February 11th, 2016
Meet Your Maker | ourCaste Co-Founder Mike Quinones Walks Us Through ourCaste Hq Newport Beach
Thanks for the bagels fellas, where’d this holey breakfast come from?
Mike Q: None other than the holiest of holy when it comes to a Newport breakfast spot, good ol’ Al Cap.
Tell us about the earliest origins of ourCaste, and how you landed such an iconic shop here in west Newport
Mike Q: Earliest origins…geez, must have been years ago now. The idea spawned from our close knit group friends and their passions that we saw missing from a place we’ve long been apart of. Not that the brand was necessarily formed back then, but the “big bang” moment came after looking at the stuff our group of friends had all been doing both independently and together. We all hung out closely and shared a certain love for the sub-cultures that we grew up in, yet were expressing it much differently than what we saw going on around us. Check out the ourCaste styles at SWELL
That different form of expression lead to a stronger common bond in what we were doing. A lot of the guys in our group crossed boundaries, not being tied to any sort of stigma such as “surf” or “skate”, rather we felt we just did what we did, the way we wanted to do it.
As we have gotten older, we’ve all found our way into new loves and passions, yet we’ve never stopped or lost touch with the roots we grew up with. Things like Swiss typography and French graphic design, circuit training, and most importantly, the absolute need for functionality in all things.
The spot we snagged was fate I believe. We were looking for a space, something we could call our own, and act as more of a think tank / creative space. Orange County is famous for it’s action sports industry, and the brands that call it home have massive offices with skate parks and gourmet chefs on call. Granted that is something that we respect massively and strive for, it’s just not in our plan.
We wanted a more home grown space, something that felt more approachable to anyone and everyone who wanted to say hey. People, whether it be randoms, friends of friends, or the homies, are constantly stopping in to grab a beer, check the surf, or just a quick chat. We love it. It’s this separation from the from the guys, “up the hill” as we say, that gives our brand a bit more of a distinction. We’re directly across the street from our favorite wave in a community that has always supported surf. Life is good…
We noticed a pretty bold lineup of Motos outback, whats the best cruise they crew has taken?
Mike Q: We just got back from a rip up north. A little over 1400 miles through Big Sur, SF, Sacramento, Newcastle, Jalama, and then home. That was for sure the most relaxing and scenic trip we’ve run as of late. Nothing better than being on the bike with little, or no Agenda, and as much freedom to go or stay wherever we want. “Vacations” are so overly planned these days. A few of us do another Laughlin run that is a little more…intense. Let’s just say it’s not as much of a cruise as it is a competition.
Describe each member of the ourCaste family in 3 words.
(L to R)
LJ O’Leary: comedic, dedicated, ripper
Mark Underwood: reliable, young, organized
(Mike Quinones Middle)
Matt Davis: hustler, devoted, bean counter
Sean Ciminesi: driven, loyal, resourceful
Sterling Foxcroft: focused, tall, talented (not pictured)
What sets ourCaste cuts and designs apart from other companies in the surf world?
Mike Q: Most notably, we don’t necessarily come from the surf world. At least not exclusively. We have a diverse group behind this brand, both in house and in our contributors. Certain guys come from a more fashion and contemporary background, others have spent a lot of time developing and being around technical and performance driven product, and yes, others come from a heavy surf / action sports background. It’s that dichotomy that evolves our brand and allows a certain amount of separation from what exists.
We won’t ever be the brand the give you a 22” board short in some insane tech fabric, rather we’ll be the guys to get you an epically functional short that works as well in the surf as it does circuit training or floating in a pool cocktail in hand. We try to encompass where we all come from and are going, rather than designing into what is already done.
Who’s the artist behind the watercolors pattern that has become a Coast Highway landmark?
Mike Q: I developed the patterns shortly after we officially released this project. As we were talking about in the above, we each come from such a different background and skill set, much like the many different colors in these watercolor patterns. Alone as individuals, just as a single color in this pattern, is flat and non dimensional. But, once you put two, three, four of them together, more colors are made, layers and depth created, and you have something beautiful to look at. It’s that depth and those layers that create this brand, separating what we do from what’s been done.
The original idea for this watercolor blend came while I was shooting photos in the bays at Dan Taylors in Costa Mesa years ago. The resin that spilled off each board onto the floor left a little of it’s personality there. As time went on, the floors personality grew deeper and deeper from every board that touched it. I liked that idea of many contributing to one.
How does that Watercolored misfit shapes board ride? And what kind of counter-cultural activities were you up to when the collab with those savages came about?
Mike Q: That board is an absolute sweetheart. I’m by no means the guy in the office that can grab any board, go out back, and put on a show, but I love that thing. Take a guy like LJ who rips also truly loves that board for it’s cruisability, no shred needed.. For some reason, it’s got a good balance.
The board works in all conditions and is intended to create smiles, not a heat result.
Explain the meaning behind the serial numbers on your photo series
Mike Q: I’ve been shooting photos since I was 15 years old…which oddly enough is 15 years ago. That’s not quite when date stamping was available on all film cameras, but I snagged an old Minolta from my mom and when I’d shoot I would get the date stamp.
