The Free and Liberated State, an Interview with Kevin Furtado

Ever since I started skateboarding, I’ve had an infatuation with skate shoes.  I have seen shoes styles come and go, and come back again.  From the classic Vans Skate Hi in the late 80’s, to the armored Airwalk NTS in the early 90’s. From the urban inspired Axions in the later 90’s, and The D3 2001 at the tip of the century, which was the peak of over inflated shoes, and also brought in revenue from many non skaters.  The styles have come and go.

        In present day, among skaters, the more classic styles reign supreme.  All of the brands; Nike, Adidas, Converse, and others, offer a variety of minimalist styles.  What they don’t offer, is the “core” mentality of an independent brand.  A brand that is similar in structure to your favorite underground board brand.  A brand without huge corporate dollars funding the program.  It was time for an underdog to come through, and I believe that underdog is State Footwear.

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SMDM:Who are you,and what would you say you do?

Kevin: My name is Kevin Furtado, I own and run State Footwear.

SMDM:What brought up the idea to start State?

Kevin:I worked for Dekline (Tum Yeto) for 14 years. In 2015 when Dekline was closing up shop I had spent a great deal of time considering what I wanted to do next that could provide a living, as well as give me personal satisfaction working in skateboarding.

SMDM: Sounds like a great idea, but a difficult one…

Kevin:Considering starting a footwear brand on my own was extremely daunting and although I was confident in my abilities, I was not sold I could pull it off to get it off the ground. I thought if I could get the brand started, I would have a shot at making it work. Luckily, a lot of things fell in to place at the right time and it allowed me to make it happen. I don’t mean to say that I started State because I needed a job. It probably would have been much easier to try to work for one of the big brands. My first thought is to always work for something smaller, so I was much more driven to put something together new on my own then work for someone else.

SMDM: So, you are the real garage brand.  As in, you actually do all of your operations from your garage.  Are you aware you started a trend in stating that? 

Kevin: Yes, I 100% started and ran the brand from the garage at my house for the first year. That said, I did just move in to a space for State this month. The space is very much similar to my garage, one big room, concrete floors, cinderblock walls, and no rooms. It was an old motorcycle shop. I love it. Super happy to have a space to go to. And the rent was real affordable. And, I’m not sure I started anything, but I do know it’s possible to run a brand from your garage if you have the space and you are willing to commit to it.

“Yes, I 100% started and ran the brand from the garage at my house for the first year.”

SMDM:What is your take on other brands using the term “garage brand” loosely, knowing they have corporate sponsors paying them big checks to play brand owner? 

Kevin: I have heard stories of some of the people you are referring to, but never knew if that was actual or just rumors. I guess regardless if its fact or fiction, it really has no barring on my situation.

SMDM:Was it hard selling the brand to Zumiez? Surely those guys don’t know what a Kevin Coakley, or Ben Gore is….. I also get why you sell them, and I am happy you came right out with that in an earlier interview.

Kevin: To be honest, you would be surprised. Some of the buyers actually are pretty in tune. That said, yes of course it is not going to be the same skateboarder who is walking in to buy the brand that regularly shops at  “Vu Skateshop” for example. I am sure that is the biggest difference.

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SMDM: Ah, Vu! I’m a huge Garial Heel fan.  The ageless wonder.  Gary that owns Vu still kills it to this day.  Baltimore has an amazing scene. Anyway, recently I’ve noticed that there are a few new shoe brands popping up now that you started one.  What’s your take on that? 

Kevin: I know of 2 that just came out, and 2 more that are supposed to be coming soon. I am cool with that, especially if its skateboard owned. The industry needs more of that. I have no problem with the big athletic brands, I just have a problem if they are the ONLY ones. More skateboard footwear brands could bring forth new ideas, designs, development, etc. Stuff that only comes from a real skateboarders mind. I am all for it.

SMDM: Was it easy getting the team to ride for you? I know some of those guys were getting shoes from some pretty big brands.

Kevin: I would not say easy. With each one I had a formal introduction from another person, so I don’t think I came out of the total dark. With that said, they took a big leap of faith to come be a part of this, and I am truly grateful for their willingness to join on. I think now that we have a year in our rear view mirror, everyone is feeling pretty good about the brand.

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SMDM:That makes sense, all good things come in time.  Have any other brands tried to steal any of your riders yet?

Kevin: Ha, not yet. I would not be surprised if they did. I am still shocked our team came together as well as it did, our team is really good! I would like to say the team is happy and involved with all parts of the brand, so my hope is even if big brands came around that I am doing my part and that they will want to stay.

SMDM: Being a smaller brand, I am sure you have a limited budget.  Have there been  times you have come across people you would like to hook up, but can’t do so financially?  

Kevin: There are lots of people we would like to be involved, but yea the budget is tight. However, it really hasn’t affected us too much, as we want to keep it tight. Any team interest that comes to me I immediately send to the team for their input. We have no formal Team Manager, so I want the team to be the voice in the brands direction. I own the brand, but my job is to be a facilitator that keeps their input and direction consistent.

SMDM: Any pro shoes coming soon?

Kevin: Not there yet, but I would love to get there eventually. It has to be right for everyone when we do it.

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SMDM: Do you get overloaded with sponsor me requests? Any funny ones?

Kevin: I get a fair amount. Mostly through Instagram. I watch all of them. If the kid took the time to be interested in what we are about, I owe it at least that much. I am still good friends with Mike Sinclair, he get hundreds of them!

SMDM: Wow! You need to put me on with him.  You are a lot nicer than I am.  I can’t stand the cut and paste ones with no mention of brand name, just a generic message. With guest skateboards being an awesome way for a board company to put some cool names on their brand without being able to get that rider, or as an homage, would you ever consider being the first shoe brand to do a guest shoe?

Kevin: That would be awesome. Not sure the details on how that would work, but I would be down if it made sense. We have had talks about doing guest brand shoes. Like a shoe color way through a board brand. One that is suitable that fits together. Also would love to do tribute shoes. People who are still skating, but not as a full time job.

“We have had talks about doing guest brand shoes. Like a shoe colorway through a board brand.”

SMDM: I have noticed lots of inspiration from some classic shoe models in your brand.  I like that you’re not trying to change the shoe game, just offer your own take on it.  

Kevin: Yea man, that is correct. I wanted to make good shoes. The classics. I have heard some feedback from people who feel our shoes look like others. I can see what they are talking about to some to degree, but that does not mean they are not good skateboard shoes. All of our shoes have a perforated rubber underlay between the lining and upper to hold up to grip tape. All insoles are PU versus sheet cut EVA, Double last vulc construction. None of these are super “tech” features, but they are all intentional applications for skateboarding end use. Take the logos off the big athletic skate shoe brands you know and imagine what the shoe would look like?

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SMDM:If everyone needed something out of the ordinary, Supra would be killing the skate game.  With that said, what are your 5 all time favorite shoes? 

Kevin: As skateboard shoes go, in no particular order

*Van Classic slip on

*Adidas Samba

*I path Cats (the vulc one they did at the end)

*Gravis Dylan Slip

*Emerica MJ

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Add 2 more non skate

*Clarks boots

*Original wino’s

SMDM: Wow, a year went quick. What’s in store for State in the future?

Kevin: Video. We are making a 3 part video for 2017. To be released early, mid, and end of this year. All around 10 minutes featuring the whole team. Colin Read (Spirit Quest) is editing the videos. Very excited about that!

SMDM: Colin is a master at his craft, I think that’s a solid move.

 

Make sure you check out State Footwear on the web at www.statefootwear.com, and first and foremost, at your local skateshop.

 

 

 

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