Satisfied with Brice Partouche

Photos by Yentl Touboul 

It’s official: running rules. I should know—I run.

In fact, I run like a robotic leopard sent from the future to run like the wind that blows from Mount Fuji in spring. Another person who runs is Brice Partouche, the founder of what is arguably the best running brand in the world: Satisfy. Why is Satisfy the best? Well, for one, Satisfy is always working to shrink its carbon footprint. All Satisfy prototypes are made in-house—saving back and forth with factories—and when they produce in Europe, they use fabrics from Europe; when they produce in Japan, they use fabrics from Japan (80 percent of Satisfy gear is made in Europe, 20 percent in Japan). Also, Satisfy uses fabrics that last longer because they’re excellent quality and don’t need to be over-washed, and they use recycled fabrics wherever possible. Lastly, they don’t overproduce. They do limited quantities and their stuff is built to last. Most importantly, though, Satisfy gear looks cool and feels awesome when you’re running like a robotic leopard sent from the future to fuck shit up. I had a chat with Monsieur Partouche.

You’re not from Paris originally, right?
No, I grew up in Grenoble, in the Alps. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Alps, but it’s great when you’re a kid. We used to go snowboarding after school and on the weekends. Grenoble was also a big skate city.

When did you start skating?
I think when I was around 13 or 14? I think I started everything at the same time, you know, playing music and skateboarding, stuff like that. And it’s really game-changing when you do that shift when you are a teenager in the ’80s and ’90s. I mean, now I can say it was amazing being part of that scene.

And I try not to be a spectator in a scene, you know?

You get involved.
Yeah, exactly, and that was when I learned, like, Do It Yourself. When you’re a kid, you can’t pay for things, so you learn how to do it by yourself.

I grew up skating in the late ’80s, early ’90s, so I know all about that.
Right, you have to make your own things and fix your shoes or whatever. Like, you start fixing your shoes with Shoe Goo, but it ends with fixing your own instrument or being the manager of your band or starting your own music label, you know?

Dude, I can’t remember the last time I saw a tube of Shoe Goo. I do remember owning a pair of Vision hi-tops that were 90 percent Shoe Goo and 10 percent shoe. Because you couldn’t just go out and get a new pair. Access was limited back then.
Oh yeah, totally. And also, pocket money when you were 13, it wasn’t very high, and all this stuff was imported from the States and super expensive. I had these Natas Kaupas Etnies and they meant so much to me, and as they became more and more destroyed, I kept covering them in Shoe Goo. But access to the culture was also different than it is today. It was pre-internet, so you found out about it from the skate shop. The skate shop in Grenoble would get all the Santa Cruz boards and whatever else, but they also got lots of VHS tapes as well—

Skate videos.
Yeah. And from the videos, we got the music, and that was how we found out about Bad Religion, Anthrax and all that stuff. And of course, we got Thrasher magazine at our local store too. So that was how we found out about this culture.

And you contributed to the culture with your first brand, Biscuit, which you began at age 16, no?
(Laughs) Yes, that’s right. I was a big fan of Gorilla Biscuits, the band—

I don’t think I’ve heard of them…
They were a straight-edge, hardcore band.

Are you a straight-edge cat?
I mean, I was, but I don’t call myself that now. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, but I don’t say I’m ‘straight edge’ anymore, but I was straight edge at the time.

With the crosses on the hands?
Yeah, I was going to shows with the crosses.

Crazy. So, the brand Biscuit…
So, with Biscuit we did, like, 200 t-shirts—long sleeve and short sleeves—and sold them at the local skate store. And that’s it. It was my first experience with getting t-shirts, doing some graphic design, going to the screen printers, and getting paid.

So much fun.
Yeah, it really was.

So, that was your entry into the rag trade, but I read somewhere that you were going to be a doctor?
That’s right. I went for two years to medical school. My plan was to become a surgeon. I was kind of a nerd. When I was 18, I was really fascinated by science: biology, physics—

Like, my passions were Slayer and physics and skateboarding. (Laughter)

Great combo.
I know. But I stopped medical school. You have to decide what you’re going to be when you’re a kid, and then when you’re a teenager you’re already on the path to be, you know, for me, it was to be a doctor. But on the way, I became more and more interested in skateboarding, music, this culture. So, you’re no longer the 10-year-old kid who wanted to be a doctor. But I still went to medical school, and after two years I didn’t like it; so then I played music for two years with my band. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m going to make it with my band,’ you know?

What was the band called?
Elevate. It was like a hardcore-slash-At The Drive-In-inspired band. Like, early emo and hardcore.

What was your hair like at the time?
My hair?

Oh, at one point I had an afro like At The Drive-In, but then I also had the emo brush—

Emo bangs at the front?
Yeah, yeah. Dressed all in black: black t-shirt, jeans, Converse, black nails. And we were skating like this. Jamie Thomas was the style icon for us at the time.

