There are many different kinds of entrepreneurs. There are those who seek to provide goods or services currently rendered by other institutions in a unique way. There are those who fill a void created by another business going under, those who follow an established, successful business model to a “T” (Think Subway or McDonald’s), the list goes on and on. And make no mistake, regardless of which category of entrepreneurism one falls under, they all require hard work, dedication, countless boxes of Top Ramen for the early months of business, and the largest bottle of Tums that can be purchased when it’s time to pay the bills.
Unlike the broad spectrum of business owners covered by the definition of an Entrepreneur, however, there is only one kind of business owner encompassed by the definition of the word Trailblazer. Simply put, a Trailblazer is someone who introduces new products, services, aspects of culture, or all of the above to a region which, prior to that gutsy individual’s leap of faith, had none of the aforementioned. If you lived in Santa Barbara pre-2006, you’re already aware of the trail that Fuzion blazed, introducing quality streetwear and fine glass pieces to the community. If you didn’t, or you need a refresher, read on. Without further ado, the Wolf’s Head interview with Peter Robinson: Owner, Operator, and Chief Executive Trailblazer at Fuzion.
Wolf’s Head: First and foremost, what’s your name and what do you do?
Peter: Peter, and I run Fuzion, and the Akomplice Flag Ship store at 1115 State Street. This is our 9th year in business.
Wolf’s Head: How long have you been in Santa Barbara for? What brought you here?
Peter: I’m from Oxford, England, and came to Santa Barbara 12 years ago for college. I’ve been here ever since.
Wolf’s Head: Being one of the pioneers for street culture in Santa Barbara, carrying the lines like 10deep, and Mishka, how did you get started?
Peter: We started while we were going to college, and we kind of saw a void of no retail that was aimed towards a younger demographic, so we took it on as a project with an entrepreneurial spirit, not really knowing what we were going to do with it, it really kind of kicked off pretty well, and we enjoyed the brands, then the glass art was a whole other part that we enjoyed, so we just kept rocking it, and expanding.
Wolf’s Head: Was it always the plan to be a hybrid boutique?
Peter: Yeah, that was always the plan. Then both parts just got very specialized once Akomplice came into the picture especially, but the goal even when we had the glass in back and the clothes in the front was to always have another store at some point, and to separate the two, even in our old location, we took over the tattoo shop next door, and we basically had two stores for about 6 months before we moved down here, and had the same kind of structure.
Wolf’s Head: When did you really start to see everything with Fuzion come to fruition?
Peter: I mean, it has just been a steady growth process, when we got partnered up with Akomplice, we definitely started to see big increases in our reach, and in our sales. Their product has really done amazing for us, and hence the Akomplice store upstairs now, taking on that whole other kind of positioning.
Wolf’s Head: Was partnering with Akomplice a big factor for your move, or was changing locations always part the plan?
Peter: No, we moved anyways and then Mike and Pat (Akomplice owners) came out to visit us because we sold the brand in the old store as well for a couple years I think, and they wanted to come check out the new spot. There was another small store that had just opened up around that time, so one way or another everyone was kind of scouting to see if we were moving up, or moving down, but they were really impressed with the building and saw huge potential, where a lot of other owners came and saw empty space and said, “what are these guys doing? There’s a ton of empty space.” They came and saw a bunch of empty space, but saw it as, “what are you guys doing? You guys are BOSS, you have empty space!” so it was really a like-minded thing, and it rolled really fluidly.
Wolf’s Head: How did you first start to get into the concept of glass blowing?
Peter: I don’t know, hard to say, I smoke, and that helped me get into it seriously enough, but I have always been infatuated by glass ever since I was a little kid. I went to this fucking glass manufacturing plant, and dude, just being able to see that shit as liquid, and how they are able to manipulate the glass like that, it blew my mind, and I’ve been stoked on it ever since.
I think a lot of people that really enjoy glass probably saw it being made when they were little, and that’s a commonality I actually find a lot, its kind of a trip. But with regard to the store, we were selling regular pipes, bongs, or whatever you want to call it, that we thought were legit.
Then this dude named Smiley came in, he’s a local, and everyone kept saying how I needed to meet Smiley, he’s the fucking man, he makes the best shit, and the only way they can describe it is by waving their hands around in the air. After a couple of months of telling people to send him in, Smiley finally came through with another artist named JAG (Just Another Glassblower), who now owns a gallery in San Diego and he’s a big blower out of Philadelphia, and they came through and just blew my mind, they had shit that I had no fucking clue people were making.
