Intentionality, craftsmanship, and community—these are some of the words that come to mind after spending some time with Mike Lynch from Imperfects. Mike is a unique soul with a curiosity and ingenuity that you don’t see too often. Since starting Imperfects in San Diego in 2015, Mike and his talented team of individuals have been making a statement with their philosophy on product design and sense of community.

Somewhere in between shaping boards, drawing skate templates, designing new jackets, sifting through a packed inbox, and being a family man, Mike carved out some time to sit with us and tell us all about this life mission of his.

Photography by Jack Antal.
Can you dive into who you are and how Imperfects is an expression of that?
My personality is one that I'm still trying to understand. I think I'm most happy when I'm creating, crafting, and designing things... and there's this responsibility level that slows me down and makes me want to do things right. But along with that comes this side of me that gets upset when I don’t make something I am happy with. There's this level of always balancing this crazy/happy/creator/idea guy within me.

Sometimes I think about myself as an inventor, which is kind of crazy to say. But, then there's this like anger management guy in me that needs to take a deep breath and that's where surfing and going for runs and skating comes in. I also have a habit of constantly changing my environment. Something I'm learning about myself recently is I tend to get sick of myself if I don't create authentic change. But I love that because it gives me a new perspective and I've always chased perspective in my life. I think there's no end to what you can accomplish in life with the right perspective.
But ultimately, I best describe myself as an artist first. And then if we're talking professionally, an entrepreneur who has a keen motivation to understand economics and finance. On top of all that, I'm a father, a husband, a friend, a big brother, and a son... I'm all those things at the core.

I’m drawn to a changing perspective, that want for newness, and in it all, taking the bad with the good—I think that's who I am. And that's what Imperfect is. It’s being willing to learn and not to forget everything you've been working for. Imperfects is about having no's about having an attitude that is shaped by a growing perspective, not a stationary perspective.

“I think there's no end to what you can accomplish in life with the right perspective.”
Designer, shaper, artist, founder – which title holds the most meaning to you?
It’s hard to claim any of those titles and things like founder or CEO have never felt right to me. I just think of myself as someone with something to say. I don't know if there's a title for that, but it's that everything I make has a lot of intention. And generally, it's too deep to explain in an elevator conversation. That's the hardest part I have with trying to explain Imperfects to people. But I think if I could have one title, I'd go back to the first one I ever put on my email, which is Imperfectionist.

Most people are chasing perfection in their day-to-day. And if you think about it at the highest level, perfection is the end goal as society tells us, right? I just don't subscribe to that. I think it should all be self-competition. It all should be fun. Imperfection is a reminder that even though you have intention, and you want to do it the right way, you're probably going to mess it up because you're human. That’s the beauty of it.
How did skate, surf, and apparel all come together for Imperfects?
Skateboarding was my first true love. It broke down all the barriers for me as a kid and skateboards themselves opened up my love for art. I used to get so pumped on the art on the bottom of decks and would even keep them after they broke because I loved them so much. When I started making my own boards, I was hit with the fact that that nothing lasts forever, but quality can be formed. Skateboarding was where it all started for me.

Apparel came next. I was initially inspired by what Volcom was doing with giving artists these wearable canvases in the form of t-shirts. I loved how much creativity was born out of that. Eventually that led me to loving style and being able to express myself with what I was wearing.
I started surfing when I was about 15. I loved how much it felt like powersliding a skateboard; I just wanted to do it all the time. That led me to want to start shaping surfboards. I started shaping alaias and all kinds of weird shapes in the back of Bird’s Surf Shed and the rest is history. I loved being able to see a board and find a way of getting it out from a blank.

In 2012 it all came together to be Imperfects. Imperfects was initially a concept for me and my buddy Jacks’ art. He really encouraged me to make it all into a brand and that’s when I went all in and started making chore coats, making surfboards and skateboards religiously, and started expressing myself through all three of those things.

In each facet of Imperfects, which part of the production process is your favorite?
They all change a lot. I think what I love the most right now with surfboards is a combination of laminating and hot coating. It’s so gratifying to seal a good lamination and start to see what the board is going to finish like. With apparel we’ve got a really cool opportunity right now to develop our own fabric and I'm really loving that process. On the skate side, I love the shapes. I spend most of my time on the templates with the skates and that’s where I have the most fun with it.
Independence and community, uniqueness and common experience – how do these seemingly contrasting values play into Imperfects?
You hit the nail on the head. Imperfects is literally all about, ‘how do we retain the uniqueness of human connection that we are chasing after all the time?’ ‘How do we retain the uniqueness of self-expression that we want to bring out in people, while also maintaining this common thread that, hey, we're actually all wearing kind of the same jacket... we're all surfing a similar model?’ It’s all a balance. And I think that that is seriously the secret to life. We all have this uniqueness while simultaneously needing to be attached to other humans. We are all special, but we also don’t have that opportunity without being a part of the bigger common picture.

“We all have this uniqueness...we are all special, but we also don’t have that opportunity without being a part of the bigger common picture.”
“Imperfect is human” What does that mean to you as you build Imperfects around that element of human touch?
Yeah I mean I literally know the people sewing our products. I work so closely on patterns with a tight group of people and it's very personal. There are literally pockets in place on certain garments for personal reasons. For example, the little coin pocket on the shepherd's shirt that people might not even know about was put there because when we had my son Ace, I wanted a place to store binkies. It just happened to also turn out to be like a rad little lighter pocket or coin pocket. So these things have a specific human reason behind them.
Same thing with surfboards. Surf is a relatively small part of our business and I like it that way. We are in no rush to blow up a model and make a ton of them that are going to go on racks. Every single board is personal and for the most part, 80% of the time we are making them for a specific person. They get a really special board that is going to be with them forever.

A lot of people don’t know this, but we name every Imperfects piece after someone. For instance, we are launching a new trouser called the 1201 ML because my birthday is December 1st and my initials are ML. The we have 329 A which is for my son Ace who was born on March 29th, and then you have 523 L which is the first ladies pant I ever designed named after my sister Lauren. Everything we do is very thought out and intentional from a human perspective. That is the core of who we are and that's how we stay true north.
You create a lot of garments that scream style and fashion, but also utility and durability. Where does that come from?
Everything we do has intention. From the surfboards to the skateboards, to the jackets we make. It all has purpose while adding that element of self-expression into it. For example, I test a lot of my fabric concepts with my friends who are either shapers or chefs or furniture designers. They can take it and beat the hell out of it, give me feedback, and that helps shape the final output.

It’s all about blending that utility into everything we’re doing. Like our Eggball is an all-terrain deck; you can tranny it, you can street skate it, cruise it, a kid can learn on it... But our Dane Deck is a proper pool deck. Don’t try to skate street on that deck. It’s all about marrying utility with personality.
What is the ideal day through the eyes of Mike Lynch?
Wake up, stretch, have a cup of homemade coffee, go for a surf, then take that energy into the shaping bay. Ideally, I would work on shaping a board, preferably a fish because I like shaping those the most. I’d take a sunset walk with my family and make a good dinner... maybe go see a drive-in movie with some popcorn and a beer in the old truck.

So yeah, good food, good friends, good family, good energy, happiness—I think I find that most in my craft and in food and drink shared with the best people you can find.
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