2023 in review.

Last year our yearly recap ‘growing a brand, takes a village’ was our most read and appreciated blog post of the year, so we thought we’d wrap this year up as well. Authored by our amazing Jon and the marketing team we bring you 2023 in review. Enjoy.

One thing I’ve always known as a weakness is my planning. Yes I try and set goals, yes I try to get ahead of things but I suppose dating back to hitch hiking around France a few years back I love the fact that with travel it's the unexpected friends you meet along the way which is what makes a journey and it's not just the act of going from a to b. I suppose that’s why Truls since day 1 has always spoken about enabling meaningful journeys. This year has been no different.  What started with some good looking plans on presentations quickly got thrown out the window as the year accelerated at a pace none of us could have imagined. Before shutting the computer this year however, Marcus reminded us of one of last year's best performing blog posts summarizing 2022; Growing A Brand: It Takes A Village, and asked for one to sum up this year.  Being Marcus he managed to ask a) when he was already feet up on vacation somewhere warm and b) whilst we’re trying to finish the year's work. But regardless, here goes.

In January we kicked off (as always) by activating somewhere in the snow. We held an event with Sam Favret at Snowleader in Chamonix - a perfect location for a winter getaway. With a vernissage and drinks afterwards at Hydromel it was a great way to keep up some relationships we’d made at High Five the year before and meet new friends.

From there we headed to Backcountry in Salt Lake City with Sage Kotsenburg for the launch of his edition hosted by our man of many talents, Luis Medearis. Backcountry always provides a great venue, good people and a crowd that always shows up which helps things to go as smoothly as possible. With Sage and Luis on hand, we had a couple real pros in terms of engaging with people.

In March we stopped by London to signal the start of a new relationship with a new rep for us, Robin Fairweather. Robin is a man steeped in outdoor and streetwear culture and has been leading the charge in resetting our business. In a case of perfect timing, our ambassador Chris Burkard was visiting from the States, so we held an event at Shoreditch Arches where he spoke with friend of the brand Matt from Looking sideways.  We invited 100 Db Black members to come listen, ask questions, get books signed and join us in a nice East London pub for a couple of pints (something that’s proving somewhat of a tradition). Matt and Chris know the outdoors, know the issues at play and are wonderful hosts for an intimate event like this. Their full podcast from the event is available to listen to. This Shoreditch Arches event was also the first time we met a couple new friends, Ron Timehin and Andrew Alexander King who we’ll be working with on Pack Heavy, Chase Light season 3. 

This was also the first time we met Mason and the wonderful crew at Goodhood for a coffee. That meeting will always be a special one as we learnt about their business, the role the culture of stores like this play within London and globally. All in all it was one of the best flat whites we’ve ever bought anyone. 

This year was also when we kicked off season 2 of Pack Heavy, Chase Light. It meant the awkward call of asking Sam to record himself for a trailer again and the result of a few months of heavy workload for Sam and Hallvard. This season we met some amazing creatives including Hannah Bailey (photographer), Hannah Da Silva (GorpGirls founder), Thomas Molin (Swedish House mafia tour manager), Lucas Beaufort, (Artist and creator of HEART), Guzman (Marcelo and Carlos Seinz social media lead) along with featuring some of our ambassadors including Aynara, Kevin Backstrom and Craig Anderson which racked up the most views at nearly 100k.

Season 3 was also the first time we made an episode with a skateboarder - Sarah Muerle, our first ambassador in space. There's lots more to come with skateboarding for us in 2024 but I already sense this blog is going to be a long one so let's see how far we get.  Lets just say with Sarah, Ishod Wair, Hugo Boserup and many more using our bags now we’re excited for the future (stay tuned in April/May). 

Lucas Beaufort
Pack Heavy, Chase Light S02E09

Working on a YouTube channel is quite a labor of love. Creating enough content to feed the beast is one thing, starting from scratch is another.  Little known fact - we locked ourselves out of Instagram in 2021 for a couple of weeks so you can imagine the impact. That week we kind of looked at each other and said we need to get better at other channels. Anyway, thankfully YouTube is working now and we just hit 10k subscribers. If you aren't subscribed please jump on it here. It helps us do more in the space if we can show it's working. 2023 was year we got kickstarted on TikTok, and we’ve already got a few videos with multiple millions of views.  Give us a follow over there while you’re at it.

In April we also hosted our first live creative exchange, something we have spoken about for a year. Partnering with Aethos hotels we invited 10 Db Black members to Portugal for a photography workshop, brand building presentation and product insight sessions. We met some amazing people, ate at some glorious spots (O’Pescador, hello), shot sunsets and learnt we were onto something. So, from that point on, we then committed to a monthly online workshop.

