Pierre André Senizergues was born and raised in the suburbs of Paris, and back when he was 15 years old he fell in love with skateboarding. So much so that he wanted to pursue his dream of becoming a professional skateboarder and moved to the skateboarding mecca at the time, Los Angeles to follow his dreams. His path wasn't easy, as he got to LA, he found himself struggling to get recognition from the skate community and ended up being homeless for a while. He finally managed to get his foot in the skate scene and partake in freestyle competitions which he many won (nine European Cup Titles, five European Championships, two World Cup titles and one World Championship). Pierre then wanted to combine two things he loved, design and skateboarding, so he joined etnies, eventually buying the company. Later he added Emerica, éS and ThirtyTwo to the Sole Technology family. Pierre is still to this date heavily involved in the skate scene, in designing the shoes and giving back to the community. etnies has two amazing charity projects, one being 'Buy a shoe donate a shoe' which gives back to the homeless community and 'Buy a shoe plant a tree', which has planted 2 million trees to date.
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Hello, welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. On this episode I'm going to talk to Pierre Andre senese egg, the CEO of soul technology, soul technology with brands like etnies s in America, and many more that fall under the brand umbrella Pierre found at knees 35 years ago while he was in LA struggling with homelessness, and finding his place in the skate scene, Pierre finally managed to get his foot in the skate scene and partake in freestyle competitions, which he won many of nine European Cup titles, five European Championships, two World Cup titles, One World Championship and so on. I caught up with Pierre for a quick chat about etnies skating his journey and and how he blew his knee out, always morbidly fascinated with knee blowouts having blown my own knee out in the past. Anyway, here is Pierre, in his own words. Yeah, so I'm live in California, but actually, I'm from Europe. Originally, I grew up in a suburb of Paris. And I always dream about skateboarding. And when I was a teenager, also skateboarding a lot with my friends, went to Paris, then travel around Europe, skateboarding and eventually ended up in California, in the street, homeless first and, and eventually went on to win competition around the world and decide to launch it needs in the US. And I have a company called us. So technology, where we have with our team, five different brands, including etnies. S, America 32, an ultimen. And we are distributed about 70 countries around the world. And my job as a founder, the owner and the CEO is to make sure that everything is working, and I'm paying the bills on time. Okay, yeah, that's an important part of the job description. And I want to drill down a little bit on etnies, if that's okay, and would you mind just telling us a little bit about etnies? What it is, and the philosophy of the brand? Yeah, it is actually the name come from? ethnicity or ethnic? And the idea is that what we're asking boring, with my friend in Europe, were a group of kids getting together, where were these crime, supporting each other in the street, and where this ethnicity was, in our culture, and with different people in that in that culture, you know, and, and that's where the name etnies is in, at the beginning, actually was called ethnic. But the name was too close to some other brand. So we had to change the the name and it became etnies. Okay, and it's, it's meant for the people that are uninitiated again that are not familiar, it's mainly trainers. And this is this is, so we make, actually shoes and apparel. We actually don't make skateboard. We don't make wheels. We will focus, especially on shoes and apparel. And those shoes has to be specific for skateboarding, but they turn into where a lot of people are, we wear them in the streets. Because they like the style. They like the comfort and the direct durability we make with our shoes to make sure they you can skate with it. So you can feel the ball. It can last against the grip tape. But also it can absorb impact. And sometime I impact because the impact in your food when you skate can be extremely high. Right. And just dialling back a little bit here. I mean, so you when you move to LA you are homeless for a while before you managed to get your foot in the door so to speak with certain companies How did you manage to over come that situation and it still affects you now? Is it still part of your with your memories looking back on those days? Yeah, I think me actually every day because when I arrive in America, just enough money for my aeroplane ticket after that figure out just gonna be camping over there. It's hurting California. So I will I will sleep on the beach, you know, I will literally like find somewhere where I can sleep on somebody's couch, you know, I'll behind the couch. And then eventually, I bought a car and I saw living in a car. And, and for me it was living in paradise. You know, that was only because I was in California, it doesn't rain that much here. So so I could skate here because the concrete wouldn't be wet. So that works pretty good for skateboarding. And at the beginning, it was pretty good. I remember some of the difficulties I was having is sometimes feeling prayer alone, you know, because during the day it was finally you see other people you skate with them at the end, when you're alone