What happens when you couldn’t care less about trends? You may end up being the trendiest of all, by accident.
“For us, our original style that doesn’t follow fashion fads is a quintessential part of our brand, as is our recognisable approach to graphic design,” notes Oki Kalaoja, one of the men behind Four Down Distribution and its brand Happy Hour Skateboards.
Happy Hour Skateboards was initially founded in the early 2000s by Jarkko Poropudas and Mikko Kempas. At the time, the show was funded by another importer, but after some years Poropudas and Kempas decided to become independent. In 2011, Four Down Distribution and its founder, Kalaoja, jumped on board.
“They had a renowned brand with a decade’s worth of history, and I was able to boost it even further with sales, distribution and production,” Kalaoja explains.
Alongside being business partners, the men have a long history on skateboards. Kalaoja is also one of the owners of Helsinkian skateboard shop My Favorite Things, and he has been working with skating ever since he was 16 – more than half of his life.
Legendary artists and characters on deck
Happy Hour Skateboards has gained attention not only on its own, but together with some pretty intriguing partners. In the past two years, the company has created collections in collaboration with both Tom of Finland and Moomin Characters.
The first Happy Hour Skateboards x Tom of Finland collection, launched in 2017, was made up of three skateboard decks with original Tom of Finland drawings and topped off by a clothing line. At the time, Poropudas said that the collaboration was a tribute to the legendary artist – but not only that.
“In addition to the bigger picture of gay rights, we want to do our part in supporting diversity within skateboarding,” he noted.
After the success with Tom of Finland, the Moomins stepped into the game. Kalaoja calls the collaborations “the cherries on top” of their journey.
“Right now, the most important thing is that the brand is appreciated, as very few skateboarding brands manage to stay relevant for over 15 years. The collaborations have spread the word about us also to people outside skateboarding circles both in Finland and internationally.”
Surrounded by an entire culture
In Finland, skaters tend to be treated to fair skateboarding weather for only half of the year (that is, if they’re lucky). Thus, Happy Hour Skateboards reaches out to all skateboarders regardless of age, gender or skill level.
Kalaoja has noticed that skateboarding-related fashion and accessories are increasingly popular among people who’ve never been on a skateboard.
“Many people have bought our collaboration decks just as art pieces and for decoration,” he tells.
Throughout the years, the company has had sales in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, but currently the focus is on the Finnish market. Kalaoja points out that the global market is very competitive, so making it abroad would take up a lot of resources.
However, the collaboration with Moomin Characters brought about a deal in Japan, and later this year the collection will be available in the very Moomin-fond Asian country. Something exciting is cooking for next year as well, but Kalaoja remains secretive about the recipe.
In general, Happy Hour Skateboards is headed for more surprises and exceeded expectations. That, Kalaoja believes, is a way to keep fans interested and the brand fresh. For him, the magic of skateboarding lies in the fact that it can never be “played through” and each day is different.
“When I, as a teenager, got fed up with team sports, skateboarding gave me the freedom to be my own coach and make my own rules,” he recalls. “It also brought along the entire culture around it, including music, fashion and street art. I’ll be forever grateful for it, both personally and career-wise.”