan and China that rigorously checks each item from our specs and samples to make sure the rider gets what they paid for.

I’m here to approve the final process and give it one last kick in the tire. It starts with several items of one style and color ready for me to shuffle through.

A few of the upcoming styles hung on a 3D form so we can see if how everything drapes accordingly.

SPI (Stiches Per Inch).

I don’t rely solely on what the factory shows me to get an understanding on where the level of workmanship is. I randomly go to the packed boxes and pick items that have already been tagged and bagged. Let's pick some from Europe, USA and Canada.

I’ll take the items out of the box and check everything to make sure it's all good.

We then start the long process of pulling each item and inspecting it from the inside out.

We put this label on for a reason

Later on in the day, I like to walk the factory floor to see how the manufacturing process works. Come inside.

Here’s one line of sewers working on parts of our garment.

One cargo pocket of the upcoming Mannual Chipped Jacket.

I’m a geek when it comes to high tech manufacturing-aka Seam Sealing, Laser Cutting and Welded Construction. We’re doing a limited collaboration for New Balance in Europe and Asia that involves this complex process.

Laser this.

To get this.

Laminate the mesh.

To get that.

Something’s coming.

Deus ex Machina
June 7, 2013

Deus ex Machina is latin for “god from the machine”. It’s also an Australian brand that is one part Apparel and two part Custom Motorcycles. I recently headed 30 minutes down the way to Venice Beach to visit my friend at Deus’ US headquarters.

I’ve been to a lot of retail/offices before, but I can honestly say that Deus is probably one of the best. At the front, they have a Coffee and Tea house that satisfies the locals, free WiFi and all.

On the side, is the garage that’s dedicated to making custom motorcycles.

Inside is the great room with the main retail floor space of the brand’s offerings.

They speak the language.

The creative director of Deus came from Ad world, hence the incredible posters, typography and artwork.

Upstairs houses the entire US team of 11. Magic can happen anywhere, anyhow.

Big ups Pierre and thanks for the hospitality.

In Good Company
June 6, 2013

New Balance Numeric consists of PJ Ladd, Arto Saari, Tom Karangelov and Levi Brown.

I’m stoked on how tight the crew is. Although PJ and Arto are icons themselves, its not about the biggest or even the best. NB# is about a tight union of heads that are here for all the right reasons.

With a new launch and especially because of the questions of why New Balance is in skateboarding, its important to communicate the proper message. Case in point, our team manager, John Rattray tells Thrasher what’s up

Arto and Tom K were recently on Ride Channels Weekend Buzz and told it like it is.

A Boy’s World
June 5, 2013

Matix makes apparel for dudes. We go to great lengths to make sure everything we make is legit. We just completed the Spring 14 photo shoot and it looks incredible, however staring at dudes shooting dudes gets a little boring. The good folks at Skateboarder Mag agrees with us and took it into their own hands with their latest photo shoot called A Boy’s World.

Introducing the Matix MJ Milling Woven Top.

June 4, 2013

From the outside looking in, running a company looks like an incredible thing. From traveling, working with talented people, creating ideas that turn into tangible products, marketing, selling and all the great stuff that comes with it. If you’re blessed to have a good business and people that make it up, at the end of the day its still a business that requires a lot of resources to keep the motor running. In my mind, if you’re business is standing still, your moving backwards. You need to constantly look at methods to evolve the people, products and overall business structure.

My homie, Max from Endeavor Design knows what I’m talking about as he’s going through this “business transition” of evolving. He’s up for the Bank of Canada’s Young Entrepreneur Award and if he wins, he’ll use cool $100k to expand his footprint in the states.

If you believe in making Max’s dreams come true, VOTE and make it happen.

BDC Young Entrepreneur Award from Endeavor Snowboard Design on Vimeo.

PJ’s top 5
June 3, 2013

New Balance Numeric has yet to drop the first Fall 2013 shipment in North America and we’ve been blasted with interest across the globe. To get the facts straight, we’re concentrating on the US and Canadian core skate stockists until we get things on lock. Soon after that International expansion will start, however it's still going to be tight in distribution.

NB# is based on skateboarding and we want to make sure the specialty core retailers are taken care of. A few weeks ago, we announced our skate team with living legend PJ Ladd at the helm. There might be some “big news” coming up with PJ very soon. For now, check out PJ’s top 5 skate shoes of all time via the Berrics.

5. Koston 1 ES.

4. Accel ES.

3. Mike Carroll "The Cosmo" DC.

2. Rick Howard's first Pro Model on DC.

1. PJ Ladd's Signature New Balance Numeric (NB# 479 Stratford shown, PJ’s model is in the works so stay tuned!).

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