Check the Label: Colorado’s So-Gnar Keep It Positive
"Feeling good, feeling lucky. There's sun on the slopes up here and in the city down in Denver."
Pat Milbery, pro-snowboarder and founder of Colorado streetwear brand and creative collective So-Gnar, and Patrick Bernard, So-Gnar's Director of Marketing, are on the phone from the Rockies. It's the luck of the Irish: a blog named Green Label interviewing not one but two dudes named Patrick on St. Patrick's Day. Or maybe it's a stroke of scheduling genius. Or it's, ya know, a coincidence.
Whatever it is, you can feel the positive vibes pouring through the phone. Then again, good vibes are So-Gnar's specialty.
"It's always been and always will be an outlet of creativity and an outlet for channeling good, positive energy with others," Milbery tells Green Label. "With your friends, with other artists, with other creators, with skaters, with snowboarders, with people that can share good energy."
So-Gnar's upbeat and bright-eyed philosophy isn't rooted only in hippie idealism—there is real world tragedy here too. Following a good friend's fatal snowboarding accident, and his mother's passing after a long, intense battle with breast cancer, Milbery searched for a source of good energy to get him through a dark time. So-Gnar's alacrity isn't just marketing strategy, but a coping mechanism.
"There was a lot transition, a lot of pivotal moments [during that time] and, obviously, a lot of pain," says Milbery "I was trying my best to stay away from getting caught up going down the wrong path. Just avoiding stuff that I know could be an easy outlet for me to use as a crutch. Instead, I wanted to create something that I could structure into the rest of my life."
Milbery escaped the enveloping darkness, structuring his life into what would become a sprawling creative collective that has had a hand in everything from graffiti and skatepark design to snowboard camps and mixtapes from some of today's most progressive artists, like Michael Minnert and hip-hop legend Del Tha Funkee Homosapien.
"Create or Die" isn't just a slogan from one of their most popular shirts, but a mantra and a manifesto with immense power. It is the steam in this engine, the driving force that pushes the entire enterprise forward. It is also the philosophy that has brought everyone from burrito shops to Fortune 500 companies to So-Gnar's front steps.
"It's incredible to see a corporate entity come to us and say 'we want you to help us build out something that's so cool that people can't resist, that people want to play with, that people want to interact with, that people want to touch,'" says Bernard.
And So-Gnar delivers. From their cosmic-themed bucket hats to their graffed-out snowboard-adventure vans, the So-Gnar crew create bold, living artworks that mix media and push boundaries. So-Gnar has fostered a culture that places creativity and positivity on the highest alter and have reaped some pretty rad benefits because of it. So-Gnar, it seems, have a lot of reasons to be feeling good, feeling lucky.