this cold seasonal weather its undoubtedly a challenge to keep warm
and look somewhat fashionable. Who honestly looks good with a scarf
wrapped around their head in four degree weather? But a local company
is taking one of the simplest items of winter wear and turning it
into both a utility and a custom statement.
Discrete Headwear has opened up a line of hats and beanies designed for both conventional and sporting use while still showcasing a unique look. The brainchild of a professional skier, local extreme sport competitor Julian Carr pushed forward with his idea making the hats a staple of locally owned stores, and introducing them to fellow competitors for their own use while on the slopes. I got a chance to chat with Julian about his professional career, starting up Discrete, thoughts on local fashion and a few other topics.
Gavin: Hey Julian! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Julian: My name is Julian Carr, I'm a professional athlete and I own and operate my headwear company - Discrete Headwear. I've lived in Salt Lake City my entire life, and although I travel quite a bit, I love calling Salt Lake City home.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in extreme sports, and what drew you toward skiing?
Julian: Ever since I was little I've been drawn to athletic endeavors and challenges of the intellect. With extreme sports, especially skiing - you get challenged everyday.
Gavin: When did the idea come around to go professional and start competing?
Julian: Competing came by way of just wanting to get around as many people that had a high skill set in this particular sport, so that I could absorb as much as I could. It's like ping-pong, you are never going to get better if you play people you can beat easily, you need to seek out competitors that are better than you, so that you get better. See the mountain more clearly, learn from others style, and vision of the mountain.
Gavin: What are some of the major competitions you've had the chance to take part in, and how is it for you going around the world competing in these events?
Julian: I've competed in the World Freeskiing Tour on and off again for the last five years or so. Right here at Snowbird is the U.S. Freeskiing Championships, actually this winter it's the World Championships - so it's crazy to have such a worldly contest right here in your own backyard. It's very cool to see the Europeans come over and lay down some proud confident lines. The Japanese always show up and crush it. The Kiwi's, South Americans, Canadians, you name it, they come out to compete from all over the world.
Gavin: What was it like for you setting the Front Flip record in Switzerland, both in the moment of it and the aftershock of accomplishing it?
Julian: Oh that was all good times, man. It was my first time in Europe, we were partying our asses off all over Austria, then rolled into Switzlerland - big cliffs everywhere! Even though we were closing the bars down, we were always the first up in the AM to get out there and poke around. THE cliff I had my eye on from the first day I got to Engleberg, but the snow wasn't quite deep enough - our last few days there - it blizzard for thirty straight hours, then our last day there it went bluebird, fresh three feet of snow. I went straight to THE cliff, sent it and at the end of the day, we were like, "I wonder how big that is?" I knew in my body it was at least 200 feet, the biggest cliff I'd jumped up to that point was 175 feet, and this one was substantially bigger, the view I had when I got into the air looking down, was a significant increase from what my visual was on the 175 footer. One of the skiers in our group cuts down huge trees for a living, old ones that are dying near peoples properties, so he is always climbing huge 200 foot trees. We all looked at him, and I said, "that cliff is at least 200 feet right?", and he says, "oh hell yeah, that's at least 200 feet." I walked away calling it 210 feet, it was probably bigger, but it was at least 210 feet. Records don't hype me up anyway, just jumping fun, safe, huge cliffs, is what hypes me up. If it happens to be the world record for the biggest invert off a cliff, that's awesome. But I'm just hyped up because it was so much fun! And it happened to be a world record.
Gavin: How is it for you doing the films on those high-risk jumps, both as the focus and the man doing the work?
Julian: Focus for me is meditational. I am at a rested state, pure concentration, and awareness. Of myself, my abilities, the snowpack, and the cosmos at large. Sounds kind of hippy-status, but it's the truth. Even if one hair on my body is nervous, I walk away. Usually I am aware that everything is going to be okay. I have the ability, the snow is enabling, and the universe is smiling on me. SEND IT!!!
Gavin: Where did the idea come from to launch Discrete?
Julian: I just wasn't seeing a company that had what I was looking for in regards to headwear. And I knew that my shelf life as a pro skier wasn't eternal. I want to be in this industry after skiing, I want to ski pow my whole life, so Discrete came from my inspiration of loving snow and realizing I can't make a living as a pro athlete forever.
Gavin: Of all the winter-wear products out there, why specifically hats?
Julian: There are some great headwear companies out there, namely Neff, Spacecraft, Coal, and Elm. Each of these companies have their roots in snowboarding, which is great. Discrete is unique because we are the only rider-owned-operated headwear brand with roots in skiing.
Gavin: How did you go about getting a staff together to make and market them?
Julian: Well my staff has consisted of me and my business partner, Dave Gibson. So we are pretty busy most of the time. No complaints though, I'm loving it - a good challenge. My marketing ideas stem from gut feelings most of the time, I'll just have something, an idea, come to me, and I'll just run with it. And I've been fortunate enough to make some great relationships in the ski industry from my skiing, and that has helped me navigate the business landscape tremendously.
Gavin: What's the process like in creating a new hat, from design to final product?
