On Friday, April 29th our class visited Element H.Q. in Costa Mesa, CA. Our class was lucky enough to speak with the head of the company,Johnny Schillereff. Johnny is the founder of Element skateboards and Element clothing. Element was started in 1992 and continues to be one of the leading brands in the skateboarding industry. Johnny and I presented personal artwork alongside each other at the Kennedy Center Exhibit, Finding A Line, in Washington, D.C.
As per standard in our class, one of our students presented our guest lecturer. Jose Sanchez presented the history of Element and presented facts about our host to the class.The class then asked questions while I moderated the discussion. Although Element is deeply connected to a rural aesthetic, the class was surprised to learn how integrated Johnny's life has been in other areas of art and culture, specifically hip-hop. This delighted the class and they were able to understand the intersectionality of skateboarding culture.
In Johnny's own words, "Skateboarding saved my life. I was getting into trouble and running with the wrong crowds. I decided to recreate the brand I co-owned with Andy Howell, Underworld Element. At a crucial moment in my life I decided to go towards a path based on marketing the positive power of skateboarding and that new brand became Element."
Our students learned about the multiethnic makeup of the original team and why a band of disparate youth resonated to youth of the world.
This spoke directly to the concepts they leaned in class. Skateboarding acts as a construct identity for youth all over the world. When this brand was formed, youth saw themselves reflected in every race, class and eventually gender. They sales exploded because they were built from a DNA that showed others where craving positive imagery and positive images in skateboarding.