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Poetic Collective - Behind The Scenes With Tom Botwid

Poetic Collective - Behind The Scenes With Tom Botwid
Posted by Matt Broadley10 min read
Wednesday, June 17, 2020

I've been a fan of Poetic Collective since discovering their video, White, Black, Colour back in 2016. It has been great to watch the brand's development over the past four years - releasing many more videos, unique product and grow their team. I want to thank Tom for taking the time to speak to us about the brand, his creative process and for giving us a little more insight into their journey over the years.

Poetic Collective has been around a few years now, what was it first inspired you to start the brand?

At the time I was studying fine arts in Berlin, doing that and studying art history I felt like it would be interesting to bring that into skateboarding and work with a more abstract visual language than is maybe traditionally used in skating.

I started printing some t-shirts and doing some stickers, then one board just for friends and myself. It really didn't start as a brand but more of a DIY project. I would say Poetic Collective as a brand started about 2 years after that when I started working with shops and doing some clothing.

"Polar has inspired me in many ways, being from Malmö and growing up watching Pontus."

Were there companies you looked to for inspiration, brands that represent skateboarding in an interesting way to you?

I try not to look at other brands for inspiration too much, but as I mentioned, instead take inspiration from different fields into skateboarding, that feels more interesting to me. At the same time, I am such a skate nerd that I think it is impossible to not take inspiration from skateboarding too, but I want to combine that with something else.

I think in those meetings the best stuff we have done is created. But, there are of course brand I really like too. I like all the European brands such as Magenta, Isle, Palace and also Polar Skate Co. Polar has, of course, inspired me in many ways being from Malmö and growing up watching Pontus.

Poetic Collective - Behind The Scenes With Malmo, Sweden based Tom Botwid

What do you feel Poetic Collective brings to skateboarding that other brands may not? Do you feel any pressure to stand out when there are so many board brands around?

As I touched on my ambition is to bring a more traditional art perspective and have that meet contemporary skateboard culture. I think a lot of stuff we do some people think is super pretentious! I think that sometimes too, so that's fine! But perhaps the fact that we don't shy away from that brings something different to the table, whether someone likes it or not. I think for someone to really like something, someone else has to really dislike it too, I want what we do to provoke an opinion or reaction.

Apart from that I think we also have one of the most diverse teams in skateboarding when it comes to gender, this is something I am very proud of. As far as standing out I think we always try to stay true to what the brand is about and follow that route. With time I think that makes you stand out, hopefully. Also I try not to do anything that someone else is already doing better. Just do you and try to develop, that's what I always tell the team riders, I think that applies just as much to running the brand.

"It's always been very important to me to build a diverse team consisting of both men and women"

You seem to be very involved in the Swedish scene, supporting young skaters, particularly young women. Why is this important to Poetic?

It's always been very important to me to build a diverse team consisting of both men and women. In skateboarding there is often a separation, a women's team or a women's skate video, these things have grown a lot in recent years which is great of course!  But looking at skateboarding as a way of expression I want to build a brand that doesn't separate men and women, if I like someones skating and style I don't care what gender they are and I want the brand to represent that. As far as supporting young skaters, I of course always want to help where I can as my older peers did for me when I was younger. Big shout out to Danijel Stankovic for always having my back as a young skate rat in need of gear.

Each series of graphics you release is informed by a different theme, how do you decide on these themes and where do you find inspiration?

I am always painting, drawing, looking and creating mood boards, I try to fill them with different sources of inspiration from art history, contemporary skate culture, 90s sportswear and many other things. At the start of every design process, I go through these things. Then, with help from my brother, Paul, I try to fine-tune it and find what each drop is about.

What is the process for creating Poetic graphics? Is it something you do independently or do you have input from the team or other people?

Most of the graphics I do myself, they are based largely on paintings and drawings I have done combined with other elements. This can include everything from renaissance paintings to iPhone snapshots.

Last season we introduced our first pro models, the skaters were very involved in creating the graphics for those boards. It is super important to me that they are 100% happy with the board that has their name on it.

