Industry Insider: Mikey LeBlanc talks Holden
Photos: Jon Duce
Most snowboarders know who Mikey LeBlanc is, and for those who don’t, it might be time to get educated. As an industry pioneer in the art of street snowboarding, Mikey has flat landed some of the meanest drops to date. It’s nothing short of a miracle that he is still walking upright.
Apparently hucking himself into the concrete abyss wasn’t enough for Mikey. He decided to also throw himself in with the sharks more than ten years ago by becoming an entrepreneur. After starting kidsKNOW distribution and Holden Outerwear, he is now a legitimate businessman.
With over a decade behind them, Holden has become a staple in the snowboard industry, making premium garments for anything from getting coffee to laying first tracks. On top of that, Holden has been pioneering eco-friendlier garments for years.
Holden recently ditched their home in Portland and made the move to LA. We figured it was due time to drop in on Mikey and talk shop. And even while extremely sick, he took the time to let us hassle him for photos and questions.
Let’s start from the beginning, Holden started in Portland right? How did it get going?
Holden was founded in 2002 in CA, but all design and marketing was handled in Portland since day one. Our back end was located in SoCal at Earth Products. About six years ago we moved all parts of the business to OR. We recently moved the entire business and our employees to Los Angeles, CA.
How long has it been since you became an independent company?
We have always been independent, but as far as Scott (Zergebel, Holden co-founder) and I owning all parts including funding the entire business, it’s been six years.
So you’re bringing Holden back to where it started, what sparked that decision?
Holden has always planned to become a four-season brand. The move to LA is about us getting in the game in the industries we see our brand being best matched with. Fashion and action sports really meld in SoCal, the majority of brands are here, access to employees and resources are here, production potentials and the list goes on.
Upon leaving Portland, did most of your staff follow suit, or did you start completely new in L.A.?
All full time employees moved. We do and continue to work with a few contractors and they’re still in Portland.
What’s the strategy in moving to Cali?
I’d say there are bet guess of 500% more snowboarders in LA than there are in Portland. Also. Holden is an outerwear brand so we sell equally to skiers and city slickers that need to look great in their functional garments.
Is the new place a storefront, or mainly production and business end?
All bidness, all day — no retail.
So it’s fair to say that you don’t regret leaving the rain behind for palm trees and sandy beaches?
[Laughs] Well I think I’d be crazy to say eight months of grey sucks, but I’ll miss great people, amazing food and radical outdoors opportunities. But there is no crying happening for me, it’s a new place with a million things to do and I am pretty simple anyway. I am happy walking around.
You have been an eco-conscious company for years and pulled some awards for it, how did that start?
It was a decision Scott and I made before we even made the brand happen back in 2002. We both live a considered life and have since we were kids. We began the search development of and the search for producing the world’s first technical natural fiber fabric. We used hemp and recycled bottles and launched that in 2004. We won a lot of awards for that, but also knew it could improve and it has been improved since.
On your website, you mention you have always been considerate of the planet and the people on it, but your system isn’t perfect yet and that you’re always working towards that. What do you perceive as the perfect system?
At this point, shopping at thrift stores is the perfect system.
What challenges or difficulties have come from the eco-consciousness?
It’s always easy to be ignorant. Once a person or a brand chooses to actually be considerate of their process and take responsibly for their actions, it adds process. It adds more work, but it also adds passion and purpose so they really at least cancel each other out.
What benefits have you seen from the eco-conscious effort?
We sleep better. We are poorer. The last nine years doing this and making these choices has not improved our business, it has been a choice of necessity.
Do you feel eco-consciousness is the future of the snowboard industry?
As long as people choose to do it — yes.
Where do you see Holden in 10 years and what will you have to do to get it there?
That’s a secret.
If you had to choose one piece of clothing from your line, which would it be?
I’d choose the Cumulus Down Jacket, its basically a sleeping bag and can be used under other outerwear pieces for layering as well. Super light and cozy.