Vincent De La Pena seems to have it all under control. From his post in the cramped corner of the company’s booth at the ASR Trade Show, he smoothly deals with the various presidential duties that the day calls for. Answering his cell, dealing with staff, and fielding interview questions, all while maintaining the cool even-keeled aura of a good leader. De La Pena, president and director of sales and marketing at MADA, truly is the man behind the brand’s curtain. Around him hangs an array of classy looking product, and just a glance around is enough to reveal why this new specialty clothing brand is beginning to catch on with retailers and style conscious members of the action sports world.
Formed in the Spring of 2003, and based in San Clemente, MADA is creating some seriously sharp clothing that bridges the gap between traditional surf wear and more sophisticated fashion. Drawing inspiration from music, movies, and other influences outside of the action sports world, as well as from trend setters within, MADA designers Alex De La Pena and Jay Mitchell have created a clean, urbane line that is appeals to surfers, skaters, and snowboarders. High-grade woven button-downs, with options like cuff-linked sleeves, and a rock star-like line of denim products are components which set MADA apart from other brands on the market now, and by providing buyers with a more worldly look, MADA has come up with clothing that addresses a neglected niche within action sports fashion.
With De La Pena’s guidance, MADA has further sought to cement its more refined image through a creative grassroots marketing campaign. Through contests like the ‘Benzo Surf Classic’, which rewards the winner with a Mercedes Benz, and an upcoming snow event called ‘Rails for Rolies’, which hands out Rolex watches to the victors, MADA has found an offbeat angle to inject its image, and some much needed bling into an otherwise waxy and waterlogged world. “We’ve always known that we can distribute the product, design the product, and all those kinds of things,” says De La Pena, “but how we touch our consumer, that was going to be our most present challenge, and we’ve been able to do that through these events. The response has been really strong.”
And while Mercedes, Rolex watches, and cuff-linked shirts contribute to MADA’s unique mojo, De La Pena points out that they also offer the nuts and bolts of any surf clothing label. A cleanly laid out set of t-shirts are what he says truly “define the line,” and a collection of board shorts are also on tap for those looking to get a little more active in MADA gear.
MADA is also taking some more traditional marketing routes. De La Pena says that sponsorship deals with surf, skate, and snow team riders, actively seeking out and courting the best core and specialty retailers, and possible film collaborations with Taylor Steele are all part of the equation. Their motto is “put the special back into specialty,” and shops that carry the brand seem pleased with what they’ve seen. Jim Ruonala, owner of Pacific Drive in Pacific Beach San Diego took a moment to comment on his decision to carry MADA clothes. “We like it, the reaction is pretty good so far. It’s definitely youthful, and it appeals to guys who actually surf. They’ve been doing a good job of getting the word out, because sometimes when you have a new label it really takes a while before people recognize it. But for them, it has started selling right away so they must be doing something right.”
For De La Pena, that should just be confirmation of what he already suspects. Reflecting on MADA’s growth, he says, “I think we have the opportunity and the momentum in the market place to be a substantial brand.” He also enthusiastically admits, “I would never have thought we would retail as well as we have this early, and I really attribute that to our marketing.”
From the sound of it, MADA has charged strongly out of the gates. With retailers like Ruonala stoked, positive growth and momentum guiding the line, and a unique product to back it all up, it seems that De La Pena’s MADA certainly has the wheels to take this special brand to the special people.