From there, it was just on for me, this is what I’m doing, fuck all this shit, that’s whack, that’s whack, this is the shit, and from there I just wanted to sell the high end shit. I mean, in general, the people that collect glass and really like it are mostly a pleasure to deal with too, so it kind of went hand in hand with being the guy in the store that had to make all the sales, and not wanting to sell cheap Chinese shit, you know. Just having that high-end image went better with streetwear too, because back then you have to realize that all these brands were fucking so iffy on selling to a “headshop” slash hybrid boutique. Some brands just saw the bongs. One brand, for instance, we had all these plans with for our opening: Made big orders, even had down payments with the brand, but when we were down there talking to the owner, telling him everything about the store, all excited, we were geeking out explaining the store to him, and he heard the word bong or pipe, went into his store and pulled our entire shit: pulled our whole account, all of our orders, everything we had prepaid, even gave us our money back, asked us to...
Wolf’s Head: where is he now?
Peter: Thanks for saying it so I don’t have to. I appreciate that, that’s legit. Yeah, where is he? Haha. But, they literally asked us to leave the warehouse because we were there checking things out, it was our homie’s dude, we knew the lady that was running production through one of our friends from the Agenda show. That was the whole connection that got us into the streetwear thing essentially. We didn’t know quite exactly what clothing we were going to sell, we knew we wanted to do it and we sort of stumbled into it in some ways, thinking “Yo, this is the shit.” Again, wasn’t completely familiar with it, just thought it was awesome.
Wolf’s Head: Streetwear was pretty new at the time too, right?
Peter: Yeah, streetwear, and the whole concept and culture was all pretty new at the time.
Wolf’s Head: When you first started what type of clothing were you into you? Were you always into streetwear?
Peter: Yeah, immediately. We went to the first ever Agenda Trade Show, and we picked up literally every brand that was on our brand list, and they just happened to be all the fucking bangers. I guess we had a decent eye at the time, maybe we got lucky or whatever, but we were stoked that we got to pick up a lot of those big brands that are still around when they were tiny, well smaller. I shouldn’t say tiny, they weren’t tiny by any means, but there were some interesting brands back then, you know?
Wolf’s Head: In terms of the artists you have for your glass work, is it all in-house?
Peter: No, all over. The top artists in the United States, we have some from Japan. We have been going to the main trade shows every 6 months since we started this and what not, networking, talking to people. We’ve actually been nominated three times by the AGE show for Best Glass Gallery of the Year. We have had a pretty good experience there.
Wolf’s Head: Already being a gallery and a boutique is there anything else we canexpect from Fuzion in the future?
Peter: We have done a lot of events in the past, and we are getting back into that once the place is complete, which it will be in the next couple of months. I’m excited to start having people here again, and to open up our doors to a few more events. That’s going to be cool. The next one is the Akomplice Summer release party, and then July 24th is the date when all the construction will be finished, and that’s our next glass show. It’s going to be dope, it’s a 10 person group show.
We’ve also been working on manufacturing a small Akomplice Santa Barbara sub-line, at our release party you will see our first tee. They are dope. I am excited for everyone to see that. We want to continue to make more and more stuff in house. I think we can make things that will sell better than most of these brands that are out now. I want to vertically integrate, you know, make sure we are manufacturing more and more of our products, making smart moves, and I do want to open up galleries in Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco, but we will have to see how that goes.
Wolf’s Head: That’s dope, man.
Peter: I hope. I mean, I love the West Coast and what better excuse to travel up and down the coast continuously? I think it would be really fun.
Wolf’s Head: With Akomplice having a lot of their pieces integrate musical influences, are you guys going to do more music inspired events or pieces?
Peter: Yeah, we’ve done that in the past, and we want to do more of it, always. When you’re working with Akomplice, there is no question that’s going to come up, and happen more. I think a lot of our design lately has really been focused on some save the world shit, you know what I mean. Hate it or love it, I think there’s a lot of people that are looking for that O.G. Akomplice look that was heavily hip-hop inspired, and slightly more urban dare I say, but at the same time personally I’ve matured, got older, and I love the new direction of it, that’s why I’m so stoked on it. I think that it’s legit, and most companies aren’t daring enough to risk putting that voice out there and saying, “yo, we actually do give a fuck” cause it’s so cool so act like you don’t give a fuck, and all this crap, but it’s not. Personally, it’s about a different lifestyle, and I like shit that is promoting awareness, and a lot of our design has been focused on that lately.
Wolf’s Head: What do you want to see come out of Santa Barbara in terms of culture, and streetwear in the next couple of years?
Peter: Places just like Wolf’s Head. I’d like to see them expand, and thrive. I want to see a collective scene that is geared towards actually supporting one another, and being real about it. I’d like to see more cool events. I think collectively we revitalized the Funk Zone as far the art movement that is happening down there right now. It wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for companies like Wolf’s Head, & Fuzion. The presence of Akomplice here is a really positive element.
Its all fun, that’s what we are in it for you know.
Fuzion is located at 1115 State St. Santa Barbara, CA. 93101 (805) 687-6401