Are there artists, either in or out of skateboarding, you'd like to work with?

So many! But John Copeland, Karin Mamma Andersson and Jurgen Teller to name just a few.

Poetic Collective - Behind The Scenes With Malmo, Sweden based Tom Botwid (1)

Is Poetic your sole creative outlet or do you have other projects you work on alongside the brand?

I paint and draw outside of creating graphics in phases. I used to do that a lot more but it has become secondary to doing the brand during the last few years. That's fine though, doing Poetic gives me so much creative outlet that I am very satisfied.

Santiago Sasson has been on a bit longer whilst Helena Long recently joined the team - how did these connections come about?

Yes! Very happy to have them both on board! Both additions came about very naturally, I met both Santi and Helena on trips to different cities and also when they passed through Malmö on their travels. Santi came to Malmö first with the Place Mag guys. Then he showed us around Paris when we went there, everyone clicked really well and from there, things worked out.

Helena has been wearing Poetic gear for years and I have always loved her both as a skater and a person. So, when finally the timing was right it was an easy decision to join forces!

It's really important for me that we preserve the family feeling we have always had within the team. Not just put people on that are super good but that we have no natural connection with. With both Helena and Santi I felt that and the rest of the team did as well. It also feels like a natural part of the growth from a local Swedish brand to a more pan-European brand to add riders from other countries.

"Starting it as a small DIY project and now doing what we do has been a crazy ride"

How has Covid-19 affected things for you? There's been a big drive towards supporting independent stores and brands

It was very stressful for a moment as we were just about to release our summer drop, shops started cancelling pre-books that were already in production, and production at the time was difficult with factories closing or working with limited staff.

But so far things have worked out, I feel like the will to support independent brands has grown and things have turned out for the better. As far as filming and travelling things are still very difficult, I miss gathering the whole crew and hope we can soon meet up and travel again!

Looking back, how do you feel the brand has evolved over the years? Is it how you imagined it?

Starting it as a small DIY project and now doing what we do has been a crazy ride, beyond anything I could have imagined! The feeling is still the same though and I really just want to produce things I am happy with and be out with the team skating and filming. I love skateboarding so much and am so grateful to be able to have it be such a large part of my life. Watching team riders evolve with the brand is also such a privilege, I try to do my best to give them the best platform to grow both as people and as skaters.

Poetic Collective - Behind The Scenes With Malmo, Sweden based Tom Botwid (2)

Poetic Collective products are available exclusively by the stores you work with, how come you didn't go down the direct to consumer route most brands do?

I really like working with shops and I think supporting skate shops and having them be your window to the consumer is really important, they are the hub in their local scene.

I think with time though we will probably have to do a webshop as so many people are asking for it. But I would want that to be something different, I don't want to take customers away from local shops so maybe would focus it more on limited product or artworks.

It would also be a whole new workload - having a warehouse, packing orders and so on. At the moment I don't know how I would manage this time-wise, so that is something I am still figuring out how I'd handle.

What projects can we look forward to from you and the crew?

We are working on a new video as we were all sparked to do more after releasing FLUID. We started strong in Gran Canaria in January, but after that filming has been difficult with Covid and all the trips being cancelled.

Everyone has been filming locally so I am still positive and hope we can manage something before the end of the year. Markus Bengtsson, who helps me with filming, is such a great guy too so I'm excited to work on another video with him.

I'm also working on the fall 20 drop which includes some surprises, I hope people will be stoked on that!

Apart from that, I am also working as a Team Manager for Vans in Scandinavia as of a few months ago, so I have some projects coming up there. I am filming some tricks for an upcoming video for Jeremie Daclin's company Film Trucks, so staying busy, to say the least.

I'd also like to take the opportunity to say thanks to everyone that supports Poetic Collective and the whole team. Poetic would be nothing without them! Also Jeremie at Film Trucks, Alex Forbes for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to work for Vans. Markus, Peter and Paul for always helping me out when I need it and my girlfriend Sanna for always supporting me.

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