There have been a number of smaller surf brands and retailers that see the gaps and opportunities available since the kingpins of surf, Billabong and Quiksilver, have moved over. From Kelly Slater’s Outerknown, which is a lifestyle brand with surf-inspired roots and sustainability, to the women’s surf-inspired brand Amuse Society, to retailers Saturday Surf in NYC and Cuisse de Grenouille in Paris’ Marais district, surfing has become a place of new growth and trends.
The most distinct however has been the move towards sustainability. As we’ve noted in our Youth Culture Studies and Annual Sustainability Reports, this is becoming an integral factor among buyers within today’s youth culture.
This week, Dunstan Surfwear announced a re-launch, utilizing the skills of former Nike and Oakley executives. This Sri Lankan Surf brand has always had an aspect of sustainability and customization at its core. It was founded by one of the country’s surfing pioneers, Dunstan Wickramasekara, in the small beach town of Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka. It repurposes Pan-Asian excess fabric of the many clothing manufacturers in the region. The result is a completely unique pair of boardshorts reflecting the individual spirit of every customer.
The brand also has unique roots in terms of its DNA of giving back. For example, the Dunstan Elephant Conservation project ensures that each piece of paper that Dunstan Surfwear prints customer designs on in tailoring atelier is made by hand and unique. The paper is purchase from their Sri Lanka supplier with a percentage of the proceeds going to the Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) – affiliated with the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA). The MEF works to improve the care, protection and treatment of elephants in Sri Lanka by providing a place of sanctuary complete with full medical services.
Dunstan Surfwear also has a Clean Beach Initiative: Sri Lanka has 830 miles of coastline. The objective is to protect the best surfed beaches in Sri Lanka, to not only be the cleanest beaches in Sri Lanka, but also the cleanest beaches in the world. A lot of the pollution on some Sri Lanka beaches can all be collected and recycled. So, every pair of shorts purchased gives them the resources — one boardshort at a time — to hire local volunteers to clean the beaches daily.
While the backdrop of Dunstan Surfwear is extremely unique and important today, the recent news stems from the people hired for brand development and marketing.
According to their recent press release, when Karen Reuther invested and became a board member of the Sri Lankan Srf Company, she knew exactly who to call, Russ Ortiz. Russ received the call from Karen late in 2013, a welcome call and not completely unexpected, as the two former colleagues have remained good friends since their days at Nike, where together they were a formidable force, helping to lead several of Nike’s most important and successful brand initiatives.
Karen Reuther, a successful, passionate and industry award winning Creative Executive played an instrumental role in the success and growth at Nike as a Global Creative Director for Footwear, Apparel and Equipment and Nike Women’s. She currently owns her own Boston based consultancy firm, Cast Collective, where she has recently led engagements with industry leaders such as Puma, TJX Companies and the global color service Pantone.
After thriving for more than a dozen years in Sales, Strategic Planning and Brand Marketing leadership positions at Nike, Russ Ortiz served as the Vice President of Global Brand Communications for action and performance sport leader Oakley. At Oakley, Ortiz directed several significant marketing initiatives including the launch of innovative brand platforms such as Oakley’s ONE ICON magazine. He currently is the Co-founder and CEO for the successful and avant-garde home design company Shine by S.H.O. Ortiz is also an avid waterman, growing up on the beaches of Southern California he continues to surf, paddle or sail on a weekly basis.
“When Karen called and asked if I was interested in being part of Dunstan’s leadership team I was thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate with one of my favorite and one of the most creative people I know. But, I also knew absolutely nothing about Dunstan Surfwear!” Ortiz continued, “I could sense Karen’s excitement and when I did my due diligence I was intrigued with the opportunity to bring my professional expertise together with a personal passion. Dunstan was a diamond that needed some polishing, but the technology, legacy and philosophy of the brand was an opportunity I could not pass up.”
Reuther commented on the company’s pure-play business model, “Dunstan’s ability to not only customize the look of a board short, but to also custom tailor an individual pair to each customers measurements is the most extreme example of the innovative discipline of mass customization.” Ortiz added, “and to build a completely custom board short in two weeks, ship it priority global air express for free anywhere in the world, and unconditionally guarantee the proper fit, is Dunstan’s competitive advantage in the market.”
The duo completely convinced in the success of business model turned their attention to laying the framework of how the consumer will interact with the brand. “We started with understanding Dunstan’s legacy and organized, channeled and created a new plan and platform for the brand which included the brand promise, values and ethos,” explained Ortiz. Reuther added, “we also refined and added to the brand identity package, but the most important task was to revamp the customer experience at dunstansurfwear.com.”
The recently re-launched website has been streamlined, modernized and made more intuitive. Scott Hupe, Dunstan’s Managing Director commented “We are so excited about our future. The new Brand Plan has really set a North Star for our company. And we are incredibly proud of our new website and our customers are already falling in love with the experience. We are grateful to both Karen and Russ for their creativity, vision and positive energy to date and are equally excited about their contributions in the future.”
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