1.31.2009

FightTicker Exclusive: Interview With Luke Burrett of Silver Star Casting Company


Wednesday morning I got some time to talk with Luke Burrett, Owner, President and CEO of Silver Star Casting Company and the Godfather of west coat streetwear. Burrett’s clothing and jewelry are featured in numerous major retailers across the country including Macy’s, Tilly’s, Urban Outfitters, Journeys, Pac Sun, Zumiez and more.

Burrett was cool enough to take a few minutes out of a busy photo shoot to talk to me, and he spoke openly about his sponsorship deals with fighters Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans. Rashad recently sported his signature Silver Star tee before his fight with Forrest Griffin, and GSP can be seen in his signature tee numerous times throughout the UFC: Primetime episodes and at tonight's UFC 94 event.

Check after the jump for the full interview.

FightTicker: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and little bit about Silver Star?

Luke Burrett: Silver Star started in 1993, we started as a jewelry company, sterling silver rings and pendants and all that good stuff for different rock stars and musicians. It’s been a street wear company for the last sixteen years and just recently I’ve gotten into the MMA scene. I’ve always had a passion for it, I’ve sponsored fighters from time to time – Kimo and other fighters. Never really took it [the MMA aspect] too seriously until just recently. Recently we just rolled the dice and picked up some of the best fighters in the world.


FT: Where did you get the name Silver Star Casting Company?

LB: We started doing jewelry in ’93, and we were casting silver rings. I’ve always like stars, they’ve always been my thing, so we called it “Silver Star” and it stuck.


FT: Obviously you’ve had an established company for a while, but weren’t big on the MMA scene – how did it come about that you step in and grab two of the best fighters in the world in GSP and Rashad Evans?

LB: GSP, I had met his manager and I locked him down, and then I met Rashad Evans through GSP’s manager. Then GSP’s manager, she also hooked me up with David Louiseau who we just locked down, too.


FT: You mentioned you’d been passionate about MMA – why the big push now, with the signature series with these fighters?

LB: I’m watching the trends right now and I see MMA as a category, like surfing and skateboarding and the other action sorts. I see MMA as its own category, and I think it’s the biggest show in town. I don’t think it’s going away, I think it’s just getting ready to blossom.


FT: How do you feel that MMA fits in with the mission of Silver Star?

LB: Silver Star is carving out an MMA division within the company. We’re still going to stay focused on our streetwear roots, we’ve always been a streetwear company and we want to stay focused, but where I think we have the edge on everybody else is we started out 16 years ago as a streetwear company and just recently got into the MMA game. So to go back like some of these other companies who started out as MMA companies who then try to go back and switch the whole thing up and go more towards music and other things, it makes it really hard when you started out as [just] a fight company. We’re a street company, a lifestyle brand, and I think we have the edge over everybody else stepping into the MMA game, because we’re carving out an MMA division within our [already established] company.


FT: You mentioned carving out a specific division for MMA – how much of your overall business, percentage-wise, do you think is going to come from this new division?

LB: I would say the MMA portion would probably bring in about 60%-70% of our total business.


FT: Obviously you all have a lot of online business, and your connections with retailers – does Silver Star also send reps to regional MMA shows?

LB: Not yet, but we’re in the middle of negotiating some bigger deals with some companies that I think will change the dynamic of what we’re doing.



FT: Do you think being a streetwear company puts you closer to the UFC’s key demographic in terms of merchandising?

LB: I look at the UFC and I look at their customer base, and their customer base is our customer base. We’re in Orange County, we started in Orange County and we’ve set the trends for the last sixteen years. A lot of the people I see at the UFC fights – they are our customers.


FT: How much of a hand do you have in the designs?

LB: I have my hands on every aspect of this business. Every aspect, from negotiating the contracts to sitting there and improving the designs and giving my input on the designs.


FT: About the contracts, what kind of deals do you have with GSP and Rashad?

LB: One thing I want to do, what I’m trying to do is pay the fighters more than anybody else has paid the fighters, and give them a piece of the action, so when we sell product, they make money. My number one goal is to have everybody in this industry taken care of. I feel they’ve been taken advantage of for quite a while and I want to take care of the fighters.


FT: So you’re saying there are specific clauses built into the contracts for merchandising rights for the fighters?

LB: Yeah, they make money on every single one of their signature pieces that I sell.