Julian: It's cool. I go to my factory, see what fabrics they have, colors, what their capabilities are, show them rough ideas/sketches - we go back and forth, until it's satisfactory. It's always a good day when the prototypes show up at your doorstep, it's crazy though, because I am getting my prototypes done in October/November knowing they won't be in the shops until the next winter, and at the same time, I'm busy marketing/shipping our current winter line. Crazy split thinking going on.
Gavin: What was it like for you first getting everything started and working on the early designs?
Julian: Blind leading the blind. I didn't know which way was up! Once I had some product, I invited over all my ski/snowboard buddies and just gave each of them a bunch of the new gear. That's how it all started the first couple years. I would make some stuff for the homies, and that was it. It gained presence from some damn good skiers/snowboarders in the Wasatch sporting it. And three years ago I said okay, now it's time to start actually start selling at the tradeshows, and getting sales reps, international distributors, etc. I've been piecing together those aspects the last couple years, and will continue to expand yearly.
Gavin: How did the first year go for you? And how was it getting the national exposure from wearing them in competitions?
Julian: First year of actually making a conscious effort to sell them went very well. I set a sales goal for our first year, and we doubled it. Last year, our second year selling, considering the economy, we're still growing - so I feel lucky, and it makes me work even harder. It's survival of the fittest out there. People/businesses are going hungry.
Gavin: The products are sold in several states and branching out to other countries. How have people beyond the state taken to them both as utility and fashion?
Julian: People are stoked! Which makes me stoked to keep doing a good job, and working hard. It makes my day when I get an email from anyone, anywhere being hyped on our brand. But when it's a big international distributor knocking on my door, that really makes my day.
Gavin: You've also expanded a tad into T-Shirts. Are there more on the way in that area, and are you considering any other products to start making?
Julian: For sure. I really want to lock down headwear, but we are surely going to branch into other areas. What you ask? Can't really say right now, have some ideas, but nothing concrete.
Gavin: Going a bit local, what's your take on the local fashion scene, both good and bad?
Julian: Salt Lake is the shit! We've got it going on. It's great that so many people live here that ride as a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is fashionable enough, that people that don't ride, love the fashion. Double win.
Gavin: Anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Julian: More areas that are authentic to Salt Lake. It was such a bummer, and still is, all those shops getting torn down in Sugarhouse. 9th & 9th is still pretty cool, but it used to be much cooler when Chameleon Artwear used to be there, etc. Just stuff like that. More sick places to shop and hang, rather than the stale replacements like Barnes & Noble, and fucking Cafe Rio.
Gavin: What are your thoughts about local retailers and how they deal with local products?
Julian: For the most part it's pretty good. SLCitizen is doing some cool stuff with local artists/brands, as well as FRESH on 9th and 9th. And I've gotten some great support from some bigger stores locally, knowing I'm a local individual with a local brand - it's going out on a limb for some of them, I understand there is only so much risk a shop can incur with taking unproven brands. Some start up brands have great products, but they don't know anything about the back end of business, so how can a shop expect to get your products on time, order in the proper timeframe, and have proper follow up communications etc... Shops can respect you and your product, but they are doing business with you, they have to feel as good about doing business with you as they do about your product.
Gavin: Do you have any favorite shops you like to work with or shop from?
Julian: I like Positively 4th Steet Music, SLCitizen, Lenitech, Uprok, Milo, Causwell, BackCountry.com, Deep Powder House up at Alta, Cliff Sports at Snowbird, Fresh, and Prospect up in PC.
Gavin: A bit on the local sports, what's your take on extreme sports and how they're handled in Utah?
Julian: At the underground level, it's off the chain. Sport by sport it is insane! Media at large here could do a better job, they say only 8% of Utahns ski or snowboard?! What?!
Gavin: How do you feel our slopes and resorts compare to ones across Denver and California?
Julian: We blow them out of the water. Well, our snow does, our terrain does. Their are some sick resorts in Cali and Denver, but they can't touch our snow. Not even close. Alta/Snowbird/Brighton are #1. In the world. Our snow is untouchable.
Gavin: Do you see anything on the horizon changing for skiing or snowboarding, or do you think things will remain as they are for a few more years?
Julian: It's always changing. Look at skiing or snowboarding ten years ago, it's all connected, the progression, but look ten years from now - going to be ridiculous. It already is. Snowboarding is and always will be established with the riders in mind. And that is going to continue to change in skiing, more and more rider focused companies will emerge and lead the industry.
Gavin: What can we expect from both you and Discrete going into next year?
Julian: More stoke, more love, and just know I'm always looking to get rowdy in the mountains. And with Discrete, I've dedicated myself to produce the best possible headwear style, function, quality, fit, and look. I will continue to make the athletes an integral voice and force behind our products. And I'm always looking for the next kid to sponsor...
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Julian: I have to give a shout out to Billy Poole: BillyPooleSkiFoundation.org. And thanks to all my ski sponsors: Atomic, Spyder, Skullcandy, BackCountry.com, Smith Optics & Helmets, Discrete, and POW Gloves.