Independent Trucks 40th Anniversary Interview

Independent Trucks has manufactured the most dependable and top performing skateboard trucks on the market, and have kept skaters rolling for decades—four to be exact!

We’ve seen Independent Trucks celebrate the big 4-0 with their recent collaboration with Vans. After this very special capsule and with some more plans in the works, we caught up with Brand Manager, Keith Wilson, who opens up about one of the most reputable brands in the industry.

Cj Collins 5050_rhino

Cj Collins 5050_rhino

How is Independents 40th anniversary being celebrated?
We are celebrating our 40th Anniversary by collaborating with a large group of team riders and artists on 4 seasons of T-shirt graphics as well as various brands like Supreme, Vans, and Herschel on product lines that celebrate our heritage and current brand and team.

Please tell us about the brand anniversary collabs.
The Supreme collection feeds off of classic Independent logos and 90s influenced silhouettes including flannels, crew and hooded sweats and sweatpants, and long sleeve tees. The Vans groupings combine Pro Skate footwear in their classic styles including Pro Skate Hi, Pro Slip Ons, and pro models with mutual team riders like Tony Trujillo and Steve Caballero plus a grouping of apparel and limited releases for Holiday. The ongoing Herschel collaboration includes a selection of packable bags plus a full range of function and durable skate bags and accessories.

Please, could you give us a history of the brand from birth to present day?
Our long history in skateboarding has been well documented in our 2004, 320-page book entitled Built to Grind—25 Years of Hardcore Skateboarding and our new book Since 1978—40 Years of Ads as well as countless articles and profiles. In brief, Independent was founded in 1978 by Richard Novak, Jay Shuirman, Fausto Vitello, and Eric Swenson. Novak and Shuirman had a skateboard distribution company and Vitello and Swenson had a small machine shop/foundry. The four men were collectively keen on branding, promotion, events, distribution, design, and manufacturing. They also liked to have a good time. Using a quote from Built to Grind, “Perfect time, perfect mix, perfect recipe for success … or perhaps disaster. But Independent prevailed; though unknown at the time, it would become a subcultural movement and shape skateboarding as we know it today.”

Axel Cruysberghs crook _rhino

Axel Cruysberghs crook _rhino

What was the biggest single challenge Independent faced during its history?
Skateboarding is and has been extremely cyclical. Although the downturns are as deep as they once were, I think the challenge is still there to stay relevant on a constant basis. Even at our lowest times, we’ve continued to stay our course, make tough decisions, and grind on through. Once during a brief downturn in the early 2000s, our manufacturer received a large batch of axles that were mislabeled and unfortunately a lower grade. Within a few months, we had made 100s of thousands of trucks that bent and although we honoured and still honour every return it was a low point in the brand’s history and something we had to overcome.

What and why were the key successes in building the brand?
Our 3 main things with Indy are brand, product, and team. Without our constant dedication to these core principles, we wouldn’t be here today. Keep our brand image strong, recognizable, and consistent but with variety; keep our products inline with our brand image but constantly innovate and try new things, and centre everything around the skaters.

Please tell us about the management team guiding the business today.
Independent Trucks is owned by NHS, Inc.—makers of Santa Cruz, Creature, OJ, Ricta, Krux, Mob, and Bronson. Our brand staff includes me, Keith Wilson, Brand Director; Mark Widmann, Creative Director; Gavin Denike, Brand Manager; and Chris “Rhino” Rooney, Team Manager.

How do you see the skate hardware market evolving in the future?
As far as trucks go we are focusing on some new models, innovations and manufacturing techniques that I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised with. We also have a couple things up our sleeves that I hope will blow minds in the next 18-24 months. As far as hardgoods accessories I think the focus is on technical function with a little bit of fun flare or trick detailing. We’ve found a lot of success in keeping those products highly functional, affordable, and simple. We’ll continue to do that with our bolts, cushions, bearings and add some fun stuff in there too.

Chris Russell_rhino

Chris Russell_rhino

How are you working with bricks and mortar retail to push your products?
In the US we do a custom shop program every couple of years and are working on something like this in Europe in the future. We also do event sponsorship and tours where we incorporate shops. But I think the most important thing is just doing what we do best. It goes back to that brand, product, team mantra. If we focus on that we are supplying the skate shops with what they need to keep their skate scenes going and keep interest in the lifestyle of skateboarding. A lot of this has to do with producing content too—tours, ads, videos, articles… The basic fodder to keep it all going.

Where do you see the most opportunity for growth in the coming years?
Just keep innovating, keep charging on the tours and the content and trying to make the best skateboard products available.

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