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Highsnobiety Q&A November, 6 2013

Greg Finch of Life’s a Beach Talks Skating, Resurrecting Brands and DIY

Raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Finch started skating in 1986 and admits the sport has dominated his life ever since. With an impressive list of achievements under his belt including running a skate shop and art gallery, clothing and shoe design and manufacturing under his own label Larke, and applying English manufacturing techniques in products for brands like Suka Clothing and Palace Skateboards, Finch has brought back the one and only Life’s a Beach.

It’s been over 20 years since Life’s a Beach was active, so why now?

Life’s a Beach was so influential in its day that it’s quite unbelievable it’s been overlooked for this long. A friend of mine, Melvyn, who was into the rave scene in the ’90s went looking for the brand on a nostalgia mission and found that the license was up for grabs. When he mentioned that he had worked out a deal with the owners, I almost fell off my chair.

I started skating in the ’80s and remember L.A.B. well. Looking through all the archive of images you get a real sense of just how much they did in that one decade. From the people that they sponsored to their tongue-in-cheek advertising and their general disregard for the status quo. You can see that Jeff Theodosakis and brothers Mark and Brian Simo were having the time of their lives.

What were you doing before resurrecting the brand?

I share an office with Gareth over at Palace Skateboards HQ and have been helping out with a bit of the clothing production. I’m currently working on a new brand that launches in Spring 2014 which has been in the development stages for about a year. L.A.B. came along at just the right time for me. Fergus Purcell has the run of the creative side of it and I can happily fit the day-to-day runnings alongside my new project. It works quite nicely.

What was it about Life’s a Beach that made you want to resurrect it?

L.A.B. is steeped in history and in my opinion is the most iconic brand in its category from that time. It’s so different to anything out there at the moment and whether you love it or hate it, you just can’t question its unique aesthetic. Putting it back out into the world in its original form and with its original punk, DIY approach gets Melvyn, Ferg and I hyped.

How did you two end up coming together on the project?

When Melvyn mentioned acquiring the brand to me I immediately thought of Fergus. He’s got about three L.A.B. tattoos and the brand has had a huge influence on his illustration and design career so there really wasn’t any question about it. After an afternoon meeting, laughing at all the old memorabilia and discussing the possibilities we just sort of dived right in. It’s probably the quickest turnaround on a project that I’ve ever been involved in.

The first two stores to stock your brand are both in London, away from the Californian shores. Why is that?

Both Present and Slam City have the right customer for the brand, whether it’s from a nostalgia perspective or folks who get it for what it is. Both are super close to my office and I can gauge the reactions of the customers and manage it easily for the initial launch. I plan on getting it out into the wider world ASAP but this strategy offered me a way of reintroducing Life’s a Beach in the best possible light.

From your perspective, how have the surf and skate scenes changed since Life’s a Beach was first around?

I was a young skater in the ’80s and ’90s and remember how the old vert guard fell. By around ’92 there was a huge, and for some folks unexpected shift towards a new era of street skating. Board shapes changed rapidly, as did tricks and style. Since then, both surf and skate have been surging ahead, progressing at an incredible rate.

I think it’s only now that they’re able to catch a breath, or look back and appreciate what happened around that time. You see a resurgence of ’80s-shaped boards and old Powell and Santa Cruz graphic tees. I think the world of surf and skate is incredibly far away from when L.A.B. was prevalent, but that’s the perfect time for it. It’s not trying to compete.

How involved in these scenes are you?

I started skating when I was 11 and have never looked back. My life generally revolves around it in one way or another. I’ve surfed quite a bit too but only really as a hack. I love it nonetheless.

Most of the designs are pretty tongue-in-cheek, where does the inspiration for the humor come from?

Ferg has this down. He 100% gets it. There’s a great sense of humor in Life’s a Beach and he’s been an avid fan of the brand for decades.

The logos featured on the Life’s a Beach garments are really bold and graphic, and a lot of streetwear clothing that shares these sensibilities is often aligned with particular subcultures and therefore certain beliefs. Now that you’ve taken over the helm of Life’s a Beach are there any particular beliefs that you want to communicate?

I think the message is pretty clear. It’s quite loud and out there having a blast, not taking anything too seriously and poking fun at the world. It’s just straight up rad.

Life’s a Beach’s revival collection is available now straight from the source.

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