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.”