Augie Galan & Geoff Heath: Acapulco Gold
For many who have emerged from New York’s trailblazing Supreme, inevitably the skate brand has opened the doors to many as well as adequately preparing departing associates for any future initiatives. One brand that perhaps holds the most weight in recent times is Acapulco Gold who have developed quite a following and platform for their movement. Beyond just their flagship Acapulco Gold brand, founders Augie Galan and Geoff Heath have created a dynamic environment and helped foster a positive landscape for skateboarding. In addition, their own cultural driver, Run My Game has provided a proper medium for their various brands as well as an outlet for relevant skate news. We caught up with the two as they offer us a comprehensive look into their past experiences at Supreme to starting a new brand and the current New York skate scene.
Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: Janette Beckman
Special Thanks: Avi Friedman
Interview with Augie Galan and Geoff Heath
Hey what up? Hope things are well… for those unaware could you give a quick introduction about yourselves and a little background behind Acapulco Gold?
Augie: I was born in Camaguey Cuba, and grew up in Queens, NY. I started going downtown when I was 13 to party and skate in the mid-late 80′s. My father worked up in the train yards in Washington Heights, Manhattan so I would go up there and see other parts and people of the city, I’d check out the South Bronx, Fordham Road, Brooklyn whatever. I would get open on the all the different styles going on in the city and then I’d go downtown and I’d see them all come together in one place. I started working in retail because school wasn’t my thing anymore. This is where I started learning all there is to about the game. I got my design and production skills up while working at Supreme with my boy Geoff Heath who had found his way to NYC in 1998. We worked to make that as good as we could, and in 2006, we decided to do it for ourselves and we started Acapulco Gold. It’s been all good ever since.
Geoff: I’ve been around for awhile. Back in the 90′s I had a street brand called “Pervert” and learned a lot of things that eventually led to a path working with Supreme and now Acapulco Gold. I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts but raised in Atlanta and Miami. Eventually I settled in New York.
Both growing up in different locales and areas, how do you think this affects your visual communication and aesthetic? Do you think that you guys work together in unison cause you guys share similar views despite different backgrounds?
Geoff: The different locales and areas has a little bit to do with my aesthetic but for the most part it is how my mind works. I know a lot of people that grow up in wild places and have a unique upbringing and their visual communication is horrible. When I do things I always try to make things that I like because if I do not like what I am making my heart is not in the project. If my heart is not in the project then I could care less about what I am making.
I think Augie and I get along so well because we do have similar views on the world. But I think the biggest reason is because we are self aware of who we are as individuals and treat each other as such. Most people can’t get along with themselves let alone get along with someone else.
Augie: I was raised in an older household and Cuban culture in the 40′s and 50′s was all about style and fine taste, so I guess that interest was passed down to me by my parents. The streets then formed my way of communicating both in terms of the people I chose to hang with and the things I chose to create. I’m pretty sure Geoff was raised with similar values and even though we grew up in different places, we hung with the same types of people in general so we understand each other on that level. Geoff also lived around a lot of my peoples when he was in Miami so he understands our craziness. Finally we grew up liking the same movies, music, clothing etc.. so it’s easy to see where our similarities lie.
When working together we’re able to express these same ideas in separate ways since Geoff’s specialty is graphics, and my specialty is fabric and construction. He helps me express my ideas graphically, and I help bring his designs to life. Therefore the final product is always good in my eyes because of the care we took in developing the idea.
From the sounds of things, you guys do a good job of complimenting each other, as I understand you both had stints with Supreme. Did your guys relationship begin prior to Supreme? What are some of your favorite moments working for one of streetwear’s most heralded and iconic brands?
GH: Our relationship began before Supreme when I moved up from Miami and Augie was working at Union. I would go hang out in Union and met Augie in there. After a while he came to work with me and Brendon at Supreme and it was just the 3 of us for a few years. One of my favorite memories from Supreme was the time that I had totaled the company truck in New Jersey. This truck was a newer one than the truck Augie used to drive. I was going to New Jersey on January 2nd, I’ll never forget it, I came out of the Holland tunnel and was making my way up the ramp to get on the turnpike. All of a sudden I was facing sideways on the ramp and trying to correct the spin I was in. Next thing I know I am spinning the other direction on black ice and I am out of control. I was spun multiple times until I crashed into the side wall. If you have ever been on that bridge you know it is about 20 stories tall so while I was spinning I thought I was going to die. It wasn’t just me that was out of control the people behind me were all spinning and skidding out of control coming at me. It turned into a 20 car pile-up after me. Once the dust had settled and was ok it was all kind of fun.