in the street. There's nobody anymore on the street. It's a bit tough, you know, so I always had my mind how to help even today, you know, people are homeless. Because they understand the feeling. And especially coming from a different country. Coming to America on top of it. I didn't speak too much English. Right. Okay. Oh, the next straw. Wow. Yeah, you're, you're ticking all the boxes to go with it. And then the literal English I was talking actually was not very useful because most of the skaters had slang. I could understand this. Yeah. That's great. So I mean, I mean, what is the difference of being homeless? Say, when you move to America, you've moved at the age of 15. So what helped me? Yeah, I was a bit older. I was actually 22. Now keyboarding in France, when I was 15. I came here when I was 22. So yeah, it was, do you think? Do you think people could do that now, though, as in, like, if you had the same story in the same journey now? I mean, the homeless landscape in LA, California is quite rabid from what I'm, yeah, quite, it's quite a problem. The Los Angeles has the biggest population of people that are homeless, in United States, there's over 50,000 people are homeless. And with COVID. It's even worse, you know, more people end up being in the street. And sometimes is, is not necessary, like it's a mental issue, as sometime is just simply they lose their job, you know, and then they live in their call, or just even lose their car, you know, and you just sometimes just simply, people don't want a job, you know, so And also, everything is getting more expensive in Los Angeles to live. So it's not easy to rent. Sometimes when you have an entry job. Some people even have entry job in in LA leaving their car. Because there's no substitute, you know, that expense. Right? I mean, if I think it's, I don't know, if people really see that when they come to LA, like the holidays, or, you know, the tourism. I don't know if this is something that people really get to grips with. It's not like they, when people want to come to America, for example, for a couple of weeks that they want to engage with that side, but it is such a it's a huge factor, isn't it? And in what's going on in LA right now, I mean, it's, I don't know if it's spoken about as much as it's Yeah, I definitely. I mean, there's like, I mean, for us, I've been with it, he's been in the streets, you know, from from day one, you know, we always be interacting with people in the street that have problems. You know, so even early on, when I was living in Europe, I would give my, my shoes or my shirt or whatever I could know, when I will go skating. When I became one, I got even more, understanding exactly what was going through, and then having a company, you know, that'd be able to do something, you know, I not only give shoes to the homeless in Los Angeles, every year, but also I bring my team to Los Angeles to give to the owners. So they also learn, you know, how to give if these are our internal team working in the company, but also people that are in our team writing for the company, our actions. How did you manage to get out of that, then? I mean, did you use skateboarding as a way to get out and off the streets? Yeah, skateboarding was definitely my ticket. To say, my second ticket. Yeah, stick coming to America. But what what happened I was living in Venice Beach, I was getting on the boardwalk. And if you're tourists coming to to California, you Go to bass beach usually. And is all those are the people that are doing exhibition there, you know, to make a living. So I did the same thing as a physiologist put my heart. And it's got to start doing some tricks. And I find out really quickly that people will read generous. And I, in 20 minutes, I could I could make up to $200 doing skateboard tricks on the boardwalk. So that was not for me to leave. And to buy some food. And just to skate as much as I could, you know, Oded on, right. So, I mean, I've taken up skateboarding in my youth, and I've realised it's one of these things, that always looks a lot easier than it is like, if you're gonna need all the components, you need, like balance, you need to have a bit of passion, and you need to have so much fearlessness about you to kind of attempt it all. So I had none of those free things. So I quickly gave up. But you you went on and like it, was it nine European titles, two World Cup titles, and one world championship titles. I mean, so you pretty much hit the spear, or the tip of the spear with all this. Kind of what age then do you then hang up your skating boots after it's all done? Is there some sort of retirement age that skateboarding? I think it depends, you know what you do? I mean, some, some skaters can skate for a really long time. And still, skating is from anywhere like you see Tony Hawk, for example. You know, we still skating. Very good. He doesn't enter contest, but everybody knows him. And it still rip, you know, on a skateboard? Yes, it's pretty amazing. It's all those years of skateboarding and maybe avoiding as many injuries as possible along the way. And did you I didn't get too many, but I got one one time when I grew up my knee. And, but I was able to rebuild it and come back. But is in, in general, I think you can skate probably for a really long time. That generally, you get to your top level in skateboarding in between your 20s to late 20s. You know, you just went up. Today, a lot of skateboarders are still extremely good, you know, the past their, their 30s. You know, so far we have Ryan Sheckler on etnies that we