Supporters of Gravis have always been confident in one thing; the brand sticks to doing exactly what it does best. Born from Burton Snowboards, Gravis has synthesized and nurtured its own identity since 1999 by maintaining a focused range of superior products that cater to the lifestyles of its unique and radical consumer base. While Gravis has dominated the action sports market with their impeccable luggage and footwear programs, the brand has recently expanded into other niche markets with new products geared towards DJs and musicians. Joe Babcock, Gravis’ product manager since 2005, helps direct Gravis’ vision.

“For Gravis everything is in the details – from the construction and aesthetic of the footwear and bags to the caliber of our team of athletes.”

Format: What does Gravis mean?
Gravis: Gravis is a Latin word that means ‘of importance; momentous; weighty; influential; of character, influence, etcetera.’ When the company was originally conceived, we wanted something to describe our approach to building the brand. We wanted a word to reflect the considered, intentional, thoughtful way we do things. For Gravis everything is in the details – from the construction and aesthetic of the footwear and bags to the caliber of our team of athletes.

Format: How does Gravis maintain the balance of standing on its own two feet as a brand and operating under the Burton umbrella?
Gravis: Gravis is located in Southern California, 3000 miles away from Burton’s headquarters, in Vermont, and we retain an entirely independent staff from the top to the bottom – so it makes it easy to maintain a completely different identity. Even though Gravis was born with Burton DNA, Gravis has a completely different identity.

Format: What are critical points of consideration that Gravis takes to ensure that its products are distinguishable and superior to the competitions?
Gravis: From start to finish we design smart products. We observe the requests and demands of our global team of professional athletes and address solutions to their problems. Our pro riders roll, drag and stomp the earth with Gravis products on a daily basis so building products to withstand this type of abuse is our guarantee stamp.

In our shoes we only use premium materials, compressions molded mid-soles and always pay attention to the smallest details like whip stitching and perforated leathers. In our bags you’ll find high quality nylons and tarpaulins, ergonomic straps, custom handles and super buttery skate wheels on our roller bags.

Our team of designers is always on the road traveling to far reaching corners of Earth checking out local fashion, retailers, film premieres, events and concerts. Because of those experiences, you’ll see an international inspiration in everything we do.


Format: Almost all of Gravis’ products have their own unique names. During the Gravis design process, is it the end product that inspires the name or the idea behind the name that inspires the product?
Gravis: The meaning behind the names of our products is inside information. Inspiration from these names has come from so many random points of view that we no longer try to analyze it. Just run with it.

Format: Two of the primary demographics Gravis develops products for are action sports athletes and DJs. Are there any plans to expand into other niche markets in the future, if so, which ones?
Gravis: Right now our focus at Gravis is to build the best footwear, bags, luggage and sandals for the board sports culture. We rule out nothing. Keep your eyes open!

Format: In the last 24 months, the boom of streetwear fashion is forcing brands to compete for retailers at trade shows like MAGIC. Is it hard for Gravis to establish relationships with retailers at congested trade shows?
Gravis: No. Retailers have become increasingly more savvy in finding brands they wish to partner with and if you are on their radar, they will find you and vice versa. Our rep force has been extremely good at making contact with key stores and buyers prior to shows.

“…operate like a highly adaptive four-wheel drive vehicle versus the bigger brands – they’re freight trains.”

Format: Will Gravis consistently adhere to exclusively developing footwear and bags?
Gravis: For the time being, yes

Format: Recently, China has attracted a lot of negative press for its exports: poisonous pet food, tainted seafood and lead paint on children’s toys. If relations between America and China were to halt, how would your industry, the footwear industry, recover from its severed connection to cost-effective manufacturing?
Gravis: Wow, that’s a heavy question, but a good one. Actually, the cost of footwear production has been increasing in China for the last several years. We anticipate this increase will continue to rise over the next three years and level off once other manufacturing countries bring competitive products and pricing to the table.