AG: Geoff and my partnership started the day he walked into Union in 1998. However while in High School I was buying the stuff he was designing at the time with a company called Pervert in the early 90′s, so I guess you could say our relationship began before 98. Yeah I think we compliment each other pretty well. We also share similar driving styles. Which brings me to one of my favorite memories. In the early days of Supreme we were able to borrow the company car on weekends cause our boss was cool like that. I was pickin’ up this girl that had flown out to see me from LA at JFK one night. She landed early and had caught a cab back to my place in Astoria. So when I get to the airport and she calls me and tells me she’s at my place, I hop in the 1989 Nissan Pathfinder that we used to call the “Death Trap” and I’m doing 120 on the Southern State Parkway going West, and as I turn a corner I somewhat see a broken down van, with 4 people jacking the tire in the back. There were no lights on or hazards on, so in the pitch dark when I get within 20 feet of it and I finally realized what it was, I swerved last minute to avoid killing everyone. I took my driver’s side rearview mirror off on the side of the parked van, as I narrowly escaped death, and as I struggled to get control of the wheel I crossed 3 lanes of traffic until I finally got it under control. I collected myself, and then booked home doing a more conservative 90mph.
That’s some messed up stuff and ironic both of you guys had memorable moments at Supreme involving the company car haha. Following the Supreme days, did you learn enough to make starting up Acapulco Gold a relative breeze, or was there some unforeseen difficulties?
GH: Let me tell you this, what you think you know is never enough. There is always something new to learn. It comes down to who you are as a person and how you can handle situations as they rise. For example, if production comes in and something is not right do you return the whole shipment, get a discount or do nothing? These things happen every single time and from every single contractor. Just because someone made you something nice last time and you reorder the same thing doesn’t mean that the second delivery will be the exact same. But for the most part learning what we did at Supreme and the other brands we worked at gave us an education.
AG: Learning a trade from the bottom up is crazy with and everyday brought a new headache. We were able to get a lot of those headaches out the way early so we developed the discipline to correct ourselves whenever we foul up. And you fuck up a lot, but then again none of this would be any fun if it wasn’t like that. Having grown up in a very crazed environment I learned early that it’s all about hustling. Whether you hustle on the streets or you hustle your ass off to make your ideas happen it all comes from the same instinct, a sense of desperation.
I see that you have a few different diffusion lines aside from Acapulco Gold including Bricks, High Post and Instant Winner. Was this something important to you in creating separate themes and directions? Could you give a little run-down of each line and what they represent to you?
GH: Each separate brand is just a different aspect of how we design. When you sit down to design a brand not everything that you design ends up in the final line. That does not mean that the excluded designs are not good it just means that they did not fit into the line or the season that you sat down to design. Why would you let those designs go to waste?
AG: I think it was always important for us to show our varied ideas to people. They always start out as concepts and after a while we see where things go. This probably sounds like a recipe for failure, but this is the way we’ve always created things. After a while you start to see a bigger picture develop with your ideas and then you can start categorizing them etc. When an idea is good, it’s hard to let it go to waste. So we don’t.
It seems for a lot of brands, the Internet is a touchy subject for branding. For example the likes of Visvim just launched their website while it took awhile for Supreme to enter into Internet commerce. With the launch of Run My Game, what sort of things inspired this pretty comprehensive one-stop commerce and media site?
AG: I think now everyone has to concede to the power of the web. 10 years ago this wasn’t the case because the technology wasn’t there and I also think it’s in people’s nature to stay within they’re comfort zone. Back then, that zone was a lot bigger with fewer companies in the mix. But in the chase to maintain our ”cool” I think some lose sight of the fact that we only thought we were “cool” because no one else knew what we knew. That’s over now, everyone knows, and now it’s about showing people your shit in the best, most creative way possible. To engage them in your ideas and your plans. That’s what Run My Game is as well as being our online store front. We’re pleased with how it turned out.
GH: What a better way to showcase you brand than to present it in a way that you intended it to be shown. We wanted a website that was all in one. Let’s say I go to a website because I am interested in something that someone is doing. I end up on a blog, cool. Then there is a company website, even better. Now I want to buy something from this brand because I like what I see. For this to happen I am taken to a 3rd website to the online store or I am shown a list of different online stores where I can buy the product that I liked. After all this I need to get back to the original blog and see if that what I am buying is what I found on the online store. Who has time for this horse shit? So I told myself when I make my website I want it to be as easy as possible to navigate, to read news, to buy products and to see all of the new videos. Runmygame.com is what I wanted it to be, easy to use.
It’s true, the fine balance of “being cool” and moving only a handful of product has all but changed these days. You’d be stupid not to capitalize on the massive audience now made available to you thanks to the Internet. We recently saw an upcoming project you’re doing with Vans on a shoe. Could you speak a bit in detail regarding how the project came about and what was your approach to the design?
AG: Vans has a long history, and I first bought a pair of them in 1988 when the classic was big in the city. My friends from Brooklyn were wearing them with the preppy style that we were starting to rock. I wore the shit out of those shoes one summer and they remain one my favorite shoes of all time. So present day, when my friend Chris from Vans calls me up and tells me I’ll have the opportunity to design a Moda Hi shoe along with Geoff, it all came back around, that same feeling and I was psyched. We wanted to come up with something dope and I’m happy with what we developed.
GH: Billy Rohan and Acapulco Gold have been putting on a few skate contests this summer and last summer here in New York. Maybe you have heard about them, they are called The King of Spring, Rooftop Rampage and the Halloween Hellraiser. You can watch the videos of each contest over at the video section on runmygame.com. One of our main sponsors for the events has been Vans. If you are gonna have a skate contest why would you not have Vans there. Since we have been making some noise in NY with these contest and Vans wanted to do an East vs. West shoe collab they called us up and asked us if we wanted in on the design. Who better than Acapulco Gold to ask for a shoe concept. We did the shoe design and also a t-shirt that goes along with it. Both items are coming out in the Spring of 2010 through Vans.
