When skateboarding pioneers Daewon Song and Tim Gavin decided to start a clothing brand out of the DVS Shoe Company back in 1998, they were really just looking to make some products that captured the true spirit of the sport. Almost two decades later, Matix Clothing Company has earned a place in and around the skate and surf culture alongside some of the industry’s heaviest hitters — even if it still has some of that small, local skateboard company feel.
“Matix was born out of a genuine and unique space, and it was really born out of the genuine roots of skate and surf,” says Gabe Clement, Matix’s marketing director and the first employee Song and Gavin hired back in 1998. “[Song and Gavin] saw there was a space out there with a few small brands pushing on it, and they wanted to take something genuine we were doing with DVS Shoe Company and mirror that in the clothing space. It’s stayed pretty true to those roots as well as embodying everything that is Los Angeles, from traffic to good fashion to art to music.”
Of course, having two top-notch professional skateboarders as the visionaries and founders of the brand meant Matix started with a leg up on some of the competition. Song and Gavin were able to draw in several other elite skateboarders and surfers with relative ease, but that’s not enough to sustain a brand without products and clothing the athletes actually want to use and wear. After all, skateboarding has always been about combining style and functionality on and off the board.
“Starting the brand with such strong figureheads definitely attracted other talent, which really created the base for those guys,” Clement says. “The affiliation with amazing skateboarders and surfers has always been a great strong point that the brand has had. On top of that, having relevant styles and quality products that fit well and function well help put those key pieces into place.”
Beyond its team of skateboarding and surfing athletes, Matix’s commitment to the brand goes through to its core. Rather than trying to expand into the biggest brand possible and “selling out,” as many would see it, the guys at Matix are primarily concerned with keeping their brand true to what it always has been: clothing for L.A.’s skateboarders by L.A.’s skateboarders. In order to ensure that, Matix’s focus is more on bringing in a crew that fits the overall subculture and brand’s mission statement rather than outsiders who may make the best business decisions.
“It comes down to the people who are involved with the brand and in the brand internally — whether that’s from a design side or the sales management side all the way to our athletes and our marketing,” Clement says. “Obviously skate and surf has grown into a lifestyle in itself, and that’s something we’ve always been a part of. Being continually rooted and being a part of what’s happening in Los Angeles, we can make sure it’s something we haven’t lost.”
That desire to be firmly connected to the Los Angeles skate scene means that keeping up with the latest trends in skateboarding and streetwear isn’t necessarily what Matix is always trying to do. Particularly in recent years, the near-constant influx of new skate, surf and streetwear brands with every passing season means that even the most established names in the industry have to do more than simply keep up if they want to stand out. That’s why, instead of going with just the currently popular options, Matix seeks to maintain quality while keeping true to what’s actually going on in Southern California. Because while it may be the weather that’s made Los Angeles a hotbed of surfing and skateboarding, the cultures that have grown out of the local board-sports scenes are what have allowed brands such as Matix to continue to thrive.
“Beyond the weather, the amount of humans in the space creates a lot of diversity, and it always has been a diverse space for surf and skate,” Clement says. “Nowadays, what we’re seeing is that within that surf and skate culture, there’s a lot of fashion and a lot of culture and a lot of lifestyle throughout the world. You see all of that growing out of these places where we didn’t expect it, like East L.A. and Compton — or even seeing the San Diego scene re-emerge in skate and surf. Those all push the surf and skate lifestyle into a bigger space.”