By Josh Howald
Backside5, an action sports clothing company, was officially launched in Houston, Texas over the weekend. The man behind the clothes is Kincardine native Darren Smegal.
The name, backside5, is a nod to a backside 540, a trick that features a rotation and a half on a skateboard, wakeboard or snowboard. Therefore, “it’s a name that resonates with all the action athletes,” said Smegal from Texas Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m huge into wakeboarding now,” he said. “And I’ve always been a snowboarder. We’re aiming this at the younger cats that live that kind of lifestyle.”
Because of the name and the connection to extreme sports, people have been assuming that Smegal’s company is producing under-armour type competition clothing. But that isn’t the case.
“Right now, we’re more fashion based,” he said. “We’ll see what happens down the road, but for now we’re offering t-shirts, hats, belts and belt buckles.”
This isn’t a new dream for Smegal. More than five years ago he registered the name in Canada, where he is the sole proprietor. A trained tool maker who did his apprenticeship at ATS in Cambridge, he now works for Alcon, an eye-care company in Houston. He works on a variety of projects with a team of engineers.
Smegal, who won an OMHA championship with the Miller Insurance midgets in 1999, met his future U.S. business partner while playing pick-up hockey in Texas.
“We shared the same vision, and hopefully this can someday become a full-time gig for us,” said Smegal. “Eventually I’d like to come home to Canada to work with the business and leave the American operations with him down there.”
Kincardine native Darren Smegal in a promotional photo for his new company backside5.
Smegal has been working with a team of graphic designers and artists to design the backside5 gear. The clothing is as eco-friendly as possible without compromising fashion. For example, his shirts are made from 70 per cent bamboo.
“The fabric and materials side of things was quite easy,” he said. “It was much more complex to learn all about the screen printing and embroidery processes and their capabilities.”
Some specialty shops in Texas will carry the backside5 line, but Smegal figures for now most orders will come through the internet. His company is on Facebook, and the website, www.backside5.com, was up and running as of Friday afternoon. From here, Smegal will try to get his gear at wakeboarding competitions and other extreme sport shows, as well as try to get some amateur athletes wearing the gear.
“It’s crucial for us to build our brand on a grassroots level,” he said, “not to mention we enjoy being around the action sports and want to give back as much as we can. We plan to start with amateur level action sports athletes within the first year.”
While Smegal is confident in his endeavour, he isn’t cocky. He knows the clothing business isn’t an easy one in which to break through, and has taken a calculated risk.
“I know some shirts might blow up and sell piles, while other products might not sell at all. We can have a turnover of inventory in as little as 7 to 10 days, so we are prepared. The dream is to look at a company like Quiksilver or Hurley (skate and surf companies).”
Both companies have long since expanded from the extreme sports scene to the mainstream – something that Smegal gets a kick out of.
“I was at a rodeo in Houston, and every third person was wearing Hurley gear – and I guarantee all those people in the middle of Texas don’t surf – it’s a lifestyle and fashion thing.”