Stab Magazine | ourCASTE has it all

ourCASTE has it all

A Tom Fjord exploration… Behind the Orange Curtain there’s a surf brand born every minute. Most crash like starlet Benzes but from time to time, voila! You’ve got Volcom. And yet, this is very rare. Among the many failures there may lack: a strong purpose and identity; a visionary designer; an economy on the rebound […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

A Tom Fjord exploration…

Behind the Orange Curtain there’s a surf brand born every minute. Most crash like starlet Benzes but from time to time, voila! You’ve got Volcom. And yet, this is very rare.

Among the many failures there may lack: a strong purpose and identity; a visionary designer; an economy on the rebound with nowhere to go but up; and most certainly there will lack the soft guiding hand of one Michael Tomson, industry icon, Gotcha founder, cultural weathervane.

Today Stab says hello to ourCaste, a brand lacking none of these things. Not a one! A brand with promise. A brand with a fab look and fabber offices. We ain’t in the business of fortune telling, but ourCaste may just have a future.

ourCaste_imageryInsertStab: When did ourCaste begin to take shape and how? Your creation myth!

LJ O’Leary (ourCaste marketing man): This really started taking shape when we were all young little fucks building forts, skipping school, riding skateboards and waves and motorcycles. Or at least sneaking on the back of grandpa’s Harley. That’s shaped who we are and we’ve never really lived the conservative slow life — we’ve always been part of this and it’s brought us to this current state where we get to spew out all the things that have made us passionate over the years. Trying to inspire as we were inspired.

Michael Quinones (ourCaste designer): When the opportunity first presented itself it was a little overwhelming, but it was sort of an epiphany based on the obvious. It was to create a brand based on the attainable experiences in the surf and skate and moto subcultures. Remembering that, in the end, it’s just about good times. I love looking at images of people getting waves at unsurfed, impossible destinations, but I also love how I think most of us grew up with surfing, which is in their backyard. We like to think of ourselves as the guys piling into a junker, strapping more boards to the roof than it can carry and driving the beach, only to see that the waves suck. But still having the best time doing it. It’s that attainable experience that everyone has.

And the product itself, talk about that. Sell me somethin’!

MQ: With the product we’ve tried to bridge a gap of functionality and, for lack of a better word, fashion. Taking semi-technical elements and functional details and adapting them into great fits and fabrications. That’s our ultimate zen state.

ourCaste_shirtsWhat’s Michael Tomson’s involvement? How did that eventuate? Don’t seem like he’d hitch his wagon to just any ol’ horse.

LJ: We’d all met MT at different times in our careers, and he knew that we were a close-knit group of friends. He truly believed in us as individuals and just gravitated towards our group, with great interest. We’d always talked about the big plan, working together on something we loved in a creatively free environment where we could thrive off the raw energy of these subcultures, and MT saw that passion and helped facilitate it. The means and infrastructure to really get it done.

MQ: He’s an amazing sounding board, always there to bounce some screwed idea off of, share his decades of experience. It’s undoubtedly a leg up to have someone with that much knowledge involved — like a walking resource library of sorts.

Where’s the brand based? I mean it literally — where do you go to work? Where do you sit every day?

MQ: We probably have the best office location of anyone I can think of (laughs, but so serious!). We are on PCH in Newport (Beach, California) across from our local break, right next to the oh-so-famous Big Belly Deli. We’re all in here daily, cranking away, talking shit to each other, smashing down PCH, doing wheelies out front on the Harleys. LJ probably spends more time in the water out front than most of the bacteria that’s in it. I think we’re all running out to go surf right now actually, looks fun.

I love, but before you go, tell me: What makes ourCaste unique, and remarkable? Why do I, the 4G-connected Web reader, care enough to click through to your website at the end of our little article?

MQ: It’s just that undeniable desire to wander through the inter-web in search of the what’s what and who’s who. Good photos, better graphics.

LJ: I think honestly it’ll be the fact that we were raised in this mix of creative expression and troublemaking through skateboarding and riding waves. Now, with 10 years plus each in a career, that allows us to work in a space where we’ve all been our whole lives. To have fun. We all grew up doing these things and didn’t just read up on the culture or subscribe to it, we were fucked right into it and good or bad we live there every day. Happily. To be able to share it with the world is dreamy, man.

Describe the ourCaste aesthetic with as little abstract and high-minded language as possible.

MQ: Aesthetically, we all stress over the details. We get off on seeing the elements of a type poster or product manual line up perfectly. It’s a sort of high that keeps us going. The watercolor imagery we use throughout our visual messaging came from two days shooting the shaping bays at Infinity Surf with Dave Boehne and Dan Taylor Surf with LJ. The resin-stained floors all seemed to mesh together — like all the boards that’d gone through there knew they’d someday organically end up together on the floor. I dug that a lot, that organic synergy. So then we adapted it to a series of watercolor washes, and that’s where we’re at today.

ourCaste_clothesTell me what’s happening in surfing right now that you totally adore? People, scenes, brands, surfboards, events, trends, media, anything.

MQ: Pretty stoked on this retro “good times” deal. Fun shapes, weird shapes, finless — all that jazz is pretty epic and falls directly into what we stand for.

LJ: Delighted in the fact that for the most part, surfing still generally makes people smile. If you’re not smiling while you’re doing it, maybe re-look at the reason you set off into the ocean on a surfboard in the first place. Hopefully that makes you smile after all.

And, what’s missing?

MQ: A lighthearted, relevant, easily attainable interpretation of surf.

LJ: Something to feel proud of and identify with — a new inspiration to draw from. An inspiration that has you drawing on your schoolbooks and folders and daydreaming. These adventures are right in your own back yard and you just need to begin the exploration.

From whom, or from what subcultures or eras or movements or brands or media institutions, do you draw inspiration? Gimme specifics here. “Music” is OK but “Ziggy Stardust” is better. “Fashion” is OK but “Acne denim and YSL before Hedi Slimane” is better. Yeah?

MQ: In design, it’s ‘60s French graphic design, Swiss type, Milton Glasser, Hedi Slimane, Rem Koolhaas… People, I’d say Bunker Spreckles. Music: El Michels Affair, Trinidad James, Salem, The Zombies.

LJ: Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuttin’ to fuck wit’, that’s for sure. Harry Belafonte makes me smile at cocktail parties and Pink Floyd has such cool melodies and beautiful recordings.

Now reveal your secret plans and priorities for 2013 and I’ll let ya go.

MQ: To take over everything…nicely.

LJ: Have a lot of fun, ride some waves, remember to share a few with my friends, and make the world smile more. While dressing them handsomely.

See the glorious threadwork of ourCaste and a full slate of visuals on their uniquely designed website.






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