Having been an integral part of the contemporary NY skate scene, how have things changed over the years. Has New York stayed relatively the same in terms of style and approach? Has the commercialization of skateboarding had an overall impact?
GH: The commercialization of skateboarding has had a big effect on NY. It is more acceptable here in NY. The one thing that has really helped skateboarding here in NY is the economical downfall of the financial markets. There aren’t as many security guards at the skate spots because the large companies are making cuts across the board and they have bigger problems to deal with. NY has been a controlled area years now but the city has been slippin’ back a little. The rules are relaxing and you can get away with things that you could not get away from before.
AG: Skating in NY has been around before I got into it and I have always respected the people and personalities that make it what it is. Over the years the faces may have changed in the city but the scene has just gotten bigger and better. The only thing was for a few years I thought the focus was off of the local talent, as there were a lot of transplants from Upstate, Ohio, and the Mid-West coming into the scene and defining it for themselves, which is cool, because it was a new phase in the progression. However, one of the main reasons we started our contest series was to promote the growth of the local scene, all five boroughs. When I go back to when I started skating it was all about the boroughs. Manhattan had the kids comin’ outta Stuy Town and LES, and Queens had the kids from Woodside, Jackson Heights, Astoria, and Forest Hills, while Brooklyn had Park Slope and Sunset Park heads doing their thing, and you can’t forget the Jersey kids who were always in the background ripping it up. Now with the popularity of skating at an all time high, we get to do the same thing on a larger scale. Skateboarding gets commercialized every 10 years so I think this is nothing new, it’s just brings new people into the fray. It’s a progressive sport and it has to evolve. It will always be the punk rock shit to do but these days I look at it more like a professional pastime.
With New York arguably the mecca of so many vibrant subcultures including so-called streetwear, much like skating, how has streetwear changed in your eyes? While the skate world has seen some benefits are there any parallels with streetwear?
AG: Styles progress over time, and along the way people slap names on them. Skateboarding is an activity and a lifestyle, I think it has both form and function and that’s why I’ve always been into it. The label “Streetwear” is something that in part has come out of our desire to merge the skateboard lifestyle with the urban sophistication and trifeness we grew up around. One definitely feeds into the other. I always thought that skateboarding started it all, but then you go back to the Surf culture of the 70′s in Venice, Ca and you see the connections, then punk and hip-hop got thrown into the mix, and along came skateboarding, and clothes were huge again in the 80′s and everyone decided that that was the way they were going to define themselves, and the 90′s exploded with creativity and then we learned how to sell for ourselves, and now we’re here.
GH: I have been in the streetwear market for a long time. The one thing that I can say is that the variety of styles has grown. What I mean is years ago you would only have t-shirts and hats. Now you have shoes, suits, jackets and everything else under the sun. It is nice to see such a wide variety of products done on a small scale. With all of these diverse styles going around the market this will only help to grow the acceptance of the talent in the streetwear market.
You guys are both heavily entrenched in the culture, where do you draw your inspirations? Would you say they change pretty frequently or have they stayed pretty linear throughout?
GH: This is the question where everyone shows off and says that their inspiration is some high art in a museum or some rare photographer. The truth for me is I get my inspiration from everywhere. I go to the little kids clothing section in Macy’s and to the high end boutiques and finish up in the hood stores. I also read as many blogs as possible, look at as many magazines as I can. I watch all kinds of TV from the History Channel to Dora the Explorer. I listen to every bit of music that I can get my hands on. I like the radio, satellite radio, mixtapes, and any other place that I can hear music. I don’t listen to just one kind of music. Right now I am into early soulful house music from the 81-85. Last week I was listening to Merle Haggard. That is one thing I know for sure, you never know where your inspiration will come from.
AG: Gettin’ up in the morning and being able to do my own thing is inspiration enough for me. All the other stuff is just dressing on the cake. Between me and Geoff music is the main bond. We listen to all types of shit and I was lucky to have come up in an age of great stuff. My approach to the direction has always been the same, stick with what I like and what I think others will like to wear, and then add my own touch to it and Geoff will throw his thing into it, and vice versa and we’re done. I’ve never tried to re-invent the wheel but I’ve always tried to make it better. I might look into a new interest or inspiration but I’ll never let go of the ones that made me who I am. Your work should be your art, and you have to approach your art with discipline. Word to Big Bird.
To finish things off… any last things you want to want to say? What’s upcoming from AG?
GH: Yes I have a few last things to say and I quote ”Just, I guess, I like class. I don’t mean rings and cars and clothes. I mean just people who you can just tell have class by looking at them. You know, just the way they handle themselves and the way they walk. I like people with class”. – Pete Rose
AG: Give a man an inch and he’ll take a mile. El que mucho abarca poco aprieta. Finally, we have a lot of great things planned for AG in the future and when we think of them we’ll let you know. Thanks again for the interview.