Innovative Retailer: The Skateroom

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The Name: The Skateroom

The Place: Headquartered in Belgium but rocking all over the world…

The Story: Get me my deck, it’s time to do some slappy grinds.

What? Take me to the half pipe – it’s time to do some primo slides.

What?  Now watch this backside grab.

That doesn’t sound good: Skateboarding innit.

I see: It’s relevant because this is a skating story. Marrying the counterculture phenomenon with the socially enterprising empowerment of the youth.

I see. And what it is actually retailing: Skateboards. But not just normal skateboards. These are not boards that you actually use, oh no no no.

Decorative art or sport? You decide.

Now I don’t see anymore: They go on the wall. They send you a free wall hanging kit and everything.

So it’s actually art? Yaaaassss. It’s a piece of decorative, often limited edition, artwork and the money – some of it anyway – goes to fund NGOs around the globe who do youth projects (usually involving skating in some way).

Everything’s clear again. Whose baby is this? Back in 2013 Charles-Antoine Bodson, a gallery owner who also had a collection of valuable, rare skateboards, met one Oliver Percovich who runs an organisation called Skateistan, which worked in Afghanistan building skateparks and ancillary educational projects.

Very laudable too: So Mr Bodson sold part of his collection, passed on the proceeds, and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, as someone once said.

And the beginning of a beautiful business: Yes, he then had his lightbulb moment and The Skateroom was launched in 2014, now also a certified B Corp too. Basically using his extensive art world connections to partner interested artists, or their posthumous estate managers, with relevant NGOs.

If you don’t mind me asking what sort of calibre of artist collab are we talking about here? Oh, it’s a totally wild bunch of artists. Nearly 50 of them to date. Some are living, some not.

Who have I heard of? Mark Gonzales? Legendary skater figure. The Gonz.

Um: Paul McCarthy – one of the US’s most influential contemporary artists.

Um: Blimey. Vincent Van Gogh

Aha, yes! Louise Bourgeois. Basquiat. Keith Haring. Andy Warhol sells well. His works are often on depicted on a triptych. The latest launched in February 2022 and is cheekily promoted with the strapline ‘Cash Cow For Change’.

Andy Warhol boards. copyright

Woah. A three-board installation? You can hang it up like an altar piece. In a temple of skating.

And what of the buyers? Well, the nice thing is that the board art is always specifically linked to a project they are supporting so that when you buy the product you know exactly where the portion of revenue is going.

What if you like the project but not the board or vice versa? Then you probably need to go away and think about what kind of person you are.

Calm down: Some designs are very limited edition. For example the recent Gonzales designs were limited to 50 boards of each. Sold out, super-fast. But others are open editions meaning they just keep making ‘em.

As they say on the Antiques Roadshow – let’s talk about worth: Unsurprisingly, a large range of prices are available. Some of the best sellers are around the Euros 220 mark while the Jeff Koons Popeye triptych is priced at Euros 950 (and goes to support a skatepark in Mexico).

I’m Popeye the sailor man copyright

Not as expensive as I thought actually: But the Warhol soup can boards weigh in at Euros 10,000.

OK, now we’re getting to it: But, wait, you get 32 boards and they come in a really cool big soup can! And only 100 sets were made.

Top whack? Euros 30,000. Paul McCarthy’s flight case of 10 boards plus an extra hand-signed one and only 35 sets made.

How much has been donated to the good causes so far? Around Euros 1.5m to date. 10% of revenue at least goes to them. And it really is global – there are skate parks and projects in Jamaica, Peru, Cambodia, Angola, Mexico, Afghanistan and South Africa to name a few. The latest Louise Bourgeois drop will be used to fund a girls-only project so you can really align artist and cause in a meaningful way.

Give a shout out to some of the partners: Ooh, Concrete Jungle Foundation, Skateistan, 7 Hills, Wonders Around The World, Bangladesh Street Kids. I could go on…

Say I fancy the Rene Magritte board on my wall, what do I do? You can obviously buy online direct from The Skateroom, which is the main channel but museums and certain specialist shops also stock selected boards. For example Selfridges sells around 10 lines (including the Peanuts triptych below) with most products also coming under its Project Earth edit.

A recent collaboaration featuring Peanuts copyright @theskateroom

Oh, so it’s all environmentally sound too: Mais oui. It compensates its wood usage via forest conservation projects and reduces its plastic footprint by finding alternatives for all packaging and single-use plastic products.

I’m feeling unworthy: Don’t worry. Just when the Skateroom begins to drown you in right-on earnestness along comes Grayson Perry. His 2017 design featured a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge. He called it a ‘Kate Board’.

I’m smiling already: As Grayson described it: “She is a popular figure who does good work on a church brass. It might be the only context where we would get to stand on top of a member of the Royal Family.”

I’ll take one. Sold out.

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