CANAL NY is the Skate Collective Shredding Chanel
Where are you guys from originally?
Esteban—I grew up in Manhattan and still live in Manhattan.
Johnny—I grew up in Queens and have been in New York all my life.
How did Queens and Manhattan inspire you, if at all, to create Canal NY?
J—Hmm.. I think just the city as a whole. When I went to high school in Midtown, there were kids from all different boroughs and we would come together. That’s when I really got to see a lot of the city, everyone would take me to their “part” and I got to see it. You know, I never knew Parkchester, Bronx until I met some of the people I met.
E—The city is the whole inspiration behind our brand.
What's the weirdest thing you've seen a skateboarder do?
J—Some skaters are the worst, I have to be honest. It’s like the most extreme scenario of this inflated ego meets lack of social awareness. That’s a testimony to how amazing skateboarding is. If you rip, people will look past what a piece shit you are. That being said, a long time ago a certain skater... took a shit in a stand up shower and smashed it down with his bare feet through the grated shower drain. Gross. Like, why? Why would you do that ? These people were nice enough to let you stay at their house.
That's behavior we as a brand wish to steer clear of. We’d like to think we’re the type of people you can bring places.
E—I’ve also seen a friend of mine pee in our other friend’s shoe as an escalation of a little war they were having. The whole squad watched that shit from the staircase like the Brady Bunch. On that same trip, another friend of mine shot me in the arm with a bb gun, unprovoked. We’ve got a million fried stories like that. We're a bunch of nice young men now.
So, you grew up skating in NYC. Did you guys ever travel to other places just to skate?
E—Sometimes. We went to Montreal last year as a group.
J—That’s the goal for us. To be able to travel outside the country as a company.
What’s the craziest thing that has happened on a skate trip?
E—When we went to Montreal, it was 14 boys in one van. We got to our Airbnb around 1am, and it took us almost an hour to figure out how to open the lock. We finally get in and start hanging out. About an hour later, we get a knock on the door. Two prostitutes got a call for this apartment. We weren’t expecting to see them, and they definitely weren’t expecting to see 14 guys. Before I can tell what’s happening, one of our friends let’s them use our bathroom, and they lock themselves in. At this point I don’t know if they’re doing coke, pulling out guns to rob us all, or just actually using the bathroom, but they did take a long time. We started knocking, and eventually they came out and demanded to get paid, even though we clearly didn’t call them. The argument moves to the hallway, with them telling us that their pimp is down the block and can settle this. Just when it’s escalating, a guy comes downstairs and sheepishly tells everyone that the pros had the wrong apartment; turns out he called them.
On that same trip, one of our friends lost his passport while rolling around in grass at night. He lost it the night before we were gonna head back to the states, and it would have taken a week for him to replace it. He’s a teacher, so he was also worried he would lose his job if he called out of school for a week without warning. We decided to take a chance: we drove our van of 14 skaters to the border, and decided if they didn’t let him through he would take an uber back to Montreal from the border.
When we got there, they asked for all our passports, and he explained that he lost his. He showed them his school ID, and to our surprise they let us through. We didn’t even get searched! That was a pretty eventful weekend for us.
How about your skate team? How’d you guys meet them?
E—It’s honestly just all friends. Pretty much everybody on Canal we’ve known since we were 15 years old.
J—Yeah, we grew up with a lot of them. A lot of the new faces you see, we spent time with them and they felt like us but from a different generation and we just wanted to bring them in.
E—Like this kid Lucas. Or like Marcello, Caleb, we’ve known them since they were 12 and we were 15.
Are you guys filming a skate video?
E—Actually, I’ve been working on one for 5 years now.
Really? Why five years?
J—Because he’s a perfectionist.
E—Yeah ahahah, I’m planning on putting it out next month.
CANAL NY started off as a wheels company. Why'd you guys start off with wheels instead of any other part of a skateboard?
E—Johnny had actually made hand drawn wheels in high school and called them Canal. It was just a joke, and then at some point we looked at the wheels at Labor Skate Shop and they all looked the same. That’s when we thought it would be cool that we should actually make Canal wheels and put them in a box and have it emulate a luxury brand.
J—We had the concept to do skateboard wheels, and then the idea of how they’d be packaged, how they look, font, kinda just came to me one night. Esteban thought it would be good to put some money down to have it produced. Honestly, were were kids hanging around Labor Skateshop when they opened, and the owner gave us a connection for a manufacturer. So we put our money together and gave it our first run. They were so nice to put it out on their social media and that’s how we got our initial following. We did a first and second run, and it both sold out. We had a little extra money and thought it would be cool to do some t shirts.
We’re all creative people. We had Esteban to screen print and had friends to give us sources on how to produce things. We were just really psyched to have a product in a shop that we really expected. That was the goal at first.
I see that you used Chanel as a choice of reference for your wheel graphic. Why Chanel?
J—I honestly was daydreaming one day and I moved letters around, and I thought it can totally happen with this reference.
E—There’s also a joke to it: they're luxurious wheels, but Canal Street is where you buy all the counterfeits things to begin with. It just worked out perfectly.
Do you find making the clothing or the wheels more enjoyable?
E—I would say clothing.
J—We get a real kick out of the clothing. Usually, wheel companies come out with a new graphic for wheels every season. We kept our graphic going, did a few different colors, but for the most part we kept it so it’s recognized. Now it’s recognized that we make that wheel.
E—That wheel is our standard thing we always make, kind of like a box logo.
E—We’re having fun with clothing just to figure out how to make better clothes, make things we wanted but didn’t know where to produce before. For example, we’re planning on making some track pants in the fall and we’re excited about that.
What’s your favorite clothing piece that you put out so far?
J—One of my favorites is this thick polo jumper made out of thick Canadian cotton. It’s really great for Fall/Spring when it’s chilly. Has a collar on it so it’s not so informal and very versatile. I like the Canal clothing that’s versatile and you can walk into any situation.
E—The deco collar tee is one of my favorites that says "Canal" around the neck. That is one of our first ones that were full cut and sew, and what we’re trying to continue to do moving forward.
Skateboarding has influenced fashion a ton in society today, how do you feel about that?
J—I think it’s sick! Some “fashion” folks that think they’re so in touch get it so wrong, it’s hilarious. Like some of the campaigns I see with random models popping the board mid air with no idea what it's supposed to look like. So fried. I saw skaters cut the bottoms of their pants first. I saw skaters rock their shit tight, now it’s baggy. All kinds of skate shoes. The reason those blocky Balenciagas are “in” is cause of skate shoes like the osiris D3s, DC Shoes, Circa among other puffy skate shoes of the past.
E—I don’t really care either way. High fashion caring about skating is creating a lane for us, and it lets us stay ahead of the curve since were really part of this world. I also think it's really corny when skaters get mad about non-skaters wearing Thrasher tees and things like that. They can have the Thrasher tees and we’ll take the Raf.
What’s next for CANAL?
J—We’re producing a lot of merchandise that we're pretty proud of for this upcoming Fall.
E—Trying to do a big drop for Fall and video coming out this Summer.
J—Trying to do the whole hype this Summer, have that drop this September. Figuring it out after that. We’ve been working on this video for a long time so we want to drop it.
Any advice for anyone trying to start a skateboarding brand?
J—When we went into it, we knew there were just a lot of deck companies. Think about something that hasn’t been over done yet.
E—Yeah, we knew not to start with decks because that’s where everyone starts out. Our growth was just organic, so it can actually keep growing because people fuck with it. We’re not out here buying followers. It’s just really us.