Rick van Rist (34) and Peter Kolks (38) had just landed in Tokyo and were on their way to their hotel when they suddenly saw the ad campaign for their group on seven huge screens in collaboration with British fashion house Burberry – the reason they were visiting Japan – saw passersby. At Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest intersection. “Strange,” says Van Rest, at his home in Amsterdam. “Just like the rest of the trip. We were treated like stars. At the launch event, people lined up to meet us. Two girls who won gold and bronze medals in skateboarding at the Olympics, Japanese soap opera star with 5 million followers on Instagram.” Shake hands, chat, take a photo – and move on to the next photo. Peter Colex: „After a day, we suddenly saw with our heads on the account of the Japanese on Instagram Vogue magazine. “
This isn’t really for the founders of the skate brand Pop Trading Company, who feel more comfortable in the background. Their names can’t be found anywhere on the “Pop” website, as they usually call it, and if you search over 2,000 photos on their Instagram account, you’ll come across them exactly once: in a group photo. Kolks is a couple talk, and Van Rest doesn’t usually give interviews (“I just don’t want to see my name everywhere”).
The Pop Trading Company’s office is located in a large old warehouse in Amsterdam-Noord, surrounded by trendy restaurants such as Corner Store and Klaproos. In front of the walls are high shelves with boxes full of clothes. Kolks and Van Rest have seven permanent employees and also work with a handful of self-employed people. Their collections are presented in more than a hundred stores around the world, the largest markets being the UK and Japan. Since 2018 they have their own store in the Amsterdam Red Light District.
Both are from a village in the east of the country: Rick Van Rest from Deren, and Peter Kolks from Selffold. Two ardent skateboard enthusiasts, who have spent every spare minute on a skateboard from an early age. Van Rest bought his first skateboard at the age of 10, with his mother at Gsus, Arnhem’s skate shop which later grew into an international clothing brand. “This was a really cool store at the time where they imported the best skateboard brands and they also sold vinyl,” he says. “I looked at the guys who worked there and bought the skateboard videos they recommended.” The videos where famous skaters showed off their latest tricks, Van Rest and Kolks had heaps of them. “If it rains and you can’t skate, you will watch the same videos a hundred times. This is where we got our inspiration for new skateboarding tricks, but also for clothes and music.” Fashion plays a huge role in the skateboarding world. “It contributes to your own style, and having your own style is very important,” says Van Rest. „You can do a very difficult trick, but if you don’t do it elegant performed, it is less valuable than an easy trick in great style.”
If it rains and you can’t ski, you’ll watch the same ski videos hundreds of times indoors
Rick Van Rest and Peter Colex
Kolks saved up for the FC Milan soccer jersey because his favorite skater, American Gino Iannucci, was also wearing a jersey. Van Rest: “When I was about thirteen, I thought Chad Muska was a very cool, over-the-top American skater. He always had a pom-pom on his shoulder and a basketball jersey. Then, of course, I also bought a basketball jersey.” If he wants a piece of clothing that he can’t afford, his mother makes it for him.
Still skating every now and then, Kolks had to stop after breaking his knee at the age of 17. They got to know each other at Frisco, the skate shop in Arnhem where Kolks was a manager and where Van Rest came in as a regular customer every week when it was getting late. “It was a classic skate shop where you could hang out with your friends,” says Van Rest. “I used to have dinner there every Thursday. And when he was busy, I helped Peter.” Later he also went to work there.
Kolks has completed professional wholesale training. Van Rest did not complete high school. Both have worked in skate shops for years. First as salespeople, then as managers and buyers. They founded Pop Trading Company in 2013, when they began distributing a number of new skate brands in the Benelux, including Palace. “We were really a business at the time,” says Colex. They chose the word Pop because it sounds good in many languages. “And that means jumping with your skateboard. When you have a new board with a lot of ‘pop’ and you can jump higher. We had a very small room in Arnhem that we used as an office. We used to meet there every Monday night, after working in skate shops.”
Even before they started their own fashion line, they founded the Pop Skate Team, which on average includes about two dozen Dutch skaters. They give them as gifts – first from the brands they represent – and take them on trips to European cities to make ski videos, which they publish on the website of the famous American ski magazine. thrasher. One of the skaters, Noah Bonink, left a fashion show.