April also saw us partner up with our friends at Tidal for an art show art show in Laax which was an amazing experience featuring many of the best artists in our space including Aaron Schwarz, Scoph and Hannah Eddy

As the days really cranked into summer mode in May we headed back to the US for the launch of the Craig Anderson collection to debut it as Saturdays NYC.  This store has long been one of the iconic doors in surf and so to get in there, have a couple cans together and kick off summer felt like a big moment.  The expense reports also reflected the energy the team felt but I’m assured the late night bar tabs were all part of the “building the brand takes a village” philosophy.  

June we packed up and grabbed bikes in Copenhagen and cruised the city for a glorious week at the Copenhagen Open. We’d just hired Norwegian skateboarder Michael Sommer to jump aboard the Db ship, so it felt like a great time to hitch our wagon to the event. If you’ve never been to Copenhagen, you're missing out. If you’ve never been to Copenhagen Open, you’re also missing out. Copenhagen represents everything that's amazing about Europe in summer. Long days, beautiful people, everyone riding bikes around town, swimming, late nights, great stores… it's got it all. The skateboarding is unreal, every spot gets announced just before it goes down then all of a sudden half the city heads there for a session. 

We hosted the last night's event with a best trick competition that was won by Reno, and it was pretty memorable for all involved as we also had a gallery with our friends at Solo Mag who curated a great set up and launched their new mag - thanks Felix and Stefan!. We’re partnering up again for 2024 and can't wait to share more details but also, being CPH Open, can't tell you about it yet….

In July we did our first out of home campaign (after receiving our Luggage a little delayed)  In Stockholm (Odenplan) and London (Shoreditch and Brick Lane). We placed huge billboards to dip our toes into the water across all this locations - inspired by our friends at Hedvig Insurance who we’ve been working with.  Their purpose was to drive people to our Luggage stockists in each city including End, Harrods, Selfridges, NK Stockholm and GoodHood. It was a successful foray into OOH advertising to say the least.

In August we finally launched our rebrand. Since we changed the brand name over three years ago we’ve been working towards this little by little everyday. From the whole website to product to campaigns, rebranding became all consuming. I’ve seen many other brands do campaigns about a rebrand because it's so much work but have always felt if you do it well it almost becomes natural rather than a story. So, thanks to the team (and our design agency Figur), we finally got this out into the world.

This was also the month our friend Lucas Beaufort took his Heart tour out on the road.  HEART is a beautiful book (his lockdown project) which he made to celebrate the role of core skateboarding stores around the world in the culture they represent. It's a stunning piece, a real work of art, and we were lucky enough to tag along when he visited https://www.civilistberlin.com/Civilist for an exhibition in Berlin. You can watch it towards the end of his episode of Pack Heavy, Chase Light over on our YT channel.

For any of you who know our social media demigod, Mr Tin, you’ll know he loves a challenge. In August, after we built our latest Cakebike with Ekosport in Grenoble, and after they challenged us to a roadtrip. Tin, of course, jumped at the opportunity and before you knew it - he had the route set. As a group of three, Tin and his comrades were going to Cakebike from Innsbruck to Annecy in seven days (only on backroads). The weather forecast was obviously pretty hit and miss. In Tin’s words it was the best week of work he ever had: 

 “It may sound obvious as my job was to be out of the office and on the road for six days, but I get to do that a lot in my role and this one was definitely different. Yes, we could have done this route a lot quicker - in a car, driving from Innsbruck to Annecy only takes eight hours - but where’s the fun in that? Instead, we decided to ride 792 kms on electric bikes, which needed two hours of charging every 80kms.

At Db, we believe that traveling makes people better, but it’s so often connected to work and done in a hurry. Running from terminal A to terminal F isn’t relaxing, it doesn’t help you take in your surroundings or meet new people. This trip, for me, was a reminder that we get so much more out of our travels if we take it slow, take unknown roads, stop at random places, ask strangers for help, get caught by the rain, sleep in a tent when it’s 5 degrees outside, or in a van if you don’t have somewhere you can pitch the tent… It’s those kinds of moments that change us, connect us and remind us of how traveling can really be the best thing there is.”  - Tin Kosir, Social Media Kingpin 

That road trip brought us nicely to Annecy for the High Five festival and our second pop up with Matt and Perly of Club Sandwich.  Our gallery was an ode to alternative snowboarding, featuring Äsmo Powsurfers, Korua, United Shapes, Salomon Hillside as we aimed to give the stage over to those who are shaping snow culture right now.  

