When Voleurz won its second Intersection in a row, the Whistler Conference Centre erupted in a torrent of hollers from the crowd. The Vancouver-based company, already renowned in Whistler for its multi-sport snow films, had secured a title as undefeated champions of the TWSSF's latest, and some are already saying greatest, event — Intersection, an action-sport film-making competition that seems designed specifically for Voleurz.
The crowd agreed. The judges certainly agreed. Their Art of Flight spoof, The Science of Airborning, cements their status as rising stars in the realm of snow films. But they're not just a production company. They're a clothing company, first of all. They're also a lifestyle brand. Voleurz is a collective. It's a family.
And it's grown much bigger than anyone expected.
"I don't think any of us ever expected it to be this big going into it. We had no idea, really. It's strange to look back even two years ago, where we were at, versus right now," says co-founder Bruce Giovando.
The roots of the company were planted in 2003, when he met Darren Rayner at the University of Victoria. Giovando was interested in design, Rayner in filmmaking. They started a blog, goofing around with skate films, selling cheap spray-painted t-shirts and throwing massive house parties. They met Harvey Li at a house party around that time, and in 2007 the three of them decided to start a clothing company. They called it Voleurz, moved the company to Whistler and started using the films as a promotional tool for the clothes.
"People think it's kind of strange what we do, and I do agree that it is in some ways, but the productions don't generate revenue for us," Rayner says.
Voleurz has become a collective — or, more specifically, it was a collective that eventually incorporated. Rider, skiers, musicians, artists, designers, filmmakers and writers all participate in the identity of the brand. TJ Schiller is a family member. So is dubstep-DJ Mat the Alien and Ali Milner.
"It's like a family vibe," says Mason Mashon, co-director of Airborning. "Everyone is a close friend and even when we meet new people, everyone is super welcoming and super supportive of each other through it, of the different disciplines. There's definitely a strong camaraderie."
Rayner says the popularity of the brand, particularly in the West Coast and Australia, is a result of the snow films. He admits the films have a long way to go in matching the calibre of Sherpas Cinemas or Level 1 but they've proven to be a remarkably successful marketing tool.
"We've heard stories of shops unpacking the boxes of clothing and people waiting to grab shit out of the box. I'm confident that the films have created that demand," Rayner says.
They're currently selling their wares across Canada, in Australia, Norway and some EU countries. They're now in the midst of increasing their presence in the U.S.
Rayner says that Whistler has played a huge role in spreading Voleurz's popularity, since it acts as a point of Canadian contact — sometimes the only point of Canadian contact — for international visitors who identify with the B.C./West Coast lifestyle.
"Whistler is a global bubble in a lot of ways," he says. "One of the main reasons that it's working out in Australia is because a lot of people from (there) come to Whistler for a few seasons, they hear about us, they like us, they go back to Australia and they see our clothes there. Whistler represents Canada. As small as Whistler is, it has a huge reach."
Not too shabby, for a company of three young men who are basically learning as they go.
"We never intended to start a clothing company," Giovando says. "We just started doing that and stuff kind of happened. It's interesting. We just never thought about all the things that could go wrong. We thought, 'This seems like a good idea,' and just went with it and learned as we went."