Franco Shade made the announcement Thursday on their blog that they are closing up shop. They are done.
This came as somewhat of a surprise to me, as I am sure it did to most people. Franco’s blog had become a must read with quirky writing and great video postings. Their Summer line was solid and appeared to be doing well and previews from their Fall collection looked like it would be one of their strongest ever.
But no one knows their business as well as they do, and apparently it was time.
I was a part of Franco since the very beginning, so I felt this loss especially hard. Pictured above is the very first line of tees I ever designed for Franco back in 2002. Back then we didn’t even really know what “street wear” was. Joe just had a vision for a new clothing line and he asked me to help make it come to life.
Joe and I both had established careers in the inline industry. I’d been a Pro skater for many years and was able to transition into graphic design and Joe made many of the landmark videos that helped to define the formative years of rollerblading.
Naturally our first releases were targeted toward the inline community, but as Franco grew and started to take shape we realized that it had a broader appeal and we branched out to reach an even wider market.
It was a great testament to Joe’s vision and the appeal of the brand that despite the petty stigma that clung to rollerblading Franco was, in fact, able to break into and be embraced by the mainstream street wear market.
It is important to note that the rollerblading community always remained an important part of Franco Shade. Franco Shade could not have survived as long as it did without the loyal support of rollerbladers. The same is true now for GOST.
After many years collaborating together on Franco Shade, Joe and I decided to split up and go in two separate directions. He carried on with Franco Shade and I branched off and started my new company, GOST.
It can be a strange thing working with your best friend. Joe was unquestionably my best friend and had been for several years. Even before Franco Joe was someone I’d become very close with. Joe was the kind of friend that I knew I could ask for anything and that he wouldn’t hesitate and I offered the same in return. Anyone close to Joe can attest to his generosity. Whatever he has, he shares, and whatever he does, he wants his friends to be right there with him. Being a part of Joe’s circle really is like being part of a family.
After my break-up with Franco the thing that I missed the most was my relationship with Joe. The split was amicable enough, but there was some tension that came from suddenly being in competition with each other that was, I suppose, as inevitable as it was surprising.
In the months since the break-up Joe and I drifted apart. Weeks of silence would occasionally be punctuated by an odd email or phone call, but the communication, sparse as it was, was becoming even less frequent. I kept telling my girlfriend (and myself) that we just needed time for everything to recover and move back to normal. I clung to the hope that Joe and I would be friends again.
After I saw Joe’s blog post on the FRSH website announcing the end of Franco Shade the first thing I did was to call Joe. It wasn’t how I imagined things would go down (who could have imagined??), but things don’t always go down the way you expect them.
Losing Franco Shade is like closing a chapter in our lives. It is the end of an era.
Joe and I commiserated about Franco Shade and we caught up a little bit and we talked about the future. Joe told me a little bit about his plans and we agreed to get together next week for lunch or something.
Franco is gone and I am genuinely sad to see it go, but if Joe and I are able to somehow lift our tattered friendship up out of the rubble left from the fall-out, then I guess it would be just one more thing that Franco Shade had provided that I would have to be thankful for.
Thank you Franco Shade. For everything. Rest in Peace.