stopped sponsoring, he was seven years old. And he's actually started skateboarding at three today is 31. And he still read. And it's pretty amazing to see, but he's also been staying in shape. And you know, being careful, you know, what he eats, and, and I hope he knows some along the way we help him. We help them stretch their shoes possible, you know, to absorb impact. So he has less, less pressure on his joints, and allow him to skate longer. Right. I mean, that's one of the crazy things I don't think people fully appreciate about skateboarding is the level of fitness that it's required, that you're required to have, almost, I think like surf, snowboarding or skiing, it really takes it out of you and you kind of start to come down then hills. I think anyone that's done that and appreciate it, that you have to be relatively fit to be on those kind of angles, and doing them sort of things all the time. And skateboarding is along that but then you also have like I caught your Instagram channel today. And there's a gentleman that does all these wonderful tricks and he does all these flips, and he looks cool as heck. And then he just goes off into the sunset smoking a cigarette. I think there's this great juxtaposition between remarkable athlete and dude on the street regular guy and I think that's kind of the beauty of skateboarding when you say yeah, definitely me I think skateboarding is I always see like more as an art form. And for a lot of people escape they look like this you know, we don't consider ourselves athlete three. Even though we write a lot of them are super athlete have to say but it's more like an art form. You know, we look at more Okay, how do we how do we make a trade how do we invent a new trade you know, and it goes with everything else that go with this artistically and creatively like was the shape of your skateboard you know, or or if you're Pro with design or your scape or you want to design what kind of shoes you want to make, you know, that looks cool in the street or Escape. Very good. And it's not necessarily because you're the best skater in the world that that you're the most respected skater. You know, it's sort of way about everything and whether what you choose to be, you know, your favourite things, you know? Yeah, the new value. It's interesting, and maybe talk a little bit about the trainer's know, we spoke about him earlier. But I mean, I guess with your experience coming into the company of being a skateboarder, yourself, this has got to influence a lot of the designs and a lot of the stuff that you require out of a certain trainer, maybe you could just drill down on a few of those things. Yeah, definitely. I mean, I, I used to be sponsored by different shoe brand in the past. And that's kind of what made me decide to start making the first skate shoes made by skateboarders for skateboarders because I could see the shoes were made wrong with having my feet in it. And one of the key thing was actually durability, durability, making sure the shoe last because actually being a skate shoe is the worst thing that could happen to you. Because you you issues escaped against the griptape so alle destroy the shoes, you know, so the so as to be extremely durable. And also the side of the shoe has to be extremely durable, because you flip the ball with the sides of your of your shoes. So is basically putting sandpaper against your shoes all the time. So definitely was making those first catch was was durability and steel today, but also was comfort, you know, and both feel so obviously you have to feel the ball otherwise he can't he can't skate theory don't feel what the ball is under your your feet, your soul is to take, you don't feel it also this sort of level of thickness you need to fill it. But also absorbing impact. You know, like you mentioned earlier, you know, you see a lot of skaters, you know, taking some major slam and different impacts. They if you if you know a bit about the bow mechanic, and we do actually bow make any study on skateboarding to understand you know, the impact on the body, when you wear a pair of schedules and tricks. If you stand up line abroad, it's one time your body weight that you have on your feet. If you do like jogging, I will say like a three times body weight impact. If you don't go on a basketball net is like seven times bodyweight impact. But if you're scared to jump 20 stairs, it's 17 times one seven is way higher than any other type of sports. So it's a very complete compromise to make an outside as not to take to fill the boat, but it's absorbing 17 times the body weight impact. And at the same time, you've got to make this reasonably stylish. I mean, you can't just make something that's perfectly in keeping with protecting your souls your kneecaps, and, you know, and having that absorption for the body. So how do you kind of balance the well, we need to have it very durable, but we also need it to look good. So the aesthetic and the design that we get inspired from comes from the street. So we look at you know what people would like to wear might come design we could do even to improve it to make it look better. So we look goes for the match or your colours, you know, how does it fit with with the paths on top of the past, all those things are important in order to make sure that the shoe was cool in the street. Because as skaters also we we cannot want to almost like don't stand out too much. Sometimes we like to be passing through. So if we get if, if we jump fences and stuff like that, you know, we get less visibility from the