Pointer interview with Gareth Skewis
Established in 2004, Pointer is a footwear company like no other. In a market that’s awash with ‘borrowed’ styles, meaningless limited editions and low quality, Pointer stands out as a brand that stays true to its own ideas. Their entire approach, from shoe design to art direction, reflects a unique vision that is based on original designs, personal taste and a close-knit family of artists and designers. We sat down with Gareth Skewis who heads the team from their London office to find out more about Pointer and its upcoming products and projects…
Interview by Will.
How did Pointer begin, who is the company made up of and what were your previous backgrounds?
Pointer is really mainly made of the following people:
Myself, Gareth Skewis, I guess you could say I come from a skateboarding and shoe nerd background with a good spoonful of indie / mid-90s hip hop thrown into the mix. Work-wise I used to work for Slam City Skates and then Silas and Maria. Rose Choules, who is the head designer and comes from an art and shoe design background. Playarea, which is made up of Matt Fowler who comes from a skateboarding and graphic design back ground and Hannah Draper who comes from an art and craft and graphic design background.
Then you have the artists we work with who are French, Marcus Oakley, Jethro Haynes, Nik Taylor and Hudson-Powell. We have a really tight group of artists who we work with and have known and socialized with for years.
That is really who makes up Pointer.
Pointer started as all the above mentioned people really wanting to create a footwear brand that had a little bit more to it then just being another sportswear/footwear/fashion/streetwear (god everything has to have a nice cute little title these days) brand trying to market itself to all the hipsters and trainer nerds. It was really important to all of us not only from a footwear design point of view to do something that looked very Pointer and stood out from the rest but also to have a brand that stood out from the pack for its art direction, sense of not taking it self too seriously and trying to do something different. The footwear market/industry to me seems a lot like stand-in session musicians. If you need a good rhythm jazz guitarist there is one there, if you need a mid 80′s hair metal style drummer you can get it. It all seems a bit faceless to me with people just chasing what they feel is the right way to go using borrowed talent. I really wanted Pointer to have a much more band feel to it, we have the art direction, the footwear designer, Yacht Rock from Marcus Oakley and so on. The point being that we wanted Pointer to have a much more personal feel to it.
What is the inspiration behind the brand, and how did you go about creating something different to the other shoe companies out there? Do you think that your different backgrounds contribute to this?
I think I touched on this in the last answer. I do feel that all of us coming from different social and geographical back grounds have not only helped us to no end but have also made the overall feel of Pointer what it is today. I was really into the idea of Rose not caring about anything hype related. Matt and Hannah for being really brave with ideas that other brands would have just laughed them out of in meetings. Jethro for taking risks art-wise and just knowing it would be amazing. Nik Taylor for convincing me to take risks. But the two most common ideas/thoughts that really bind us together as friends but also with Pointer is firstly not caring what anyone else thinks about what we do and secondly being able to see through brands and look at it if it is good product or not and good ideas or not.
Some other independent shoe brands seem to imitate established styles, as if they were set up just to cash in on a trend. With Pointer I get the impression you’d rather just keep on making the shoes you want to wear regardless of passing fads. Has it been difficult to establish a product-based company in an industry that’s often obsessed with branding and trends rather than substance?
To be honest with you that question is hugely flattering, if only one person has noticed that we are trying to do our own thing and are product-based I could stop doing Pointer tomorrow and be really happy.
Fads come and go, trends die as quickly as they were born. Just do your own thing and what feels good to you personally and product wise. I have nothing against fixed wheel bikes, ho-la hoops, break dancing or wearing roller-skates on your hands and your boxer shorts on the outside. But honestly it is the same thing that happened to skateboarding in the late 80′s. The people that are really into certain things will still be into them when they are really uncool again and that what makes those people cool in itself. Not being scared to be labelled a nerd or people thinking you are odd. Personally it is way more interesting to me knowing that people think you are uncool and why they feel that way. The only thing I really want, and I think I speak for everyone involved with Pointer, is to look back in 15 years and know that we made classic good looking product from an art direction point of view and a footwear design point of view.
We make product we really like and I hope there are people out there who like it too.
You’ve got a wide range of stockists, from more independent boutiques like Reed Space and The Three Threads to larger shops. Now that the concept of limited editions is almost completely devalued, what is your approach to production and distribution?
