Tech Heads: Christophe Bouvier from Rip Curl

Youri Barneoud Youri Barneoud
Christophe Bouvier, Global Chairman and Mountainwear Product Manager.
Christophe Bouvier, Global Chairman and Mountainwear Product Manager.

Which one of us shred lovers never dreamt of becoming a pro rider, and then when comes the end of your short but intense snowboarding career, turn into an industry boss? Well, that’s pretty much what happened to Christophe Bouvier, and this certainly didn’t happen by chance. For this Tech Heads, the boss of the winter product at Rip Curl goes deep into his job, his inspirations, and the line coming up soon. Another passionate guy who makes the snowboard world spin in the good direction.

 

I’m pretty sure a lot of readers out there are wondering how can they land such a cool job. So how does that happened for you?

Cool you said? Ahah! If you love XLS sheets, hard negociations, and try and make the whole world happy about your stuff in such a difficult market, then I guess it’s a cool job!
I’m actually a former rider and a coach. I did that for about ten years and a lot of trips around the world, before starting at Rip Curl at the bottom of the scale. I was in the warehouse in Australia for 2 years, then 2 other years as a marketing assistant, and another 2 years as a tech rep in Victoria state, Australia. 2 other years as mountain wear product manager for the South hemisphere, then I came back to France doing this job for the Europe zone. And now I’ve been the Global chairman and mountain wear product manager for only two weeks. I guess I love new challenges! But the main thing for me as always been moved by one goal: the ride. It’s the ultimate goal for all of us right? Live the search!

Well I guess everyone has an idea of what a Global Chairman does – or maybe not? But let’s concentrate on your other title: mountain wear product manager: what are the different aspects of this role?

Unlike most companies out there in our business, this role is anyway linked to the brand manager role, as far as the mountain wear division goes. The product manager is in fact the last person to check if everything is ok, and also the first person in charge of the results of his division, so it’s the guy who’s getting his ass kicked by the General Manager and the owners in case of a problem.
My job consist in coordinating, direct and check the good processing of all our mountain product line. So I’m involved at all the stages of the garment production: market research, collection’s structure, design brief, prototype validation, price negociation, sourcing, buys, shipment, inventory, stock… It’s also very important to coordonate well with the marketing departement as well so the communication stays tight and understandable, and also in the spirit of the brand. In short, it’s a bit like being the conductor of an orchestra, as you are taking care of the product from before its birth to its adult age – when sold to the final consumer. And even after sometimes, when a default product is coming back!

With the complexity of your job, what would you say take the most of your time among these different tasks?

Definitely the product development. It’s the stage when the quality of the product is in process. The sales and the feedback from the field is also very important to ameliorate and get rid of all the little problems we might have before we validate the final product. That’s where the feedback is really important. It pretty all together takes from April till November every season.

Rip Curl outerwear girls line 13/14.
Rip Curl outerwear girls line 13/14.

Where does your inspiration come from regarding product design?

Observation, talks, being on the ground and feel what’s going on. You can’t be disconnected from the filed, I mean you need to be out there and shred. I have the final word on this but I work with a very good team of people that I really trust. We listen a lot to our riders, especially for the technical aspect of the outerwear. They also have their word on the design. And we also listen to the sales guys, it’s important too.

Rip Curl is a massive company in our industry. Is it not a problem to get reactive on the trends, fashion?

Rip Curl is a big company in surfing, not so much in snowboarding. In fact our team is pretty small and it can react pretty fast for whatever we need – a small limited collection or reacting on trends etc. It’s not all prefect for sure, but it’s good to be part of the Rip Curl DNA, for its roots aspects and its authentic identity. And that’s exactly this mix who makes working at Rip Curl such an unique experience. As of today, Rip Curl is still a private company, even a family company I would say. It’s still managed by its founders, Brian Singer and Claw Warbrick. They built the company during the hippie years of surfing, being core surfers themselves, and with quality wetsuits in mind. The product has always been the main thing in the company, and not the processes. Because of the simple and pragmatic approach, I don’t think we can picture Rip Curl as a massive brand, or heavy in term of processing the product, but it just gives us the chance to imagine maybe more possibilities than others.

Speaking about it, how would you describe the identity of the brand?

Fun, Technology, leadership, irreverence, belief, tradition, Search!

Having such a renowned name in surfing when it comes to technical gear, how was it to transfer this into snowboarding?

I think it’s just a question of respecting your values, which I have depicted in your previous question. If you keep the same line, the same way of seeing things or dealing with issues, then there is a great change the company’s DNA goes into everything you do. The main idea is to create quality and technical product, for the young, fun audience. For example, the Cocona technology (increasing the breathability of the outerwear), mixed with 4 way stretch material and applied on a multi-layer system – the Ultimate Gum Series, this is how we stick to our values of leadership and innovation in technology. This way, we offer one of the best multi-layer system out there in term of waterproofness, breathability and flexibility, that really makes your riding experience more comfortable, with a super competitive price.

What would you say at this stage are the main point of development for Rip Curl in snowboarding?

To focus more and more on quality, innovation, and technology. Even if that means reducing production numbers. We want to keep reaching to the core mountain lover who’s passionate about big mountain and backcountry.

Do you think we will see one day Rip Curl boards or Rip Curl boots in stores?

No, because it’s useless to start diverting into products where you don’t have the necessary expertise. I think it’s a much better idea to put our energy on what we do best, in order to make those strong points even stronger.

Victor Delerue Pro Serie jacket for next winter.
Victor Delerue Pro Serie jacket for next winter.

What product make you the most proud in this coming and yet to discover (in our Product Guide out this summer) 13/14 range?

In term of look, the Victor Delerue Pro Serie jacket. And in term of technicity, the Ultimate Gum Serie jacket.

What are you working on right now?

Winter 14-15 design.

Can you give us a little insight on the design trends for that line already?

A lot of punchy colors, and also some heritage looks. But I can’t tell you more right now… It’s secret you know!

Christophe-RC

Check Rip Curl’s website.

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