Gravis is constantly being solicited by a number of emerging factories outside of China that are ready to compete head to head with China for our business. For Gravis, China is the best option for both the size of our production and the quality we demand in our products. If relations between America and China were to halt then we’d have bigger problems on our hands than the manufacturing cost for shoes. Keep the peace!

Format: While men’s and women’s footwear have their obvious distinctions, luggage and backpacks are arguably unisex products. What was the motivation behind creating a smaller, more specific Gravis line for women?
Gravis: Since the brands inception in 1999 Gravis has always made women’s specifics products. The reason is simple: our women’s pro riders have different demands in their footwear, sandals and hand bags than the men’s pro team. The women’s offering in our current fall and winter 2008 line is small, because we are still learning more and more every day how to best maximize our opportunity in the women’s business.


Format: Could you discuss some of the distinctions in purchasing habits between Gravis’ male and female customer demographics?
Gravis: The difference lies in the fact that the shelf life of men’s styles last much longer than women. We believe trends live and die quicker in the women’s fashion world. With this in mind, women will purchase in a given year four to six more bags per year than men. For sandals, women purchase seven pairs of sandals in a season verses men who will run two pairs of sandals all summer long. We’ve also identified that men tend to shop at a certain type of store for their wears, whereas women will shop for specific items and don’t care so much where the products are sold.

Format: What qualities does Gravis look for in its retailers?
Gravis: Simple, we look for retailers who share our commitment to bringing quality and excitement in footwear and bags to their consumer.

Format: Please discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a smaller company when it comes to interacting with your manufacturers.
Gravis: We consider our size our strength. Being a smaller niche brand allows us to operate like a highly adaptive four-wheel drive vehicle verses the bigger brands – they’re freight trains. We look to build long term successful relationships with our manufacturing partners and it’s proven to work. I think factories are looking to round out their brand portfolios to accommodate emerging brands and business. Plus, when a mega brand bails from a factory this can result in some crippling effects. So, the advantage for Gravis is that we can move and shake production and development at a rapid pace. Our disadvantage is when a mega brand shows up and pushes production schedules around.


Format: With so much concern about the accelerating pace at which humanity is harming Earth’s environment, what responsibilities does a brand like Gravis have in promoting awareness about this global crisis?
Gravis: Since the brand’s inception in 1999, Gravis has always been a strong advocate of the environment. The oceans and the mountains are where we go to play so we feel very strongly that we have a responsibility to keep these natural environments healthy and clean.

Gravis has partnered with the Surfrider Foundation, whose sole mission is dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans. Each sandal in the Gravis line bears a bright orange Surfrider tag, where 10 cents is donated to the organization for each sandal that is purchased.

Whenever possible we are printing our catalogs and marketing collateral on Forest Stewardship Council certified paper. The non-profit organization is devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. Each day, we are on the lookout for new opportunities to improve our impact on the environment. We want to continue pushing ourselves and our industry to make this a priority.

“Each day, we are on the lookout for new opportunities to improve our impact on the environment.”

Format: Gravis has collaborated with Staple Design, Julian Red, Turntable Lab and other select pioneers in their respective industries. What characteristics does Gravis look for in its collaborators?
Gravis: For Gravis, the collaboration recipe is all about building something special. The projects that we’ve done in the past we’re done with people who share in a common vision of quality products and global travel and exploration. Gravis considers these projects a family affair. We’ve been blessed to work with a roster of very talented and gifted people and brands, and look forward to continuing to build quality collaborations in the seasons to come.

Format: Has Gravis saw a foreign demand for its product pick up as a result of recent devaluation of the American dollar versus the Euro, Canadian dollar, Yen and other Westernized countries’ dollars?
Gravis: Gravis has always had a really strong international following. We have offices in Innsbruck, Austria, Tokyo, Japan as well as a stand alone flagship store in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. But really, it’s tough to say quite yet how things will change with the currency flux.

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Philip Chang

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