Arriving in the US with nothing but a suitcase and ideas, Jerome Mage has become one of the most sought after designers in action sports. And unless you are still scooting around on all of your original gear and living in a cave, there is a chance you own or have lusted after some of the products he has created.
From Skullcandy and Burton, to Spy and Anon, Jerome has left his footprint all over the snowboarding industry. Not to mention other industries such as motocross and luxury watches.
Jerome is currently working on a new joint venture with Pete Fox and Rob Dyrdek called IVI Visual; which is making serious moves as a premier sunglass brand. Being a European that doesn’t like European cars, Jerome doesn’t spend his time worrying about how others are doing it. And you can see by the products he has designed that he clearly has no need to take lessons.
Where are you from, where are you now?
I am originally from Clermont Ferrand. It is located in the center of France. I am now in Los Angeles — Hollywood to be more precise.
What took your from France to Hollywood?
A couple of things brought me here — two things really. I had a really hard time with the French mentality and the dominant way to act about life. I could not stand it. It is extremely negative and counterproductive. It’s the kind of thing where someone will key your car if you are successful. I am proud of being French, I’m proud of my heritage, but I had to get out of there and start new.
The second the thing was my involvement in action sports. All the industry for action sports was in California. I was into dirt bikes in the summer and snowboarding in the winter, so it made a lot more sense for me to be here.
Could you sum up what got you interested in product design?
At first, I just enjoyed sketching really; this is what got me into design. Drawing, art, pencil sharpening and to a larger degree fashion and aesthetics in general.
This question gets tossed to designers and artists a lot, but what inspires you?
I guess I can only tell you about what inspires me at the moment; inspiration changes with time, I never really look at the same things. At the moment, I think it would be American Western memorabilia and Kate Middleton. The only thing I follow in terms of science/engineering is Astronomy; I am particularly intrigued by discovery on gray matters and black holes.
So, you haven’t made your move on Kate yet?[Laughs] No, not yet. It seems Prince William has a lot of things going for him that I don’t. Maybe someday you know [laughs].
What was your first job in professional design and how did you land it?
My first job was creative director for Spy optic in 1995. I got the job by showing up to my interview and covering two huge warehouse tables with logo, tee and eyewear concepts. I did not sleep for two nights straight and just sketched the hell out of them. I don’t think those guys had ever seen anything like that. I just outworked all the other candidates during the interview process.
What would you say makes something visually appealing?
I am not exactly sure, but for girls I would say great legs. This is where it starts and stops.
I hear your big on Mustangs, how would you describe a Mustang in terms of form and function?
Yes, I love Mustangs. I never put my ass in any other car over the last 17 years. Best thing about Mustangs is that they are built in Detroit with pride. In terms of function, there is none – it is raw, bare bones.
It has zero comfort; it is a motor, pure horsepower. A mustang doesn’t give a shit and I like that, it is not a baby car. In terms of form, the original ’65 body set the standard: long hood, folded lines, strong shoulder, fastback. What else do you want? I don’t like cars that look like soap bars like Audi’s. I stay away from as them they depress me. You can sum up a mustang with two words: FREEDOM TOMAHAWK!
Can you be more specific on Audi’s being bars of soap?
They are not memorable. They are nice cars for sure and when you get out of one you may think it was a cool car, but you don’t remember it. I love everything about my old Mustang; unlocking the doors, starting it — everything is an experience. I am not a big fan of European cars, which a lot of people don’t like, but they just don’t do it for me.
Do you have more than one Mustang?
I have two Mustangs actually. I used to have three but one was stolen a while back and it broke my heart so I haven’t replaced it. It was like breaking up with someone after 10 years. I currently have Shelby GT500 and a 1970 Mach 1 and I love them.
When a client like Burton comes to you with a project, do they tell you the necessary materials and let you run with it, or is it more complicated?
We have developed a very close relationship with Burton. We are in many ways their internal design team but not located at their headquarters. The process is very collaborative. We work as a team with an amazing group of people at Burton from Product managers to developers.
We do bring a lot of creative materials to the table and we have freedom in designing and making things. That being said, the general creative direction and all final design decisions are coming from Greg Dacyshyn, Sr.Vice President/Creative Director at Burton Snowboards. He is the Tom Ford of snowboarding. He has set the trends and direction for this industry over and over for the last decade. He is definitely the most interesting man in the snowboard industry and maybe any industry.
It is an honor to design for a brand like Burton, to get to know Jake and Donna, to work with such a great team under the invaluable leadership of Mr Dacyshyn. It’s a humbling experience in many ways. There is a sense with the entire creative team of a greater goal to achieve; you have to check your ego at the door to work with Burton and I like that.
When approaching a project, is it a balancing act between how something needs to work and how you want it to look?
Yes, of course, every project has its parameters: some are fit, some are materials or technologies available, et cetera. But I am by no means a student of form follow function or less is more. It seems more is just more and I do not always think function is the decisive, or should be the decisive factor in design linguistic. Rationalizing design in a sort of Absolute Dogma is irrelevant to the time we live in.
How would you describe your design style, or what are your goals or opinions on design in general?
I thrive to make my clients happy, this is my design principal. I do not have general opinions on design. It’s a fun occupation, not a very serious one for a grown man though. You have to keep things in perspective, my father has been a surgeon for 40 years — this is an actual job.
Your running your own design firm as well as getting IVI Vision off the ground, do you have time for sleep anymore?[Laughs] Yes, I do sleep. My sleeping pattern in closely modeled after Napoleon Bonaparte’s own. I usually work late, go to bed around 11 pm, wake up at 3 am to read and work until 5 am. Then I drift until 6:30 am when I get going with a 6 to 10 mile run.
Let’s talk about IVI. You teamed up with Rob Dyrdek and Pete Fox and are making some waves in the sunglasses realm. How did that get going?
It came together pretty naturally. We all knew each other directly or through friends. Rob and I worked on several signature products together. I wanted to start something new in eyewear within the action sport/street wear scene and they both had a similar idea.
Once we all met together at Rob’s factory and had tons of ideas. It seems we all enjoy working together so we decided to move forward right away. I actually sketched three styles on loose paper that first day based on our conversation: Division, Living and Jiving.
Have you led the design throughout, or has it been a collaborative effort with Rob and Pete?
It has been very collaborative — this is the way it should be. You can be great on your own but to be really great you need to do it as/with a team.
What industries are IVI focused on participating in thus far?
Skate and music.
You have done a lot of work with snow goggles; will we see any IVI goggle entries in the future?
Yes, I did all Spy goggles you have seen, apart from 2 styles released recently. We also worked with anon two years ago. It was a great experience and anon has such an incredible team of developers. I have been riding in their goggles the last two seasons and I think in terms of design and function, anon is the best goggle now by far. As far as IVI, we will not do goggles.
Any other news from IVI that you can spill on us now?
Camouflage and Chanel — here we go.
Any products that Mage Design is working on that the snowboard industry will be seeing?
Yes, the new line of Burton 13 soft goods and bags just released this week. For 2014 keep an eye on the new AK line B, which will also be really exciting. Outside of Burton, we just finalized a really neat headphones project for Frends.