Tom Kingsnorth aka Transform aka Pyramid Mag aka the guy this interview is with. Photo: Greg Stevens
Much like so many of snowboarding’s “corest” brands, Transform is actually just one guy working his ass off to make cool shit and snowboard as much as possible. That guy is Tom Kingsnorth – a British chap who calls Austria his winter home and has assembled a stacked international snowboard team and put together a full line of gloves, mittens and several one-off products. That is of course, when he’s not creating content for Pyramid Mag, or getting faceshots on the pistes of Europe. We tuned in few years back thanks to the magic of social media, and it’s been a Facebook chat match in heaven since then. So while you, American Yobeater, might not know/care about the European snowboard scene – this Internet place is a global deal, and, well, we do. So read on to learn more about how Tom is doing his best to live the snowboard dream, one mitten design at a time.
First off, tell the Yobeat public about Transform and its beginnings.
Transform is a European company that is approaching its tenth year, since 2008. When I started it, I struggled to find any gloves in Europe that I liked. There were some horrific colour choices, strange gauntlet style mitts etc. I thought I would try and make a few pairs myself and see what happened, and ideally spend more time snowboarding in the process. I didn’t have any previous education or knowledge in production; I was just winging it and taking it as it came. The first collection got a good response and it has developed from there.
Gotta say I was pretty stoked when my “snowboarding is gay” mittens showed up in the mail (or post as I think you call it) – I vaguely remember the story, but will you fill everyone else in?
Leading up to Sochi there was a lot of talk about the gay rights policies [in Russia.] I was talking to a rider who had qualified and she was nervous to attend because of her sexual preferences. It was just crazy to me that here is a rider that has done enough to qualify for the biggest events in the world (probably one of the biggest moments in her life), and she was intimidated to go. Not because of her riding, but because of something like that. At the same time it was probably the most used slang term to use in snowboarding and skating. If something was bad, you called it gay.
European media juggernaut Henry Jackson and I were talking about Sochi and he said that someone should make a protest about it. We only made 50 pairs that went straight out to the magazines as giveaways. I wasn’t sure what kind of response it would get but it literally blew up. I had people offer me $500 dollars for a pair (which I didn’t take) and mostly people loved the message behind it.
You have a pretty stacked international team, what’s your selection process? Is it similar to making it to the Olympics with points and rankings and all that?
It’s a mixed bag of technical contest riders, some urban and park riders with a few legends in there too, mostly from Europe. The real selection process is if they are cool to hang out with or not. I don’t want to sign some kook just because he is good at snowboarding. They need to have a personality and be fun to talk to and get a beer with as well. A lot of brands will pick riders purely from a marketing point of view but I think that it’s so obvious sometimes. If a brand gets a distributor in a new country, a new rider from there will suddenly join the team. At Transform we have great riders that I personally like as people too.
Why isn’t Transform available in the US? Will it ever be?
There are several reasons, but the main one is that because I spend the majority of my time in Europe. I meet European riders, distributors, reps etc and that’s whom I talk to the most. I think it’s tough for European brands to get established in the US and I am actually struggling to think of a brand who has done it well. That being said, we have had tons of people asking for it in the US lately, and we are talking to several people that want to bring it over, so hopefully that changes soon.
The Fast Text Windbreaker
Your main focus has been hand covers, but you’ve also mentioned trying to expand. What sort of stuff are you working on for the consumers of the future?
Yeah, predominantly Transform was gloves and mitts, but we’ve been expanding to other items as time has gone by. First we added some beanies, tees, hoodies and neckwarmers. Then we added The Villain Hooded Neckwarmer, which hardly anyone was doing at the time. For 17-18 we added our first technical streetwear offering – The FastText Windbreaker. It’s a fully taped anorak shell that you can wear on the hill – but because I spend a lot of time in cities – it also looks good in non-resort places. I wanted something you could wear to the pub or a football game and look good but not necessarily wear something that screams “I am a snowboarder!” The streetwear has been developed in a similar way, I feel like there is something for everyone in that collection, whether you snowboard or not.
The word on the street is that Grenade has ceased production and Celtek is “taking a break.” Without going too far into the how’s and why’s, what would these yet-to-be-confirmed rumors mean for you?
I don’t know the full details, but I think it’s a shame if true and I don’t take joy from it at all. They were both way bigger than Transform and producing legit products as far as I could see. It’s scary that a brand like Celtek, which looked to be doing really well, can close (if that’s what happened.) I feel sorry for the owners, workers and team that are affected by it really. Although they are both competitors, I think competition is healthy and don’t wish bad on companies that are legitimate snowboard companies. Obviously from a business point of view it might end up as a positive for Transform and similar brands, but I’d rather they were still around.
The Lucifer Mitt
What’s next for Transform?
Well, we have the first proper online shop launching in a couple of weeks time, which will ship globally. We will produce more streetwear and accessories for 18-19, and have our Fast Text Windbreaker in more colourways. Hopefully we will have some legit US stockists too, but time will tell for that one.
Haha “Stockists” is a funny word. We just call them shops here. So let’s wrap this up with your sales pitch. Why should people buy Transform?
People should buy it if they want to support a company that is passionate about snowboarding. The whole reason Transform was set up was because I wanted to ride as much as possible, because I love it. This isn’t a company built to chase as many dollars as possible, so if you respect that, buy Transform. If not, buy something else. The choice is yours. Cheers.