I thought that was weird, that someone would want dates on their photo…but as I got older and I had a larger and larger body of work, I realized I really liked the idea of having some sort of reference to what image was shot when. Kind of like an ever growing always available time capsule. We wanted to replicate that here, a sort of date stamping for the brand, something to show our growth and age.
What camera would you recommend for a grom getting started shooting surf & other shit?
Mike Q: That all depends, but as cliché as it is I would say start with something film. AE-1, N65, F100. They are all so inexpensive these days. Reason being, film teaches patience and fundamentals.
When you’re shooting film, you have a limited number of exposures and it’s getting expensive to process, so you’re forced to think about each shot. Is what you’re seeing even worth the click? Is your frame cropped right, or is there a better angle your not seeing? Etc, etc.
When you go straight to digital you’re likely to turn into an overly enthused soccer mom using the “spray and pray” method of snapping a million images to get just one that’s barely worth printing. It’s the ADD generation that is so quick to jump onto digital, wanting instant gratification of that little LCD, rather then learning a quickly disappearing craft that gives the satisfaction of a well shot photograph. Everyone will graduate to some form of digital camera, which is how it should be. But, like a house, everyone needs a good foundation.
Does being a block from the beach keep your creative juices primed, or is there more than just surf culture in Newport/Costa Mesa
Mike Q: Being a block from the beach is more of a massive distraction. Haha. It’s a welcomed distraction for sure though.
Nothing worse then staring at a screen that may as well be blank, because you’re brain is fried. The ocean is energizing. You don’t always need to get wet to feed off that energy, sometime just a quick push over and short walk in the sand down to the water is enough to hit reset. Again, another massive reason for being “down the hill” from the rest of the industry.
What other cultures and artifacts have been driving the next wave of ourCaste styles?
Mike Q: The influences of swiss typography and all types of graphic design (although we are particularly keen on the French via 1960’s) will always keep tip top for us. Not that graphic design and lettering apply to clothes necessarily, but there are some common principles shared. Typography is built around the function of communicating. That’s what it should always do. Whether that communication is informational or expressive, it is there for that purpose. I like to adapt that “purpose” mentality to our product, ensuring that whatever we are developing and designing always serves a function.
In terms of more lifestyle influences, we still fall back on the functional aesthetic of design and the product it compliments. We are developing product that crosses the needs of sub-culture, rather than the trends within them. For instance, we’ve developed a solid range of board shorts called the Rocko that function exceptionally well in the surf, have maximum performance when training, and live well poolside. It’s the “needs” between the cultures we live in that dictate the product.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve witnessed out in front of the HQ on PCH, and who are the usual suspects coming through the door?
Mike Q: Some people have a little too much free time on their hands. We’ve seen some interesting self-propelling vehicles travel along the bikes lanes that we weren’t really sure what they were. We get the normal crazy’s that we all know and love who want to stop in and talk…for hours at time.
Usual suspects popping in are Zach Neminsky, Mike Townsend, Austin Calvello, Nick Fowler, Drew Martin, Brooks Sterling. Every time we see them walk by the front we smile. There are so many people that contribute to this brands diversity, and everyone of them is encouraged to stop in. That sort or free-thinking creative environment is what we’ve strived to protect here.
How do you keep LJ at his desk hen there’s a swell out front?
Mike Q: Why would we want him to stay at his desk when there is swell? That’s like asking an inmate to stay in his cell when the jail is open. Bottom line, we have a massive amount of work. Like a ridiculous amount of work. We are tight ship. I know all youthful brands are, but we have 5 guys that drive this brand and manage it.
Everyone one of us could continue to work the 12, 13, 14 hour days that we’ve been doing since we started this project for another year and there would still be more work to be done. It’s that work load / ethic that pushes us to take advantage of the good days of waves. Not to mention, like anyone in this industry can tell you, it’s what you work so hard for. So, the waves out back are welcomed. It gives us a reason to get up from our desks.
That’s some impressive in-house beard farming, does ourCaste have a resident barber or what??
Mike Q: Sean is the beard connoisseur of the office. He’s been going on three years now. I’m the other beard in the office, but I’m only growing mine because I’m having a baby boy in August, and it was my way of “suffering through pregnancy” with my wife as she’s been expanding.
Whats the next ourCaste campaign/collab we should get stoked for?
Mike Q: Can’t really give details on the next collabs, but we are doing a second installment of Mate & Create with an epic amount of energy from Oz named Eye Symmetry. Along with this kids epic ability to shape boards, we’ve enlisted our close homie Clifford Lidell from Youth Machine to create a print to be applied. It’s an awesome progression from the first installment we did.
Our Fall 2014 campaign is going to turn heads. We’ve worked into our cadence after 1 year at market. You can see the evolution of the range and it’s functionality focused details and product. It’s a completely new look at what product means to most and we’re really stoked to have the world see it.
Thanks for the tour, now where are we grabbing some waves and tacos?
Mike Quinones: Well, we’re grabbing waves out back of the office obviously! As for tacos, we’d have to go to Long Beach for those and it’s more of something we’d have to show you than tell you! Thanks again for stopping in, and an even bigger thanks for the support. It’s rough being young in this extremely talented and competitive industry, but we’re confident we do it different and are stoked at the opportunity..