Products Team News Videos About
Seven: Behind the Brand
(Story by Donn Maeda, Transworld Motocross)

James Stewart

Troy Lee
James Stewart isn’t the first racer to launch his own line of riding apparel; Torsten Hallman, Malcolm Smith, Chuck Sun and Bob Hannah all come to mind as racers who threw their hats into the ring. Stewart’s newest venture came as a surprise to most, as it was a well-kept secret throughout its planning stages. Like you, we wondered what would inspire Stewart to walk away from a very lucrative apparel contract with Answer Racing.

“I’ve had some great clothing sponsors in the past, and I’ve always enjoyed working with them and helping come up with special signature pieces,” said Stewart. “But there were often times that my ideas would get shot down because of budgets and other reasons. Sometimes, I felt like just an employee, rather than a part of things, and that’s what inspired me to do my own thing.” Designing cool-looking gear is one thing, but getting it prototyped and built is a whole different ballgame altogether. Knowing well the technicalities, Stewart enlisted the help of one of the most respected icons in all of motocross, Troy Lee. After contacting the helmet painter-turned-gear-maker-turned-team owner, the two immediately struck up a friendship and a deal was struck in short order. The Seven collaboration will see TLD assist in the design, production, and distribution of Stewart’s race gear and sports apparel, much like the DC Shoe Co/TLD venture, only on a much larger scale. “I partnered with Troy for a few different reasons,” said Stewart. “One, because he is so well-respected in the industry. Two, because he is crazy! He is a total whack job, but I love it. He has an artist’s personality, and isn’t afraid try new things. That is what I like most about him. “Partnering with Troy, at least in the beginning, makes the most sense. My previous sponsors only wanted to make gear with my name on it, but I want to make gear: stuff that is technical and purpose built. When I told Troy that is what I wanted to do, and not to just have him make his stuff with my name on it, he completely understood and agreed to help me. And I need his help, because how else am I going to do it? Buy a building, hire a staff, and go visit the sweatshops in China? No way! We like to think of it the way Fox and Shift are two separate brands, but under the same roof.”

Joining Stewart in his Seven venture is his good friend Roger Larsen, who worked closely with him in his role as Athlete Manager at the Corona Sports Group, home to Answer Racing, MSR and Pro Taper. Enticed by the potential he saw in the start-up, Larsen left behind a half decade at Answer to join his friend in the adventure. “When I first told Roger what I was thinking of doing, he said, ‘I’m in,’ before I even finished explaining it. I feel like he is a great person for the job; a lot of people like him and he is good at what he does, so it made the decision easy. Roger, I don’t even know what his title is. I guess he can call himself whatever he wants, [laughs] but he knows how to get things done and he will basically run stuff for me.”

Rounding out the small crew at Seven is designer Moe Bennett, a veteran designer who cut his teeth at Thor before working most recently at One Industries. Using simple athletic jersey designs as inspiration, the team created the first edition of gear that Stewart will debut at Anaheim One. “I wanted to build race gear. Not gear that looks cool, not gear that has cool colors. I want race gear that is performance wear like the stuff from companies like Nike and Oakley. We are testing a lot of different stuff and I can’t get too in-depth with it right now, but I feel like our company will be groundbreaking in a lot of ways. It just had to be made.”

Being a company owner—in the start-up stages at least—involves plenty of personal sacrifice. In Stewart’s case, that means giving up a near-seven-figure salary. It’s all worth it in Stewart’s eyes, though, as he has big plans for the fledgling brand. “I don’t take a salary here,” he said. “Sometimes in order to do things right, you don’t take a salary. When I came to Troy I said, ‘This is what I want to do, and I don’t want you to pay me. Just help me grow this company.’ My salary is nothing and I am investing in it for all of the right reasons. Whether it goes well or not is yet to be seen, but I am committed to this thing 100%. I think that Seven can be something special, and with Troy’s help, it can be even better.”

Seven will become available to the public sometime in 2013, and immediate plans for the brand including a team of—appropriately enough—seven elite amateur racers, as well as other top-level pros when the time comes. “Troy and Roger had to talk me into the name, Seven. I didn’t want it to seem like signature gear that only I could wear, and that’s why Seven works. Yeah, it’s my number, but it can have other meanings, too…like lucky number seven! When I didn’t want my name on it, Troy put it all into perspective when he said, ‘If Jordans didn’t have the jump man on them, would you buy them?’ Then, it all made sense…”