Started in 2001 by Stu Smith, Lovensakate is one of the UK’s best-respected skate brands. With the best part of two decades of hard graft under their belt, the North London-based skate outfit ooze credibility thanks to collaborations and partnerships with endemic skate titles, legitimate team riders and artists and recent collabs with the likes of Metallica underline the brand’s burgeoning status.
Please give an overview on how and why the company began?
Lovenskate has been running since 2001. But for the first few years I just made fanzines, printed posters, stickers and the odd t-shirt. It has been a fully-fledged company for just over 12 years, with us printing our own boards and apparel since day one.
I went to art college in a small college just north of London to study fine art. I got really into screen-printing there. When I left, I got a job in a print factory printing tees and all sorts of stuff – print runs in the 100s and 1000s. All by hand, real factory work you know, hard graft. I’ve been skating since I was around 16. Back then I used to hang out with a kid who had all these old boards, Lucero Hippy Stick, Blender boards, Jason Lee. I loved the graphics, but it didn’t dawn on me until I started working at that printers and looking back at the history of skating that those boards were hand printed. I thought it was amazing, and I thought, ‘I’m gonna do that!’ Around that time I was making zines, just about skate stuff, silly jokes, some of my drawings and photos etc. I had a small print bench in my mum and dad’s garage, so I printed the front covers and some stickers. It started to grow from that little shed really, in 2001.
How did the brand come to being?
I started using the printers as my own studio a bit. Those guys were really good to me, letting me order inks and making my own screens. So I started making the odd shirt and experimenting. The time came where I got my own studio (a little porta cabin in Hackney) and went part time at the printers and then I started to print everything myself. It just grew slowly, and alongside I was running a screen printers of my own called Error Solutions, printing for the UK skate industry and some fashion brands – anything I could to make money and keep everything going. It’s been steadily growing like that since then. Lovenskate has never had a huge cash injection, or an investor. I just always used the profits to buy more than I bought previously.
I’m a big believer in firm foundations, strong roots. From working as a printer I’ve seen so many companies come and go, huge initial orders for thousands of pounds, and then nothing… they started too big with no base. I was determined that this wasn’t going to happen to me. I’m really proud, because when I think back to how it was 15 years ago, now there’s a team, they are like my family, and they are smashing it! We just did a collab with Metallica! Fucking Metallica! Like them or hate them, I have to pinch myself when I see those boards hanging in my little office.
Which skaters are you working with?
The UK team is Alex Hallford, Jordan Thackeray, Aaron Wilmot, Ewen Bower, Lucy Adams, Dan Hill, and Alex Barton. Then through the Euro distribution we have Donald Huycke from Belgium and Robbin Oost from the Netherlands.
How do you market Lovenskate?
I try to advertise in at least one magazine. I spread it between Confusion, FREE, Vague… UK and Euro mags. I still really believe in print, I like to see photos of the team in print. Then we do trips and often these are run as articles, this helps to push the brand and show people what we’re about, we also sponsor competitions and giveaways.
What are Lovenskate’s goals for the coming 24 months?
We have a full-length video coming out at the end of this year with parts and the whole team. We also have two new pro boards coming out in summer, but more about that when they drop. We’ll be doing some print based activations and workshops at Vans events and we are also doing an amazing trip to Nepal with some or the Vans team and an association called Skate Nepal. We are taking some hardware out there, going to organise some demos and document and support the scene any way we can. Then next year we are going to go ballistic!