cops. Just like we like to be in the street and just like rebrands keyboarding and looks good. You know, as well. It means Can I borrow? You know, just being in the streets? It just has to flow? Yeah. And you mentioned that you'd sponsored a young lad at the age of seven Are you always on the lookout for other people that you feel like your shoe and your brand? would be a go? Yes, constantly? Yeah, we're constantly looking into the new generation. You know, what do I mean with with responsible songwriters that are six years old, even smaller sometime and but we, we whoever we sponsor, we don't we don't put any pressure you know, we want to make sure they enjoy what they do. Then later on. They see they want to keep skating? Yeah, do you want to keep doing it? And then then we can, we can do more thing with a more marketing and warping. But we we come from a, from a writer standpoint, been there ourselves, you know, we just want to make sure that you know, we live in the proper way. So people really enjoy that culture. And again, take it whatever level you want to take it. And is there someone that you have your eye on? Or is it someone on the wish list that you'd love to collaborate? Yeah, so we have a I mean, Johnny, we know pretty much older skaters in general, you know, we have Connect already with with a lot of them. In terms of design. Definitely. I'm intrigued to be that Virgil adore from off white, and also will be thrown. Because I mean, he come from Chicago, and he has a bit of a skate culture, background and music, culture. And for me, it's almost did the opposite. I was living in Europe now but to the US. Yes. direction, reversing the fate. But I know that we don't want our bodies doing some shoes. Now. Some skate shoes, too. Yeah. Because they notice that the skate movement is happening and coming very strong right now. There's way more skateboarders is ever been. And it's not only also, man is also girls. No woman, right? Okay. One every year skater is a woman. what went on in skater? Yeah. reframe so it's coming very strong from lots of different angle. I think it's, it's an activity that's very democratic and very kind of like, you do your own thing. You know, you push your limit, you know, and it's really really bad to do it yourself generation, you know, today more than ever, and, and the equality of gender. So it's all worked pretty well right now. And it is a mega trend also, around the 90s as well, in fashion with like, clothes are a bit more bag year more. bigger company. Exactly. Then it goes with the with the shoes to some people start wearing like bigger shoes. And a lot of the early skate shoes. We started with, we're actually pretty big, you know? Pretty, pretty puffy. Like, yeah, I would call it. Yeah, I was gonna ask if How do you if you're just on the street and you're skateboarding? How do you compete with other skateboarders? Like, for example, I've seen white men can't jump with Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. I know how like people in the parks can play basketball with each other and compete and bet maybe hustle? Is there that kind of competition when you're just at the skateboard parks with other people? Do you kind of have like competitions against each other and is like a way that you can maybe have side bets and stuff? Yeah, we do some stuff like this, I think is a it's more of an inclusive culture, in general is more like this is somebody skating and workout Stoke, somebody is skating and we want to skate with them. You know, it's more like that. And then we also have this game we cycle the game of skate. where for example, you do one trades, the other person has to do century the means them do their trades. And then eventually, every time you miss a trade, you get a letter. anything good to say you lose the game, you know, a little bit of a challenge, okay? It's kind of a fun, fun challenge to try to push each person you know, to to just get better. Because that mean, I've when I've seen skateboarders down at South Bank, they're always like skating and no one's they always complement each other and encouraging each other. And like clapping and stuff like that when someone does something really cool. But I never, never see people kind of compete with each other. Obviously, it is a competition though because you yourself, you've won World Championships and European titles and stuff like that. So I'm just curious on how people then start to get into the attitude community, you know, and go right, it's time to prove Yeah, it's not like, it's not like when we compete is that we compete like, like you. Again, basketball or other sport is like, aggressive efforts is way more inclusive, and we go to contest more to be with other skaters. You know, having fun and you know, try to push ourselves and try to shoot new tricks, new innovation. Jim is more that way. You know where I'm going with this? Oh, Pierre Andre, I think there is room for a good film a spike lee film where two skateboarders from different sides of the tracks once from Paris once from LA, they meet 20 years ago. And they figure, hey, I'm the best in this homeless neck of the woods. No, no, I'm the best. And then you have to compete and hustle. And then we'll tie it was pairs. And anyway, we'll flesh it out offline. We'll we'll get we'll get the beat to the script together, and then send it over to Universal. There's this Mini Movie on, you know, and they tried to do Mini Movie on skateboarding. You know, like one of them was a thrashing. Back in the 80s. crashing, crashing? Yeah. Back in the 80s 