Faction Collective 10th Birthday interview

snow action team 12.08.2016

Faction skis, one of the top indie ski brands, have forged a big name for themselves in Europe, North America and Australia. Faction turn 10 this year, and are on a roll with a great range of skis and the amazing Candide Thovex as lead front man. We know you love us sharing his clips, and not surprisingly his new signature range headlines Faction’s 2016-17 offerings.
The Faction Collective brand launched 10 years ago out of Verbier, Switzerland, by former Falls Creek ski bum, part time muso and graphic designer Tony McWilliam, is now firmly established in Europe and North America, and right back on the radar downunder with new Australian distributors this year.
Some of SnowAction’s top ski models are long time Faction riders, so we’ve always had an insider’s appreciation of the quality of the skis.

We caught up with Tony McWilliam in Denver for a birthday update interview.

Tony McWilliam showing off the new Faction range at Denver SIA © Snow Action

Tony McWilliam showing off the new Faction range at Denver SIA © Snow Action

10 years of Faction, congratulations, I bet you didn’t think it was going to be as big as it is now when you started it.
No definitely not, I thought I might make 5 pairs of skis in the garage, well, this little factory I found in Evian in France. Then I met my business partner Alex in 2005-06 and we had the potential to make it into something bigger. And every year we keep going: maybe we’ll do clothing, maybe we’ll licence Roxy and see what happens, maybe something else, so we keep growing.
And the Candide Thovex connection has kicked it along?
Yes, he’s been phenomenal. I spend a lot of time with him over the year, he’s involved with everything from the shapes to the construction to the graphics. He’s very particular about what he likes.
With the ski line, which we have been sampling since 2008, you seem to keep the same roots, updating, but not trashing what works, so there’s consistency there.
I thought we’d only really need about 5 different types of skis early on. Then we keep refining the product, but really we’re still focused on the freestyle/freeride side of things, that’s our niche. We’re still based in Verbier, that’s the terrain that’s useful there. We’re not ever going to make piste skis or anything like that.

Not a bad office backyard: Tony at Verbier © gitgo.ch

Not a bad office backyard: Tony at Verbier © gitgo.ch

What are your biggest markets?
We are pretty much equally split between Europe and North America. Europe it’s mainly France and Switzerland, Germany and Austria are the next places to get into.
We have an office in North America, and an office in Verbier. In America we really wanted to get it right and be involved directly, it’s such a huge market, and we have a great relationship with the media and the industry there.
It’d be great to get more depth in Australia, and Japan.
Clothing has exploded, last time we talked (2010) there were t-shirts. Now there’s a tech line, bomber jackets, and more.
The skis were going well, so we wanted to do more of what we were interested in ourselves for other stuff like the clothing. So we have the freeride element to the clothing, then we have the high-end, the 3 layer tech wear what we call the Lab Series, then more the freestyle orientated crossing over to street style stuff in the Elementary Series.
After 10 years your initial customer base are getting on a bit, mid-30s maybe, you seem to adapt to keep them on board.
Yes a lot of our stores have been very loyal to us, and we have to them, building up a following. Really what we are trying to do now is take ourselves from a niche brand into a brand that has the maturity to have the infrastructure in place so people can actually get it anywhere.
That’s the beauty of it, you’ve managed to keep the brand’s cool image, but it’s like ageless clothing – I could ski in it, kids could ski it, it’s not trying to shout teenage or anything like that to define itself. And of course more so for the skis.
It’s the hardest thing to do that, especially as you’re getting older! There are some things that are more youth orientated, and some more touring, but we try to maintain that freeride appeal that’s attitude, not age based. We’re in Verbier, we ski freeride, I can’t see us ever making piste skis.
On the backcountry side the new glueless skins look awesome, how long have they been around for?
The glueless have only been around for a couple of years. It’s so much easier than ripping them apart, you don’t need the backing or anything, you can stick them to each other. [stay tuned for reviews of those]
So you’ve totally dropped the other personal sidelines, graphic design (other than for Faction), playing in bands etc?
Yes, this is it, I don’t do much playing in bands anymore. It’s more than fulltime now, we just had a baby girl so it’s a really good balance between home life and work life. We’ve got a new office in Verbier with 15 people there now.
Not bad for a ski bum from Falls Creek mate, good luck with the next 10 years.

*With new distribution in Australia Faction is much more available downunder this winter, for stockists info call (02) 4365 1838 or info@futuresport.com.au

Candide Thovex may be the headline act but Falls Creek rulers Austin Toner and Sam Perry have featured on our covers for the brand – both shots by the talented Matty Hull.