The Chief! Amazing. So then what happened, you started a denim brand?
Yes, called April77. I started repurposing vintage Levi’s and making them slim and skinny because my friends and I, we all wanted to look like the Ramones, you know? So, I was using my dad’s sewing machine—

Your dad’s sewing machine?
Yeah, my dad was a designer. He had a denim brand in the 80s and 90s. So, I kind of grew up with this stuff.

What was your dad’s jeans company called?
It was called Bonaventure. It was super cowboyish, Americana. I got all my inspiration for American vintage from my dad, actually. He inspired me to dig into that culture.

That’s cool.
Yeah, so I started April77 and after five years the brand started to become kind of big; certainly bigger than what I was expecting. I did that for 17 or 18 years, and in that time, I started to run. And I became obsessed with running.

And that’s what here to talk about. How did skateboarding transition to running?
I stopped really skating—like, skating every day—when I moved to Paris. I was 28, maybe. When I started to run, my idea was to step outside my comfort zone because I’d been always doing the same thing with music and fashion or whatever, so I thought, ‘Oh, I should try running,’ because I’m terrible at sports and I hate sports. I mean, skateboarding is not a sport…

Right, well, it’s not competitive. Generally speaking.
Right. And I’m not a competitive person, and I’m not calling myself an athlete. I have this take on running where I think of it as more of a meditation. Anyway, when I started to run, it was always pretty easy because I had a healthy lifestyle. I mean, it was not too difficult to breathe through my first 5km and my first 10km, you know?

Right, right.
But what was difficult was switching from this skateboard culture—which to me was the coolest thing in the world—to the running scene, which to me was…

Well, it’s a culture of mass market, and I think this lack of identity made me think that the running scene needed, like, a skateboard brand. So, okay, Satisfy. It will be the skateboard brand for runners.

I started running about five years ago, and I remember being super turned off by the gear. It was all so bland, but you had no choice—that was the running gear. So, I was pretty excited when a friend turned me on to Satisfy. And that was when I started talking to you guys to try and get free stuff.
(Laughter) I remember the first time you wrote something about us in Monster Children; I was like, ‘Okay, we made it. Satisfy is in a skateboard mag.’ (Laughter)

It’s worked out well for both of us. Another thing I want to talk about is the runner’s high, which is a big part of the Satisfy ethos, I guess. What’s your sweet spot for that? Because I can’t just will that to happen. I’ve done long, fast runs where I definitely experience a high at the end, and I’ve had short, low-intensity runs where I get it. But then most of the time I don’t get it.
Well, it’s not automatic and this is the beauty of it. The runner’s high, I think, is not just about your pace or distance or your physiology, it’s also about context: where you are and how you feel, and this was the thing with Satisfy—we want to create products to help you to reach the high. I think that if you wear something that you don’t notice because it’s super light and the fabrics are super silky, it will enhance the experience of running. But also, there’s the scenery; it’s more difficult to get high running in Paris or in a city. I feel the high more when I go trail running. Out in nature.

So, it’s a bit of everything, but I think clothes help a part of it for two reasons: you have the physical aspect, which is the texture of the fabric on your skin, the bonded seems to remove chaffing, the weight of the product—that’s one part. But then there’s the pocketing system, not hearing your keys jangling together—

That’s a big one.
So, with Satisfy, we are not saying you will experience the high, but I think we are part of the solution. Also, I think that if you look great, if you feel that you look great, you will perform better.

Which is like skateboarding. You skate better if you’re stoked on what you’re wearing. Sounds silly, but it’s true.
Yeah, it’s a bit like that. If you’re confident about the way you look, I think it helps you to perform better.

How does product development work? Are you yourself running and making notes?
Yes, it started like this. It started with my own experience of running. After my runs, I was taking notes and designing from my own personal experience. Today, the company is bigger, but it’s the same process. We have three pro athletes and we have also our Running Cult members and they give us feedback. A month ago, Michael Versteeg, one of our athletes, came to Paris and visited us at the office, and we did a lot of products with him. So, yeah, experience leads the whole development process at Satisfy. It’s all about the run and the needs on your run.

Were you worried about entering the running space with this brand that’s as much about style as it is practicality?
No, I wasn’t worried because I thought I can’t be the only one that feels this way. I’m not that unique. So, if I feel this way, I’m sure a bunch of other people feel the same thing. And of course, some people get it and some people don’t, but I think the role of Satisfy is also to inspire people to run. We’re totally fine if some people don’t switch from Nike to us, but what’s great is when we hear from people that we’ve inspired them to run. And I think that’s our role too, to inspire people to go out and move.

To see more from the 2022 Monster Children Annual, pick up your copy here.

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