8085, I believe. And it was, it was more like a two gang of skaters. And the Romeo and Juliet, which is kind of weird to be like one gang. You know, it was, the girl was in a gang and again with the guy and they were gonna be in love, but then they were different gangs. So he was creating all this drama, and I'm seeking that out on YouTube somewhere. But it's time it's time for a good skateboarding film. I'm guessing one of the reasons why there hasn't been one that so commercial, is that you would need the real skateboarders to do the action, right? I mean, you can't have like Matt Damon, for example, doing skateboarding and then cut to a stunt double every five seconds it would have to be authentic when it has to be. I mean, we all get we all know that Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson can throw and dunk. But they can, they can shoot hoops, but can they skateboard etc. They need real skateboard, there was a movie called mid 90s. That came out actually a few years back. That was about the 90s you know, kids in the 90s skateboarding, were going through it. I was actually in the movie, there was some good skateboarder. And it's actually a good movie. You know, it's a bit of rain check on skateboarding. Which I'm, I'm seeking these out, by the way. is a good one rushing to get up. Yeah, you've been very gracious with your time. Thanks so much for sharing your stories telling us about your brand. And I'm curious how you blew your knee out though. This event in Paris actually. And I did a jump from a bank and a jump of this bank, I don't like 20 feet in the air, you know, like, doing some very old flip with the board and mlra Alright, the first few times and, and right before the final actually, actually one more time. And I learned, right, except my foot slide of the back of the board and I put all the pressure in the fall. And I cry for that crack chicken crack. I mean, it was over but but actually there is a lot of lessons along the way to you know, how to recover you know, very quick on accident with this mentality to go forward no matter what, you know, just try to figure out to solve the problem or whatever problem is facing in, in farming, like you're like the surfer that gets bit by a great white, but then goes back into the ocean three months later. Because what is your passion? You know? You just keep going. You still okay, let's just get Yeah, I'm not the same as I used to. But I still have fun there. Right? I imagine it must be great working for you. Like your office must have like skate ramps in it. Or there must be a park outside where you're just going to come on guys, sunny day. Get the training. Oh, yeah, actually, we did feel the skate park across the street from the office. And we was actually with the city of Lake Forest when in a small city called Lake Forest, Southern California. And we want to be the to have the city involved with the skate park to make sure they backup our culture. So they do actually and then we end up creating job for job paid by the city. You know, you make sure the kids are safe, they can skate having fun. Everybody wants to go have fun and it is a pretty big skate park is 70,000 square feet. Skate Park which is probably one of the biggest In the world, but he has brought a lot of people in in skateboarding and well, but 100,000 people going skateboarding a year to skateboard. Wow. Yeah, this is mostly it's not a big city so that I really like that idea because we say these like over 20 years ago, it was the idea that the smaller city can can make the bigger skatepark in the world. You got you got to be on the books on the on the mayor's board. I mean, you got to get who's the mayor down there right now in California. Was it? Gavin? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, you gotta you gotta go forth. Actually, he was near San Francisco. before and I got one time I got an environmental award. Because our officer abilities of his 20 years ago actually works on solar energy. We're older, we're recycling wood, recycling a limestone. And I designed the the office to look inspired by skateboarding. So he also wants to design a wall. But I got to the water on environment and he got an award also for being greeners mayor in America. Any No Actually, San Francisco is a big magazine in skateboarding called Thrasher magazine, you've probably seen a lot of girls wearing sweatshirts t shirts, you know, question show whenever we were when we were in San Francisco, he knew exactly where the the mag the magazine was, and the name of the streets. I was really impressed. That's pretty good. Do you think he might have just done his research like 10 minutes before meeting you and just name a few things, but yeah, you should tell him you're after his job. You're doing some great things down there. But anyway, Pierre Andre, thanks so much for sharing those stories. And again, at nice calm. We'll leave all the links over on the show notes at menswear. style.co.uk but in the meantime, enjoy the cheers. Yes. great talking to you. Thank you. Thank you, Pierre. Once more, you can check out the collections we mentioned email@example.com. We'll leave all the details and links over on the show notes at menswear style dot code at UK and run the social app menswear style. Give us a follow. Let us know you're listening. Thank you for tuning in. If you like what you hear, why not leave a review. It does help my ego and if you want to be a guest on the show, tell us about your brand and your journey. You can email us here at info at menswear style.co.uk until next time,