Quiksilver's custom boardshort program taps brand heritage, technical expertise
Less than two days after I posted about Vans' new custom boardshort program through Shortomatic.com, the folks at boardsport behemoth Quiksilver fired off an email to let me know that they'd launched a similar program just a month and a half earlier.
And, at first glance, it looks stunningly similar.
Further, both versions are touted as being handmade right here in the good old U.S.A; Quiksilver's down in Huntington Beach, and the Vans/Shortomatic's in the Los Angeles area.
So when I got a chance to chat on the phone with Nicholas Nathanson, head of Quicksilver's custom boardshorts division, I asked if the dueling custom boardshort programs were the result of some sort of action-sports version of the space race. (In Hollywood, it's the kind of phenomenon that results in oddly concurrent dueling monkey-virus movies, "Snow White" remakes and Steve Prefontaine biopics.)
"Honestly, we learned about it from your blog post," Nathanson said. "We had no idea these guys were doing [a custom boardshort program]."
"It's an idea that's been percolating for 15 years ... We'd tried it in the past in a kind of primitive way, but the tool set just wasn't there."
According to Nathanson, Quicksilver finally pulled the trigger on the program, which launched on March 22, once it had worked out all the back-end logistics. He said the final piece of the puzzle was figuring out how to meld that Web-based shopping experience with Quiksilver's existing e-commerce efforts.
"We didn't want to develop a separate custom checkout," he explained. "Meaning that we wanted customers to be able to order a custom product and a non-custom one at the same time. Once we could do that, we knew we were ready."
Which brings up the differences -- and there are some big ones -- between Quiksilver's and Van's/Shortomatic's custom boardshort programs (beyond the obvious patterns, colors and artwork from each brand's archives).
Beyond the "all-in-one-shopping-cart" convenience (currently not an option with the Vans version), Quiksilver's website allows the user to create and share a boardshort design -- even one that doesn't end up being purchased -- by generating a code that can be shared via social media. (At Shortomatic.com, the custom Vans shorts live on in a gallery that scrolls across the bottom of the site.)
"We've sold a lot of boardshorts," Nathanson said, "but for every boardshort we've sold, there have been 50 designed by our customers that haven't been bought but shared with their friends [instead]."
Nathanson won't divulge specific sales numbers to date (which is not uncommon for a publicly traded company such as Quiksilver), but a company representative characterized the custom boardshorts as "selling three times better than any other [Quiksilver] product line."
And those with a less-than-svelte physique will be happy to know that Quiksilver's custom line can accommodate up to a 50-inch waist. ("We've envisioned the fact that there are athletes from Tahiti -- that are big dudes -- who will want to make their own boardshorts," Nathanson said.)
Currently the program offers a single style (based on the label's Cypher Kaimana silhouette) in a four-way stretch material (dubbed "Diamond Dobby"), but plans are to add new silhouettes and 15 new color and pattern choices over the next few months.
Which brings us to what Nathanson thinks is the biggest difference of all: "We're bringing our whole company's technical boardshort expertise to bear on this."
"No offense to their prowess, but we've been making boardshorts for 40 years, and they're outsourcing [their] boardshorts to someone who makes yoga mats," Nathanson said, taking a not-so-subtle swipe at Shortomatic, whose parent company, Anymatic, has its roots in the custom-printed yoga mat business. "It's a little different."
Sounds like the opening volley in a full-on battle of the custom boardies, no?
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: Three designs created with Quiksilver's new custom boardshort program. Credit: Quiksilver Inc.