The whole limited edition thing was pretty interesting at the start. But surely that is the nature of a limited edition product, it can’t go on for ever. If you are bringing out 500 limited edition color ways a year surely you have killed the idea of a limited run?
With regards to production, we have never made limited production runs. I would much rather someone come into a store and buy a pair of Pointers and then come back next season and by the exact same pair. Or buy 2 at a time, that is something I have always done, bought 2 of something if I am really into it. Always with shoes. It seems a lot of people myself included are looking for something a little more understated and classic but that still proves you know what you like. There is so much of that Emperor’s New Clothes rubbish going on out there that I would much rather not stand out like a clown covered in day glow.
Distribution has always been quite a mix from hardcore streetwear, ex-casuals, almost high end fashion stores and good shoe shops. It seems that every label Pointer has ever been given has never really stuck or been truly justified. Our policy is whether the store is good at what is does and if they understand Pointer and the product we make.
Pointer seems to have a more mature aesthetic than a lot of other products in the streetwear market, as did Silas. Is this partly a British thing, or do you think that after the rise of the garish all-over print the industry is now heading in a smarter and more grown-up direction?
First off let me say that what Russell and Sofia did with Silas and the product that they made was without a doubt bloody amazing! They did not limit their influences and both had a great eye for classic design and what looked good and worked.
Silas did make all over prints and they did it in a way that really worked but they also make spectacular printed silk women’s wear and men’s coats that Stone Island/CP Company would have been happy to put out as their own. I think that a lot of people in the UK, North America and Europe never got to see that product and that is a real shame because those in my opinion were the amazing bits.
As far as the more clean grown up direction, it was always there, but it has just been slightly overshadowed by the all over prints. If something is hugely popular it usually seems the exact opposite will be next.
I do also believe that being a British brand and living in London does influence you and push you in a more clean direction. Where NYC had hip hop the UK had Punks (yes NYC had CBGB’s, Television, Patti Smith, that is a discussion for another day) vs Skins, Mods vs Rockers, the 1980 Terrence look. All of which are draped in classic looking clothing but worn a specific way.
One thing that sets Pointer apart is that it’s a strongly design-led brand – for example the art direction of the website and advertising is pretty unique. What is your approach to that side of things?
By the time you read this the new site should be up and I hope people like it, Hudson-Powell and I tried to come up with something a bit different.
Our approach has always been to do our own thing and to make sure it relates to everything else we do and put out there. It has to look like a complete thought when you stand back and look at it. It is really important to me that Pointer looks like itself and nothing else. There have been a few instances where certain people have really lets say heavily borrowed certain things we have put out there. You all know who you are and thanks for making us look like we know what we are doing. Anyway this is not the time or the place to get into that. Just stay out of my way, you know who you are.
You also produce art books amongst other projects. Please can you tell us more about the Pointer Art Collective and any other art-based products you’ve got in the pipeline?
Okay we have some pop out glow-in-the-dark death metal Flip-Flops coming out in late January 08 that French did for us with a matching Tee. They can be either worn or hung up. Some people might think I am crazy but I love them.
The first Pointer Toy/ Final Sculpture coming out by Jethro Haynes that is hopefully really going to get some middle aged men with glasses and Marks and Spencers flannel shirts excited. It should be out at the end of the year.
There is going to be a new Pointer Book series but not done with artists. That is all I can say about that as I want it to be a surprise.
The first Pointer Tee Shirt Collection will be out in July done with all of the artists we work with.
Finally we are putting on a Pointer Exhibition in London and hopefully Paris of all the 3D and printed work we have ever produced in June/July. I will keep you posted on that as it is not set in stone yet.
The upcoming Pointer samples look to me like your best range yet, with some new models and a lot of interesting materials being introduced. What can we expect to see from Pointer in the future, apart from the glow-in-the-dark death metal flip-flops?
Thanks for that, we really appreciate it. Rose and I made a conscious effect to really step it up this season and push the direction we wanted to go. This direction will also be reflected in the Art Direction but we really wanted to try a few new things that maybe the market is not ready for and will not be expected from us. We will see if it works and what the end Pointer consumer thinks.
You can see more of Pointer’s range at www.pointerfootwear.com. Gareth will also be at Bread & Butter in Barcelona next week showing the new range, so if you’re in the city then drop by to have a look and a chat…