In Conversation with Kieron Forbes of Garden
Flatspot: First off, congrats on your official launch at Focus in July! - how did it go?
Kieron: Thanks! Things were far better than anticipated, the turn out and the response to both our promo and product. More than a few people mentioned that events like that don't happen too often in Scotland so we had folk from Glasgow and Aberdeen come through.
Not everyone knew this was the launch of a brand, they only knew we had been filming for something and so the company aspect came as a surprise. This was always my intention, sometimes I think people give up too much too early and it saps any excitement or impact a project should have.
Flatspot: Sounds like a good night! For those who might be just discovering Garden, tell us a bit about yourself - how did you get started and what’s the community surrounding the brand like?
Kieron: Personally I have always wanted to make things: a zine, a sticker, a piece of clothing or video. I have always wanted to be more involved in skateboarding than just going skating.
I worked in Focus Skateboard Store for around five years and was really into board graphics, I spent the shop down time with Graham Tait (North Skate Magazine) talking about what we liked and didn’t and would often be really excited if someone bought a deck I had earmarked.
We have a really tight scene in Scotland its rare if someone doesn't know one another or at the very least know of them; it’s easy to forget but more people live in London than the whole of Scotland. So as a result it’s maybe slightly easier to find yourself in the middle of skateboarding because it’s a smaller group. Things don’t happen here unless we make them happen.
"If Garden doesn’t have a definitive aesthetic then we are open to make whatever we like. "
Flatspot: Your first summer ‘19 collection has just been released and it looks super strong - has collaboration always been natural to the brands development and your own work? What are your thoughts on the future of creative design - is digital king or do you think there’s always going to be a desire for physical items?
Kieron: Collaboration is a way of making sure the brand doesn’t stagnate or get lost behind a logo. If you’re bringing a fresh pair of eyes in every season you are only going to benefit. My hope is that will create excitement around what will come next. If Garden doesn’t have a definitive aesthetic then we are open to make whatever we like.
Digital design is exciting because it’s open to anyone thats willing to learn and demystifying technique and process is positive because you allow those who might not have the opportunity to create. Digital printing and production does mean there is more to wade through to find the things you really connect with. Some techniques will always be better like screen printing which is over a hundred years old and is still the most prominent process.
Cost is always going to be the factor that affects everything. Limitations aren’t a bad thing though, it's a skill to make the best possible product with what you can afford or have access to.
Flatspot: We heard you recently went to Japan - what were the highlights? Any plans to move or does Edinburgh take the spotlight?
Kieron: Japan is incredible, I think it's hard to find anyone who has been that doesn't say the same. It’s near impossible to not sound like a white guy waxing lyrical about Asia but the most prevalent thing is an appreciation for design and process. There seems to be care about making things work, work well and taking pleasure in things being correctly designed for their purpose. Funnily enough it's the only place my wife and I have seriously given thought to moving to.
Edinburgh is an amazing place and moving here from Dundee at an age where you need independence was perfectly timed; it’s small enough to walk where you want but also feels like a proper city. Ultimately I wouldn’t be doing this now if it weren’t for living in Edinburgh.
"Anyone that has sat down and figured out the maths knows you'd have to be stupid to start a board company. "
Flatspot: What’s the story behind the ‘First Or Last Place It’s A Dance Not A Race’ tagline?
Kieron: Honestly Jeff Grosso said it at the end of one of his ‘Love Letters’ and I'd be lying if I told you which one but I do remember writing it down. I've looked and there are like nine or ten seasons of the show now so god knows what episode it was in. It might be a lyric or a quote from a book.
The sentiment is rad and it kind of sums up skateboarding perfectly, at least it does for me.
There can be a lot of competitiveness and there's a party line of "too many board companies" playing over and over. Anyone that has sat down and figured out the maths knows you'd have to be stupid to start a board company. It's not about being number one it's about making something because it needs to be made and or more importantly gives someone the limelight they deserve. Skateboarding is about having fun and helping your friends have as much fun as they can too. So it is a dance, dancing around what's possible and what's not.
Flatspot: Garden’s team of skaters includes Daniel Nicholas, George Horler, Miles Kondracki, Cameron Lenton and Rory Muirhead. How did you all meet and what do you all reckon to the future of Edinburgh’s skate scene since the redevelopment of Bristo square?
Kieron: The team came together fairly organically. Daniel & Miles I've known forever and grew up skating with them, they are both local to Edinburgh. George moved here for uni, fell in love with us and never left. Rory is from Penpont (the borders) but lives in Glasgow and Cameron is from Aberdeen. We knew we wanted at the very least a few guys involved from other cities and as mentioned before everyone knows one another to a certain extent, so it's not like putting together a team that have never met. It also helped that Miles was good friends with Rory and Cameron, after skating with those guys once or twice it was an obvious decision.
Edinburgh will always have a renewed skate scene because it's such a university town, every set of freshers brings a new set of skaters and so any waning numbers are strengthened eventually. People skate the new Bristo square despite it having nothing beyond some flat ground and a few curb. It's always going to be a struggle though as the city is full of such ancient architecture as well as ancient opinions, so skateboarding gets pushed aside. Tourism and education are the two major industries and no one wants to upset them. It feels like we are also in a constant state of renewal. Big money is gentrifying areas and building more spots so there is always the prospect of something new.
"My hope is that if someone buys a deck or a piece of clothing [...] maybe it will spark them to think about that interest and where that can lead skateboarding or elsewhere. "
Flatspot: What would be the ultimate situation for Garden? Are you dreaming big or wanting to keep local?
Kieron: To support itself, the riders and the artists we work with. I think it's possible to act locally and sell globally. If we can continue to make boards and work with people we are stoked on then that's the ideal.
My hope is that if someone buys a deck or a piece of clothing and they are really into the graphic, maybe it will spark them to think about that interest and where that can lead skateboarding or elsewhere.
Flatspot: Sounds great, no doubt it will! We’re keen to see the next new selection of artists and what the next collection brings. Good luck for future projects and thanks for your time Kieron!
Shop Garden at Flatspot.