Ken Hake is the one-man-band behind Marine Machine, a company that provides top-quality, handmade leather products. Ken has a background in the boardsports fashion industry and his products have caught the attention of some key names in the action sports industry for their rugged designs and quality materials.
Please give an overview on how and why the company began.
I have been working in the skate/surf/fashion industry my whole life. At some point I felt that I really had to venture out on my own after moving from San Diego, USA to Hamburg, Germany.
Who is on the management team, and what are their backgrounds?
It’s just myself, the one-man team. That’s how I like it, keep costs down and I can do whatever I want, even though the workload gets a bit heavy sometimes. Before starting Marine Machine I was a Product Manager for a company specialising in arranging leather jackets for all types of international brands.
What is the company ethos?
Make the best possible product for a good price, which is the advantage of not having giant overheads and keep it 100% authentic.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
I don’t see too many companies specialising in leather jackets in the surf/skate industry. I never wanted to be the five millionth textile or t-shirt brand. Each style is a limited edition and each jacket is individually numbered. Always quality over quantity!
Could you tell us about the way in which you use local resources in your products?
All my accessories are either made in San Diego or Hamburg, for the jackets it becomes a bit harder as prices would skyrocket if I had them made locally. All jacket production is currently switched over to a good friend in Portugal. I only work with suppliers I know well.
What do you find important about the European market?
Well – it’s the market I am based in now and it’s obviously a strong market with a lot of different consumers, in terms of taste, cultural background and general diversity.
How do you support athletes and board sports?
I am not going to support anything that I/Marine Machine doesn’t stand for and I don’t go out looking for anybody. I have been fortunate enough that I’ve been recognised for my products. Certain people like Corey Duffel or CJ Nelson and some other pretty well known athletes have hit me up, and for them I am willing to dish out some free product. I don’t want to name too many of them and make it sound like they ride for me or something, as they have other clothing sponsors.
What other marketing are you running?
Social media is important for a small brand like mine with limited resources. Instagram has been really good to me. Whereas Facebook, I can count the sales I have made through it on one hand, Instagram on the other hand has not only generated a fair amount of sales, but it’s also gotten the name out to the right people. Otherwise I rely on my retail points doing some marketing for me, plus the usual, like trade shows and rad events like the Wheels & Waves down in Biarritz for example.
Why should retailers sell your brand?
Hopefully because first of all they dig my product and appreciate all the blood, sweat and tears I put into each item I come out with. Like I said before, there aren’t too many brands in the boardsport sector doing the type of product that I am doing and you get a really well made quality leather jacket without ruining your bank account.
What do you see for the future of your company?
Keep the gradual growth, not get ahead of myself and keep it fun.
What do you see for the future of the industry?
The industry will be fine. Trends and fads come and go, but generally we’re still a pretty young industry that still has a lot of potential and growth ahead of itself. I am not worried about it in any way.