We also debuted our award winning vest, the Snow Pro Vest, here at High Five to give a glimpse at what our product team can do when given a loose brief and confidence in their abilities.  The vest is something Hunter, one of our senior designers, has had in mind for a few years. His idea became a reality and won the Carryology Best Innovation Award, the Backcountry Magazine Editor's Choice Award, the OUTDOOR Magazine Editor's Choice Award and Ski Magazine - the Editor's Choice Award so it’s a huge testament to his role as a designer. Talking of awards our Digital Team also got recognised for their tremendous work in terms of our website and was referenced three separate times as an example of the best shopify websites around the world.

After three years of work, October also marked a milestone for the company led by our very own Alex Aubry. Alex is man of six languages, he cycles to work from Holmenkollen to Grünerløkka everyday (yes even in the snow and dark), heads up the design department and also took it upon himself to drag Db over the line to become B Corp certified. This has been a huge body of work and meant a complete shift in everything we do from how we source our materials (nearly all our materials are now 100% recycled), to how we evaluate our impact through our supply chain to how we build our company and treat our workers. We’re extremely proud to be the first Norwegian consumer goods brand and the first Luggage brand globally to be Certified B Corp. We scored 98.1 which is a testament to the work that's gone into it.  You can read more about it here.

As the days got shorter, we went back on the road to meet new friends at Kaubamaja in Estonia thanks to our awesome crew over there Tero and Benny.  Friend of the brand Kelly Sildaru came out for a lovely evening meeting a bunch of new friends in the beautiful city of Talin. We also held an event with Kayo in collaboration with 1000 Skis and invited out what seemed like half of Stockholm. It was a great evening and again, seemed to result in a heavy dinner tab. 

November was the London Surf Film Festival and the debut of Turning Tides - the first project from the DB x Looking Sideways Fund which highlights the pollution around the coastline of the United Kingdom. We’ll be getting that up on our YouTube in the new year so keep an eye out.  

We also had our best performing Instagram post of the year which was a surprise meme for a job application - a Junior Creative position to join the team in Stockholm.  We had over 300 people apply which is testament to the energy people feel from that office. That and the circulating rumor that we have locked in a new office with free breakfasts twice a week and after work drinks every Friday too.  We’re growing and hiring like crazy at the moment so make sure you check us out on LinkedIn or our Careers page.  It's a great time to jump aboard!

For the final days of the year we did something we’ve not done before - we got ahead of the New Year by shooting our January campaign so we don't have to panic on January 2nd that we’re behind schedule already.  With a new Hugger dropping in January hot on the heels of us selling a one-off for €1500, we thought we should do something special for it.  All we can say is that we’re working with Superstudio who did the amazing intro for Beyond Medals film this year Casino. Talk to me about that intro and Sage’s Mustache.  We can't wait to show you what's coming.

In the run up to Christmas this year we also partnered with the amazing crew at Starcow to create ten limited edition pieces of our Ramverk Pro Luggage. Created by Jean Ewan, they feature a custom tattooed engraving on each piece.  Grab one if you’re in Paris or send anyone you know over there.  We actually hosted Mathieu, Sam and Michael at the office in Oslo in June where we went hiking, talked shop, went to sauna, ate great food and enjoyed the longest days of the year.  Along with Starcow they also have an amazing pizza place called Sonny's which during fete de musique was going off.  More to come there but lets just say we’re working on something a little different for summer 24 with those guys.

This year has seen us grow our retail footprint like never before. There's so many to thank but our store locator helps you find the good people that support us. Go grab a little something and support local retail before Christmas from these guys.Talking of next year we’re also excited to be partnering with the Hoxton Hotel group to bring “The Hox Chalet” to life in Morzine. As a result Ella, Ebba and Tin are going skiing for the first two weeks of the New Year.  With custom Luggage and a trip for the crew from Baskèts and Calico Club all powered by some beautiful Polestar cars (yes thats a partnership in the works for ‘24 too), we’re stoked to get some turns in with some great friends of the brand.  Much like Saturdays I’m waiting on a heavy expense report scandal to emerge in mid January.This has been an unforgettable year and wouldn't be possible without the amazing support of all of the community. Having such an engaged group help us on everything from campaigns to workshops to product insights and showing up for events makes it all worthwhile. As I said at the start, it's the friends we meet along the way who make this whole journey all the more unforgettable.

Thanks for all your support, enjoy the holidays.