Back in the late 90s, a young San Francisco skater had a plan to revolutionise skate hardware. At the heart of his plan was a new type of bolt, and the idea of getting all his mates to skate for his team. In the end, the bold didn't catch on or revolutionise skating. The tees and apparel he made on the side took off, and eventually became Diamond Supply Co., still one of the biggest players in skatewear. In the almost two decades since then, Diamond has collaborated with brands like Nike, Puma and Asics, Wiz Khalifa has worked with the brand and Tyler, the Creator has packed boxes for them.
Earlier this year, the brand's founder, Nick (Diamond) Tershay, was in Paris to celebrate his birthday and mark the launch of Diamond's first European HQ. We sat down with Nick before his birthday party to look back at the last 19 years of Diamond Supply Co., and where the brand goes from here.
What was your motivation when you started out?
When I started it was just skateboarding. I just wanted to make a brand that all my friends could be on the skate team. I wanted to do clothes and shit like that, but then me and my friend came up with an idea for skateboard bolts, a special kind of bolt. I was like ‘I’m gonna make a brand out of fucking skateboard bolts, this is cool’ and then I could have all my friends skate for the same skateboard hardware team, and kind of have a little family under that. It was different than anything that was on the market and I tried to make this thing work for two years but it wasn’t working. I started making t-shirts, and hats, and sweatshirts and they started just selling really well from the beginning and everyone was like ‘where the fuck are the bolts man? You have the shirts and the hats and that’s cool’. People were like ‘what the fuck is Diamond? It’s supposed to be a hardware company but there’s no hardware.’ So after two years of doing it, my friends at Girl Skateboards asked me if I wanted to distribute it out of Girls in LA. So I moved to LA and I decided to put out regular skate hardware because my invention thing wasn’t really working and people were already buying our t-shirts and hats and shit. From there, I was at Girl Skateboards for six years just growing the brand. It was a good time, man. It was fun.
You mentioned about having to back down from your invention, was that hard?Yeah man, my whole dream was this fucking bolt that I thought was going to revolutionise skateboard hardware. My whole idea was this fucking bolt so that’s all I cared about, making this damn bolt work. But it just never worked out so I made regular hardware, started selling that and it was fine. I started doing that, then I started making grip tape and skateboard wax and riser pads and skateboard bearings and just all skate accessories with t-shirts and hats to go along with it.
Diamond was always doing well but I didn’t have money, I couldn’t make a bigger line. They were distributing my stuff out of Girl but they weren’t supporting it financially. They were just calling the shops for me, doing the sales, but I had to figure out a way to buy all the product for them to ship. That was tough so I started really talking to the kids. I did a collaboration with Nike SB a few years after they started their skate program and that kind of blew us up outside of just skateboarding.
How important have collaborations been to Diamond?
Without them Diamond would have never been to where it is. Nike SB at first took us outside of skate to the sneakerhead community, the new wave of streetwear at the time. All those kids that were into that were like ‘what the fuck is this Diamond thing? This is crazy look at this shoe’. We were already around for seven years when I dropped the Nike SB but no one outside of skateboarding really knew what it was, so they looked back and they were like ‘oh they actually make some dope shit’, so kids started getting into the whole Diamond thing. After that I got involved in the forums, just talking to all these kids and that’s when I started really learning about the current streetwear brands of that time. I met all these people like The Hundreds, Crooks and Castles, Mighty Healthy, Reason Brand, Mishka and I became friends with all these brands. We would all be on the forums, we’d go on each other’s little pages and talk to each other. I started doing collaborations with all them; we were like the only skate brand back then doing anything with these streetwear brands. That kind of took us to another level beyond just skate.
So now the sneakerhead kids and the streetwear kids were into Diamond from collaborations with other people, that helped us. And they loved it because we were introducing these brands to skate, so we’d do a fucking collaboration with The Hundreds and skate shops and kids that were skaters were like ‘what the fuck is The Hundreds?’ So it was good for both. That stuff was always good and then Wiz Khalifa was a big turning point in currency, because we kind of blew up them as well as them helping us because no one knew about them. We were just homies with them and did collaborations with them before they became popular. Collaborations are amazing, man. If you do the right one, it really helps.
How do you choose who to collaborate with?
