The following interview is also available in GERMAN.
In the last years ETRE FORT has become a well known and highly appreciated part of the Parkour scene. The EF-T1 pants are worn by traceurs in all parts of the world amongst athletes of all skill levels and the company is a regular event partner and supporter all over the globe. What makes ETRE FORT special is that the company evolved out of the scene being brought to life by (still active) traceurs Roger Widmer and Felix Stöckli-Iseli based in Switzerland. The following interview briefly covers how ETRE FORT developed, how Roger and Felix see their brand placed in the Parkour world (and outside) and what we can expect for the years to come.
Alex: How did the idea “ETRE FORT” start?
EF: It all started in 2008 as a project, at that time we were always wearing these baggy Nike pants but were never truly satisfied with them. We simply decided to produce our own Parkour pants, this way we could incorporate all the features we considered important. It was clear to us that we did not want to produce any merchandise products, meaning products that already exist and just putting our team logo or the word “Parkour” on it. It should be an independent high quality brand. Beginning of 2009 we had the name and first logo and design drafts from Mathias Fritzen. During a long development phase 90% of the EF-T1 Parkour pants as they exist today were being shaped. We were fighting with a variety of problems after that, the biggest being finding a production that was suitable to produce such a specialised piece of clothing in a top quality and a small quantity.
Early 2010 due to personal reasons, a lack of money and time we had to freeze the project. In the beginning of 2011 the signs were better, by chance we encountered the topic of Parkour clothing various times and got to know different producers. That´s when we finally decided to bring the brand to life and kick it off with the creation of the company in May 2012.
Alex: How long did it take from the idea ETRE FORT to founding the company and the first line of production and what weresome of the major milestones on the way?
EF: See question 1!
Alex: Did funding work through private equity (Eigenkapital) or did you act like a start up trying to get the interest of investors? Is it part of the plan, at some point, to expand through external capital (Fremdkapital) or will ETRE FORT exclusively be a 2 man show?
EF: We financed everything ourselves and wanted to be independent from the beginning. This should stay like that…From Tracers for Tracers…
Alex: Do you have employees in the classic sense?
EF: At this time we don´t have employees but many friends and special deals. We are currently working on providing employment though.
Alex: Could you reveal some details about yourmarketing strategy in the beginning? How important were and still is product sponsoring, social media, etc.?
EF: We “celebrated” the release of the brand with a trip where we invited various athletes and friends who would later become sponsored athletes and brand ambassadors. A result from this trip is also the LYCZ (Leave Your Comfort Zone) campaign we successfully did in 2014 and 2015. One could say we fulfilled ourselves a boy´s childhood-dream a little bit with the LYCZ days.
Social Media plays an important role for sure but you should not overrate it, all the trips, workshops and travelling we did were just as important.
Alex: Have there been any major changes in the marketing strategy if you compare it to the beginning of ETRE FORT?
EF: We have become more consequent and try to take all the important aspects into account when we have an idea. Preparation, main part of the communication and post production. In the past we often just focused on the main part.
Alex:ETRE FORT was and is not solely a Parkour brand but should aim towards a broader target audience (if I got that right). How helpful is the Parkour image outside of the scene?
EF: Yeah you got that right, Parkour is our heart and that´s where we come from. But with our brand we want to combine all movement enthusiasts who know what it means to train hard and leave ones comfort zone in order to achieve something in life.
The Parkour image is beneficial outside the scene, but our main clients are Traceurs and Freerunners.
Alex: If you were to put your business into relation of Parkour scene vs. the market outside the scene, how would that look? Can you even separate it?
EF: That´s hard to say, at the moment we still strongly focus on the Parkour and Freerunning scene. This year still we will have an internal strategy meeting though where we will especially discuss questions like these. In the end it is our goal to grow EF into a brand recognised outside the scene as well.
Alex: Could you give us a raw estimation of the market “Parkour” and share your thoughts with us? Is there any tough competition? Do you see your brand placed in a nice spot?
EF: I think it is still an idealistic market, our home is the scene and we have never actually calculated the market a lot. It is a young market and not a lot of Traceurs are willing to pay for clothing or the like. Nevertheless we have managed to establish ourselves as a high quality brand in the upper price range.
In relation to competition we can´t really make any statements, we don´t see any of the existing Parkour labels as competition, many founders of labels are actually friends of us. Besides, many labels follow a different style and/or different goals, we are sure we could all benefit from each other.
Alex: How did the partnership with GUP happen (Galizian Urban Project)?
EF: As we described in a previous question we organised the ETRE FORT trip with friends back in 2012, Sergio was the only one we had not met personally yet at that time. Felix talked to him multiple times already and was excited about the idea of having him. During the trip a strong friendship developed and over time we got to know all the members of GUP. Another important point is that Felix speaks Spanish making many things a lot easier.
Alex: Do you have any advice you can give to people wanting to start their own Parkour related fashion label or already have set up something in that way?
EF: What we can advice any young entrepreneur: do what you do with passion and soul and don´t let anyone set you off. Stay on track and don´t give up. Simply „être fort“!
Alex: What are your long term plans for the future?
EF: We are currently working on different projects.
A step further to 100% sustainibility:
At the moment we are working on providing the first 100% organic, fair, CO2 neutral and transparent pieces of clothing. We reach transparency through fitting our products with a code allowing anyone who wishes to trace its entire way of production online on our website. We partnered up with REMEI (bioRe: http://www.biore.ch) for this cause.
And many more.
Alex: Anything else to add?
EF: TRAIN HARD – TAKE CARE! Thank you very much for your effort and all the best from Roger and Felix
A big THANK YOU at this point to ETRE FORT for taking their time despite being in the middle of their LYCZ days at the time the interview was taken.
Check out: http://etre-fort.com/de/ and http://etre-fort.com/de/lycz/