Viktor Telégin on values, skate culture and his brand CHPO
Hey, karma look this way!
CHPO is the Stockholm based brand whose heart is in the right place.
Their accessories are really affordable (hello multiple pairs), but the best part (as if it could get any better) is that CHPO doesn’t only make you look good, they also help you do good. They want to invite and include everyone into their world, as long as they stand for all people’s equal values. We had the opportunity to ask Viktor Telégin, CHPO’s founder, a few questions about his and CHPO’s visions and values, background and future.
Viktor started skating at the age of 12, realized he would never be a pro at 13 and at the age of 17 he came to the conclusion that the only way for him to be a part of the skate industry would be to work in it. He believes that it was at the same time he also decided that one day he would start his own brand.
In 2013, Viktor left his job as a brand manager for Quiksilver and Roxy and at the same time he was introduced to Johan Graffner, who had worked with every accessory in the world for over two decades. Viktor had an idea for a brand and Johan had the knowledge on how to get started and that’s how CHPO was born.
The watch and sunglass brand has its root in skateboarding, music, and art. CHPO’s philosophy is that its products are made for everyone, and it’s like that because of two very specific reasons.
The first reason goes all the way back to Viktors childhood. “Growing up as a skater I had a hard time being able to buy the brands I wanted to wear, which resulted in [stealing] money from my mother’s boyfriend or trying to find clothes that looked like the brands I liked at secondhand stores and H&M. With CHPO, we work with the brand as if it is a premium streetwear brand, but at a lower price point than our competitors. We want everyone to be able to wear a brand that has good quality, makes a difference, but don’t have to pay a fortune.”
The second reason behind their philosophy is that CHPO is including rather than excluding.
“We take a strong stand against homophobia and racism, and all types of hatred. Since we are not just selling products but a lifestyle, we want to do our best in influencing our customers to share our values. Made for everywhere and everyone. The first and only ad we have ever done was placed in a French magazine and read, ‘If you hate homosexuals, people of different colour, or women, please do this one favour for us. Don’t buy our gear.’ I think that sums up what we stand for in a pretty good way!”
They want to build a brand that stands for something good and makes an actual difference, and they want to become the start that triggers others to do great things.
“If you have a voice like we do, we think it’s important that you’re not afraid to take a stand for what you believe in, and we believe in equality for all, and we believe everyone should have the same opportunities in life.”
This idea has resulted in various collaborations, such as the ones with Protect our Winters and Skateistan.
Skatistan is an award-winning international non-profit organization empowering children and youth through skateboarding and education in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. Through their innovative programs, their aim is to give youth the opportunity to become leaders for a better world.
“In 2015, we designed a watch named Nawroz, which means a new day in Dari, and in 2017 we designed the Rumi sunglasses, named after 13th-century Persian poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī. Both the watch and the sunglasses feature a minimalistic design true to our Scandinavian design heritage, while the color palette is inspired by Afghanistan’s mountainous landscape.”
The products have been two of the brand’s bestselling products where 100% of the proceeds are donated to Skateistan, which has so far resulted in a 30 000 USD donation. The collaboration with Protect Our Winters is all about encouraging more people to think about how they can be more environmentally friendly in their everyday life.
“If we can do that, we are one step closer to a better world.”
“An example from that collaboration is the #CHPOWcleanup where CHPO awards one person a week throughout this fall and winter with a CHPO X POW to someone who cleans up on their local mountain, beach or street, take a picture and post it on Instagram using the hashtag.”
CHPO works with ambassadors who are a big part of the design process, they bring ideas and inspiration into the brand which also takes a lot of inspiration from Scandinavian design and their roots in skateboarding, music, and art.
Some of the ambassadors are world famous and others more unknown. What they all have in common is that they share the values of CHPO. “They personify what and who we are. The idea is that if you get to know them, or already know them, you know us as a brand.”
Viktor doesn’t have any background in the design, he studied marketing and claims that the only thing he’s good at drawing is small cartoons. Neither does he have any knowledge of how to use Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign. “Our first designs were all handwritten by me. The hands on this watch should be this long, in this colour, etc. Not the most effective way to design products, but it worked!”
When I ask Viktor if he believes that some companies need to alter their brands toward more sustainable design in order for sustainability to really take root in our society he says he really does.
“I hope more brands will follow in our path and take a stand for what is right and what they believe in. Today we see a growing right-wing movement all through Europe and North America. I do however don’t think we have more racists in the world today than we did 10 years ago. Instead, I think there are people using racism, like we have seen hundreds of times in history, to gain power. And if you have a brand and don’t think this is right, don’t hesitate to take a stand. You have a big group of people’s attention, so you might as well do something good with it, apart from selling your products or services.”
He also thinks it is crucial for all brands who sell any type of products to see what they can do to minimize their impact on society.
“We, for example, use vegan leather for most of our watch straps. We also use a green type of alloy more and more for our watchcases, which is produced in a more environmentally friendly way than regular alloy and can be recycled easily. With that said, we, just like most brands, do have a negative impact on the environment in one way or another, so we are constantly looking for ways to minimize that.”
But the project that Viktor, personally, are most proud of is Stockholm Skate Nation, which is a program CHPO started together with Stockholm Skate Park.
“We use skateboarding as a tool to welcome, activate and integrate refugee kids who have arrived in Sweden by themselves. The results we’ve seen have been great and really shows how skateboarding is a great tool to integrate people into a society. We have skated with over 200 kids and today a few of them are the ones leading the new kids coming in.”
For the future, Viktor hopes that he can continue to skate as much as he does because that is all he wants to do. He also wishes that CHPO continues to grow, that they can do more collaborations and that more brands follow in their footsteps. “Oh, and that I get a ‘Welcome to my hometown-picture’ at Stockholm Airport”, Viktor adds.
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