Gigi Rüf. Photo James North.

Big Wig Interview: Gigi Rüf Talks Slash By GiGi

Gigi Rüf sits among the top table of snowboarding greats. Known for his expressive style which has now become iconic, Gigi has released revered video parts for the best part of a quarter of a century and still rides pro for brands including Dragon, Union Bindings, Mons Royale, TSG, Evoc and 686 for whom he has just debuted his new GORE-TEX 3L ATV Collection Pro model series. Not bad for a 42-year old father of two teenagers.

We’ll touch on Gigi’s pro career in this issue’s Big Wig interview, but it’s his snowboard company, Slash By GiGi – which becomes a teenager next year – that we’re here to talk about. As well as riding professionally, Gigi owns and operates Slash independently and we pick his brains to see how one of the greatest to do it runs his own board company. 

Gigi Rúf

Gigi Rúf

GiGi, please tell us the circumstances that led you to start Slash By Gigi Snowboards.
The circumstances were simple, the market offered different sorts of cambers but not camber itself. There were seemingly no boards available that would work in the field of performance we were pushing towards so hard – big mountain freestyle. Leading up to Slash I spent 15 years with three very uniquely orientated projects; Seven, Uninc and Volcom Snowboards were my previous board lines.

What is Slash’s place on the market?
It’s about hearing the train coming. I am not all antiestablishment, for me it’s just about communicating happiness around the world.

What have you achieved with Slash?
To a certain extent, everything I’ve achieved with the brand is just a byproduct of my creative output and I’m lucky that this isn’t limited or held back by the need for a certain direction or “feel” that comes with being an established board line or company.

What were your biggest lessons learnt from COVID?
If you are in sports you tend to go about your own stuff anyway. If you didn’t lose your focus, I’m sure you managed to remain content. From a company perspective, the post Covid years definitely weigh much heavier. Every process shows its vulnerability, but by being a small independent company certainly has its benefits.

What’s your approach to carry over?
Years before I thought it was just an excuse for brands to pretend to be the sober ones, not giving anything – to the lifestyle – then simply producing on demand. The Internet alone floods the market without the pre-order gauge of how much shop floor there is. Now doing carry forward graphics is a cost / value thing and it actually allows smaller brands to bridge a creativity gap and innovate. What I would call the new order – in an oversaturated, fast-paced consumer world – carry over allows brands, who really want to deliver a well curated and designed product to the market, the time to get it right and deliver it at a time that suits.

Gigi on the Slash Vertical. Photo James North

Gigi on the Slash Vertical. Photo James North

Where are you manufacturing?
At Meditec in Tunisia and NBL in Poland.

Who works for the brand?
Old friend and collaborator Mathias who also designs for the Pirates is Slash’s graphic designer. Recently my wife Steffi has been helping me out when I get swamped in the high times from October to December. Then I have Harry MT (you, haha) on payroll for marketing and social media. Harry’s been with Slash for 4 years now. And then I have Jacco Bos who serves as our team manager, with his ear to the ground for recruitment.

Team work. Steffi & Gigi enjoying more and more time in the backcountry together. Photo James North

Team work. Steffi & Gigi enjoying more and more time in the backcountry together. Photo James North

As one of the few pro-rider owned and operated snowboard companies, what are the hardest things with the juggle?
This round is dedicated to all the teachers that told me or made me feel like I‘d never amount to nothing.

Which brands are you currently working with as a pro rider?
686, Dragon, Union Bindings, Mons Royale, TSG and Evoc.

What projects will you work on this winter?
A collaboration drop with graffiti artist and graphic designer Thumbs, which we’ll be dropping on a limited number of Slash boards and Union Custom House bindings early in 2024 – stay tuned. Last time we worked with Thumbs, he brought our Looney Tunes x 686 collab design to life. It sold out within 24 hours, so I’m excited to see how this one goes down.

I’ll also be pushing our Apartment Collection forward. The idea for this was born in a derelict atelier in Innsbruck next door to our designer Mathias’ studio. He commandeered the atelier with our friend and artist Jakob, where they mounted snowboard wood cores to the walls, threw paint and created one cohesive piece of art. The collection has been received really well at retail and so – going back to the carry over subject – I decided to carry this line forward, allowing me and Mathias to grow our TopART project from the existing Happy Place model to now include the ATV & Vertical shapes for 24/25.

Tell us more about TopART.
TopART is a high-quality sticker sheet that allows riders to mount snowboard-sized stickers to their board. It’s something I’d been thinking about for a while and we brought the idea to life earlier this year. There’s a sustainability angle; it allows customers to prolong the life of an old snowboard. Creativity and fashion are big parts of snowboard culture and just as snowboarders like new and exciting products, they are also increasingly aware of their carbon footprint, meaning updating a board just because the graphic is old is no longer very cool. I’ll be working with artists and designers to bring their work to TopART; like my first collaboration with photographer Blotto. It’s something I think retailers will be into as it gives their customers a cost-effective way of repping their shop. We trialed it with our friends at CrazyShop from Spain and those guys love it. It’s something different and interesting.

To accompany the TopART sticker, I launched a Happy Place TopART edition in January 2023. A blank version of our best-selling freestyle board, which when purchased with a roll of TopART gives the consumer a discount. I’m rolling out the TopART boards to include the ATV and Vertical for 24/25.

Gigi by James North

Gigi by James North

Where do you see Slash in 5 years time?
Hopefully in my sons hands.

How did your fundraising mission go in the summer?
All summer I had different things on my plate to deal with. I had one EU Distro go bankrupt and another global distributor hasn’t been doing good business. But I did break new ground and signed a US distributor with warehouses and a better set up for B2B using a Shopify database.

I am still out there trying to raise the funds. There’s been some helpful advice from people reaching out and generally caring about what I do.

All in all it’s sort of a hard time to make up my mind as to whether to remain as an independent or to become a worker for someone else, so as not to run the risk of taking food off the table of my family. We have lots of ideas that now need to wait for better cashflow, but I can proudly look back at my original Slash ATV and the so often copied Slash Straight having done a significant Job in how the Shop floor looks today.

Gigi riding Revelstoke earlier this year

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