Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recycled skateboards turned into bags and accessories @ Beck(y) Accessories


With the rise of DIY craft culture, boutique and handcrafted products have steadily gained shelf space at retail stores. Beck Hickey, the one-(wo)man team behind Beck(y) Accessories, began experimenting with used skateboards and calling her creations “sk8bags,” a women’s purse that blends old decks with posh embellishments. Hickey, who is based in New York City, created her first sk8bag, which retail for $100-150, in 2001 and has gradually added additional handmade goods, such as belt buckles, earrings and necklaces, which sell for $35-70, to her line of recycled skateboard accessories, which is carried at a growing number of skate shops and boutiques from coast to coast and in Canada. TransWorld Business quizzed Hickey about the creative success behind Beck(y) and her growth within the craft and skate community.

Tell me about your background before forming Beck(y).


I worked for years as an art director in advertising, and in 2001, I was laid off from my job. It stung at the time, but it turned out to be a great thing. That Christmas I was pretty broke so I decided to make a lot of my Christmas gifts. I made handbags for my sister and friends. They looked nothing like the sk8bags I make now. People started seeing them and asking where they could get one. The positive feedback encouraged me to keep designing and making bags. I was living in NYC and picking up odd jobs and graphic design freelance work here and there, but times were tight. One day I was walking by the Prada store in SOHO and decided to go inside. I started looking at the entrance to the store and wondering if anyone ever tried to skate that ramp. So my head was in the skate world when I saw these cute little satin bags. Suddenly, I had the idea to combine something really polished, like satin, with something rough and textural, like an old skateboard, and make it into a bag. I ran home and started working it all out.

What inspired this idea to create skate-specific accessories?


The idea really came out of the artistic nature of skating. The art on the boards, the creativity of skating itself really inspired it. I love that a skateboard starts with a very crisp, clear graphic on it, but as it’s used the art becomes something else entirely. It becomes more organic and expresses not only the original artist, but also the person who skated it. I spend a lot of time with these boards in the process of making the bags, so I end up thinking of where they came from, who these people are, what caused the board to break.

Your line of accessories requires a handful of artistic skills: woodworking, sewing, fashion and design. What was your experience with these skills before launching into sk8bags?



My background is really graphic design. I learned how to sew in eighth grade home-ec class, and I had a basic knowledge of woodworking from helping my dad with projects around the house. I am pretty handy, so I tend to just figure these things out as I go. Getting the bag designed and made properly was a process of different materials and tools, and a lot of help from family and friends.

The blend of old and new materials gives your handbags a very polished look. Tell me about your process for choosing the right material/skate deck combination.


I have always used satin for the bags because it’s so refined, and it’s the right contrast for the wood. I do make some bags out of leather and canvas, but the satin is my favorite. And when it comes to decks, every deck seems to work no matter how old or new. One board might seem really ugly to start out, but once it’s cut down and turned into a bag it could be really cute. And they are all really personal. Each customer has their own reason for choosing the bag they do, so that’s fun to watch.

The skate and fashion industries often borrow certain styles from each other. Explain the impact these two industries have had on your line of accessories.


I was a little afraid of backlash from the skate industry at first. Maybe kids would be angry that I was turning their boards into “fashion”. But that didn’t happen at all. It was really exciting to hear the reactions to everything in the beginning. I had an idea of who these bags would appeal to in the beginning, and I thought it would be a small group of girls. It’s way broader than I expected, and as the whole Etsy.com community blew up, and the focus on green products blew up, I had an even wider range of people and stores interested in my products.
When I first started out, “green” fashion wasn’t looked at as always super stylish. It was maybe thought of as more hippy and not as cutting-edge. I think that has totally changed now. Everyone is more conscious, buyers are looking for it and designers have all embraced it. So the tiny green section at trade shows has now exploded.

Supporting the progression of skating is important to you. How do you give back to the industry?


Giving back to the skate world is pretty important to me first because they have been so supportive of me. I have had help on projects and people offer up decks and just general support and love that I think I could never give back enough. It’s a really tight community that believes in helping and inspiring each other. In order to encourage people to save and send me their old decks I started the Boards for Bowls program. For each deck I receive, I make donations to different non-profit organizations that are dedicated to building public skate parks. I work closely with the Tony Hawk Foundation.

Has the growth of the DIY craft movement and websites like Etsy.com fueled your business?

The popularity of things like Etsy has definitely helped in terms of people really valuing handmade items. I think people who aren’t necessarily crafty themselves can really easily give something special as a gift now - even if it’s a gift to themselves. Etsy is so huge though, so it’s hard to stand out in that venue. And there are definitely a group of people who are re-creating my designs. I try to stay flattered, which isn’t always easy. I am just trying to think of new designs and stay inspired.

Interview by Transworld Business

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