The first special collection (for Fall 2016) was made with the help of stylist friend Jenno Hansens, who is now Head of Design. Europe’s major ski stores jumped right away. Colex: “Slam City Skates in London, Streetmachine in Copenhagen, Lockwood in Antwerp – we already have this network thanks to our distribution business. [skatemerk] Supreme in Paris, there was only one shelf with clothes from other brands, so our hanging there was very special.”
Van Rest: “Most skate shoe brands sold standard Fruit of the Loom or Gildan T-shirts with their own prints. So we started with heavy cotton T-shirts, with double stitching on the sleeves, so they immediately stand out from the often fairly full shelves in skate stores” . „We wanted more Senior Be a ski brand,” says Kolks. “It’s just our personal taste, we also love the more luxurious men’s fashion.” Pop Style: A classic ’90s ski jacket (short, with flap pockets, and usually solid cotton) , but made of Harris Tweed, or wide ski pants with pockets, made of luxurious velor.
In the first year, the orders were not large enough to meet the minimum quantities they had to purchase from their Portuguese factory. “So we also bought a lot of clothes ourselves, and then distributed them to our team and other people in our community. My dad, who was doing our bookkeeping, thought this was crazy. He also didn’t understand why we invested so much in videos and events. We still make our money working in stores, and that was a passion project.”
Things got serious when she was introduced to Greg Hewitt, who represents mid-range menswear brands from Paris and wanted to do the same for Pop Trading Company. “But then we had to come to Paris Fashion Week every six months,” says Van Rest. “There were absolutely no other skate brands out there, so we had to think about it for a while.” They said yes, but decided to take the entire ski team to Paris every season so they could take new photos and videos right away. “During the day we talk in the showroom with buyers from chic stores, and in the evening we drink beer on the street with the skate team.” Every season they organize a party to which the entire Parisian ski scene is invited. “Bringing together the snowboarding community is still the most important thing,” says Colex.
During their first season in Paris, high-end menswear website Mrporter.com immediately jumped in, releasing an exclusive fall 2017 mini collection. Van Rest: “We were on their website in the brand list between Polo Ralph Lauren and Prada.”
Colex says this rapid success is due in part to the network of showroom chief Greg Hewitt. “He really knows everyone in the London fashion world. He recently witnessed the wedding of a big Mrporter.com buyer.”
Pop music started when streetwear became an increasingly important source of inspiration for major fashion houses. They still love working with street fashion brands to show that they know what’s going on among the youngsters. This is how Burberry ended up in Pop. The fashion house recently split from its local licensing partner – who has been making their own collections for the Japanese market for years – and is taking matters into its own hands again. “They wanted to be rejuvenated,” says Van Rest. “Because we’re doing well in Japan, they asked us.”
The Burberry team allowed us to do our own thing
The duo has been at Burberry’s headquarters in London three times. They did not meet the creative director Riccardo Tisci. Kolks: „We worked with his design team, but he agreed on everything. There was a small logo that he wanted to eventually change, and he didn’t comment on anything else. His team was a pleasure working with him, they let us do our own thing completely.” The duo designed, among other things, a blurry version of the famous Burberry diamond, inspired by night images of Japanese ski culture – skiing is prohibited in Tokyo during the day. In addition to Japan Burberry has also released the collection in China and throughout Europe.
Pop is doing more collaborations. They designed shoes with Converse, Camper, Adidas, and New Balance, and clothing with Carhartt WIP and Japan’s Minotaur. They have also worked with more unexpected candidates such as painter Joost Swarte (known for New Yorker-covers) and several times with the heirs of Dick Bruna. This resulted in, for example, ski shorts with a small, embroidered Miffy and bunny crawling T-shirts outside of the Pop logo’s “O.” Sets always sell out very quickly in Japan, where “Miffy” is incredibly popular.
The next collaboration will be released at the end of September: three pairs of shoes in collaboration with skate shoe brand Vans. The current fall collection features prints created by artist Rop van Mierlo, who painted the logos of their favorite skate brands from the ’90s in watercolor—the kind of skate reference that appears in nearly every Pop collection.
They still know Van Mierlo from skiing, as do most of the people they work with. “That’s why it still doesn’t really feel like work,” says Van Rest.
Pictures Lynn Weldendorp