Back then I would just do it with people I knew, my friends. Like I knew the guys at Nike SB so that was easy. My whole skate team at the time was on the Nike SB shoe skate team so it kind of made sense for the Diamond thing to come out. But I would just do collaborations with my friends’ brands. Nowadays I don’t really do that many brand collabs, unless it’s a more elevated brand like a Nike or a Puma or an Asics where its actually helping both of us and not just me doing a collaboration with a brand that nobody ever heard of, which I still do if its my friend’s brand. I’m not going to do a brand collab with some kid who hits me up saying ‘can you help my brand blow up and help us get out into some stores?’ I’ve done that a few times in the past, but not any more.
Do you get a lot of those messages?
All the time. Kids are always asking me. ‘If you just do a collab with us you’re helping us so much, it’d be amazing.’ But they think if they do a collab with the bigger brand then that’s automatically going to make them a big company, but that’s not the case. It’s a lot of work. Kids don’t understand how much work it is to actually have a real company, and all the employees you need and all the shit. They don’t understand.
A lot’s changed in 19 years, what do you think is behind Diamond’s continuing popularity?
People grew up with Diamond. Ever since the kids that are wearing Diamond were born it’s been around, their parents wore Diamond. We’ve been around for so long now we’re just a staple brand of skateboarding and streetwear, whatever you want to call it. We’re just here, we just keep making new shit and it’s just fun. We just keep expanding and growing and making new stuff and that’s what keeps us alive, just our passion. I just want to make dope shit so I can wear it and see people in it. It’s just fun, man.
You’ve worked with people like Tyler, the Creator or Eric Koston. Why do you think Diamond has been a place that these people have met?
Tyler, the Creator … they all grew up with Diamond, they were hanging out at our store before they were making music or anything so they’ve always been around. I’ve known Eric Koston back since we were kids skating together. I grew up at a good time, before Diamond, around all the people that became some of the most influential skateboarders. And then, after Diamond started, I still was around all these influential people from the skaters to the new music artists that blew up at the same time Diamond was coming up.
Skatewear and skate culture have such a big influence over wider culture and fashion now, just look at Supreme x Louis Vuitton. Why do you think that is?
I think that skateboarding and fashion have always been something that people looked at. In the last 10 years hip hop culture and skateboarding really transcended into this thing where everyone looked the same. A rapper looked like a skater, a skater looked like a rapper. It was the same thing, and then fashion’s evolved a lot in the last five years, where people have been growing out of the whole streetwear thing, where the whole Supreme Louis Vuitton thing makes complete sense, it’s insane. You can’t top that collaboration. I mean, it’s great for skateboarding, it’s great for culture. It’s cool man, it’s just elevating what we do to a broader audience.
So in this new landscape, of fashion and skatewear, where do you see Diamond fitting in?
I think we’re just the same. I think we’re a mix of skate and a lifestyle brand. We’re definitely not high fashion, we’re definitely not just skate. We’re kind of a mixture of everything and that’s where I’d like to keep it. We’re just skate and we make cool clothes and shit and that’s it. There’s all these other avenues that we could be going but we’re just you know, we’ve been kind of the same since the beginning.
Has that been quite a big thing for you? Sticking to what it is?
Yeah, totally. I’ve never wanted to change anything. Obviously I liked elevating our collaborations, which was fun, but as a brand I feel like we have the same type of customer. Maybe the age changes but it’s just people that have always been into skate or streetwear. People that like regular shit. We make some crazy stuff sometimes but most of our stuff is really easy to wear and our skate products have always been the same. People always ask me ‘what do you look for in the future of Diamond? Where’s Diamond headed?’ I don’t know, we’re in this lane, this is just us.
Well that’s the next question I was going to ask, about opening a European headquarters…
Yeah, obviously expanding into other markets is big for us, coming to Europe harder then we have in the past. We had a lot of distribution problems and now we’re taking it over ourselves and doing our own distribution in Europe. It’s not really changing the brand; it’s just continuing what we’ve been doing to other areas.
Why have you decided to do that now?
Trial and error, man. We’ve tried so many different distributors and tried to work things out and it’s just never been right. Now we can ship directly to our own warehouse, we have our own employees, then we ship to the stores from there and now Diamond can be regular price that it is in the US in the stores in Europe. It’s just going to make a big difference price wise, skaters can actually probably afford to buy Diamond now in Europe because before it was really expensive, not by choice. It should be good, man. Something new.