FT: About the signature pieces – with Rashad’s, the image of Ben Franklin on the $100 bill is one of the most iconic in our society. What made you choose to use that image with the gold leaf skull superimposed on it.

LB: [Laughs] You know, it was one of those things – we had done a similar shirt prior in the streetwear business and we did really well with it. I was sitting and talking to Rashad, I really like to get the fighter’s input on what they want to do. Some of them are very – Rob Emerson, I just signed Rob Emerson, he’s very involved in what we do – but Rashad, he didn’t really have a direction he wanted to go, so I figured, “What does everybody like?” Everybody likes money. I knew he was going to win the belt and I felt the combination of the gold foil and the $100 bill – I didn’t think I could go wrong with that – the gold in the shirt would mesh with the gold in the belt, everything. Not only did he win the title, but we made a huge statement.


FT: What about GSP’s design?

LB: Input from GSP, and his manager, Sherry, she’s very hands on with everything. She’s been a pleasure to work with. We went back and forth for a while, he was very very involved with that shirt.


FT: Being in the business as long as you have, I’m sure you’ve seen all sorts of people start clothing companies, and I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of them fall. What is it that’s going to make Silver Star stand out as one of the premier companies?

LB: Number one is that we have the distribution. We’ve opened up all the distribution channels for about sixteen years. We do all the trade shows and we do them well. Not only that - I think the key ingredient is taking care of the fighters. I think the fighters are going to get paid what they want to get paid. Very few fighters will be complaining about what they’re getting at the end of the day. I want to put out a decent shirt that can make a royalty on, or whatever the [clothing] category is, something they can actually have a part of, they can get involved in. It’s kind like their own clothing company, but somebody else sells it [laughs], and all they have to do is put their input in. The royalties they’re getting are higher than the average. We got GSP and Karo Parisyan for this card Saturday night.


FT: Any predictions for the GSP vs. Penn match this weekend?

LB: Yeah, I think GSP is going to knock BJ Penn out. I’m pretty confident, I think BJ is a great fighter, but GSP is better. The problem is, I’m too attached to the UFC – I mean, I’m an addict. I always have been. It’s really exciting that there’s finally a window of opportunity for me to be involved with the fighters, because I always set there in front of the TV going, “Man, this is the coolest sport ever.” Me and my wife [Playboy Playmate Charis Burrett (formerly Boyle)], we were some of the first people to go to UFC fights, and I feel like I’m a part of the UFC now.


FT: You mentioned David Louiseau and Rob Emerson – are you going to be releasing signatures lines for each fighter?

LB: Yeah, every fighter I mentioned we’re releasing a signature line on, and there are about two or three in the works right now that we’re getting ready to lock down that are pretty big names as well.


FT: So why are you debuting the signature lines and having Rashad sign autographs at the MAGIC tradeshow – why there?

LB: Whether you’re a celebrity or sports star, I think everybody is involved with fashion, and magic is the biggest fashion show in the world. Fashion is crossing all areas, and I think you have to be involved in fashion, there’s no way away from it. That’s where the money is big – the fighters’ real money comes from the merchandise, so they have to be there representing their product.


FT: You’ve already signed a few of the sport’s biggest names, and you’re clearly building your roster – how long do you think it will take for Silver Star to emerge as one of the pre-eminent brands on the MMA scene.

LB: One year. We’ll be the biggest brand in MMA in one year. It’s a bold statement and it’s going to be tough, but that’s my plan.


FT: I have to ask – obviously, I’m sure you’re aware of TapouT as the most iconic in MMA right now – what do you think it’s going to be that helps Silver Star take over brands like that?

LB: Number one, I just want to say that the guys from TapouT are good friends of mine, Punkass is a really, really good friend of mine, and we’ve been battling lately, and I just want to put it on record that he’s a good friend of mine and I respect what those guys have done. I’m taking care of these fighters and I’m putting out some of the best product on the market. I feel the void between the higher end companies and some of the lower end companies. I’m kind of pulling my RV right in the middle of both of them. I’m offering a premium fitted tee and the pricepoint is great, where it needs to be, and the product is amazing.


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Thanks again to Luke for taking the time to talk with me. You can find Silver Star on the web here. You can find their line of signature MMA shirts here. They just posted the shirt Karo Parisyan will be wearing at tonight's UFC 94 event - looks pretty good.

-PreView

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