Shaun White is a multitasker — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
This story first appeared in the July 14, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The two-time Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder has parlayed his success on the slopes into a multimillion-dollar business that includes an eyewear collection with Oakley, an apparel line with Target, outerwear with Burton, video games with Ubisoft and a partnership with BFGoodrich. The 24-year-old even has his own flavor of chewing gum.
“The more I do things like this, the more excited I am to get back to snowboarding and skateboarding,” he said, admitting that he “loses inspiration” easily.
“I have asthma and I hate the cold,” he said with a laugh, so he hits the mountain, practices like a fiend and then heads home. “That’s how I do things,” he said. He lives in San Diego, not Colorado, so when he gets to the slopes “it’s always special, never boring. It’s sort of like New Yorkers when you ask them if they’ve ever been to the Statue of Liberty. It’s the first thing I would do if I was visiting here, but they say no. So when I get to the mountain, I make every second count — that’s my mentality.”
White, who was in New York promoting the Shaun White Signature Series Holbrook glasses from Oakley, available exclusively at Sunglass Hut until August, is equally as skilled on a skateboard and will be heading to Maryland on July 21 for the Dew Tour, followed by the Summer X Games in Los Angeles at the end of the month.
And he’s eagerly looking forward to the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014. “I’m definitely excited to pursue that again,” he said of his Olympic aspirations. “I’ve still got some tricks up my sleeve and I feel like I’m just hitting my stride in the sport.”
In addition to half-pipe, where he won his two gold medals at the Vancouver and Torino games, White is also stoked to compete in the newly christened Olympic sport of slopestyle. “There are only about a half dozen guys who can do both,” he said of his chances to medal in both disciplines. Slopestyle consists of skiers or snowboarders taking a run through a series of jumps and rails.
But he doesn’t expect to start training for those sports for a while yet. “Most guys kick off the training about a year before,” he said. “We see it in our sights and run toward it.”
Until then, he’ll be able to focus more on his entrepreneurial ventures.
White, dressed in skinny black denim jeans from the Shaun White 4 Target line, a “pretty rad” woven shirt with patterned pockets that he picked up in Japan, an Obey jacket with leather trim and Wolverine boots that he bought in Aspen, Colo., kicked back at the Tribeca Grand Hotel in between visits to different Sunglass Hut stores to promote the eyewear.
Although his endorsements are many and varied, he said they’re all carefully chosen to complement the snowboarding-skateboarding lifestyle. “Our sport isn’t like basketball, golf or tennis,” he said. “We have a core tie-in with society, so we pick our way.” And apparently, he’s chosen wisely — he’s been associated with Burton since before he turned pro at 17, his deal with Oakley is more than a decade long, and Target has been producing his apparel line since 2008.
He has a reputation for being involved in every aspect of the creation of the Shaun White brand but doesn’t consider himself a control freak. “It happened very naturally,” he said. “When I was younger, a poster came out and I looked horrible. The trick wasn’t cool but the product looked perfect. So I went to my agent and asked him how to avoid that happening again. He said I had to negotiate the right of approval for anything I did.”
Even so, White said he couldn’t be this successful off the slopes if it weren’t for his team. “I’d love to take the credit, but it’s really the group behind me that makes it all work,” he said. “My brother Jesse [creative design director of Shaun White Enterprises], is an amazingly talented artist.” He’s created hangtags for Target that become stickers and other “subtle details that define our brand.”
But there may be one problem. “We just opened a new office on Melrose,” he said, “and apparently there’s a modeling agency next door. So I’m not sure how much work is going to be done.”