After ending a 23-year relationship with Quiksilver in April this year, Kelly Slater has moved on to create his own lifestyle fashion brand, Outerknown. As we’ve written about before, Outerknown is one of those highly anticipated new brands that’s changing the course fashion for many reasons.
First, while surfing is obviously at the heart of Slater’s lifestyle, Outerknown is taking a tack that includes so much more than surf-inspired wear, including sustainability. As we’ve noted in our 3rd Annual Sustainability and the State of the Future Youth Culture Study 2014, sustainability in fashion is becoming a key pillar for youth consumers today.
In a recent interview with Business of Fashion, Slater says that Kering’s support and initiatives with sustainability are important. “Kering has a whole sustainability team working on it long term and we are able to entrust that to them,” he said. “You have to have certain sized batches. You have to order a certain amount of material. You have to have fire power behind you. We can share the sourcing with their other brands.”
“The clothing market in general is a dirty business,” continued Slater. “We aren’t doing denim to start with, because we can’t do denim in a way we feel is environmentally friendly at this point. It uses a lot of water and if you go to the places where they make the denim, the rivers are blue and there’s nothing alive in them.”
The brand will be using regenerated Italian wool, recycled fishing nets, hemp, organic cotton, and cashmere.
John Moore, his designer partner at Outerknown goes on to say that their whole goal with the brand is transparency, “so the content we create around manufacturing and design process will be a huge part of the marketing of the brand.”
Even though Outerknown is tapping into some investment from Kering (owners of Volcom, Gucci), they are a small start-up brand which allows them to be nimble. This was a huge problem for Billabong and Quiksilver. Their IPO’s made them slow, and with a board that was not able to stay on trend or make decisions that were best for the authenticity of where these brands came from.
“The common thing with those brands, notably with Quicksilver and Billabong, is that they are publically traded companies and all of a sudden the direction has to go where the board wants it to, and where the stock wants it to and you don’t really own it,” says Slater. “They were more concerned about what the sales people were saying in the shops and it ended up coming down to ‘Gosh, we need to make numbers’, instead of ‘What is your DNA, where did you start and why did you start? What was the purpose behind it?’”
Other important aspects to Outerknown is their distribution plan. Right out of the gate, they understand that ecommerce is vital to their success. So many brands still cling to brick ‘n mortar and the choices of store merchandisers (who may not be on trend), that they have been left behind in terms of the way consumers shop today, especially a new tech-savvy youth culture. Even Karl-Heinz Muller, the managing director of Bread & Butter, has stated the dramatic changes in fashion and retail, which has affected the business model of trade shows to the core.
Outerknwon is also hoping to be in a unique mix of stores such as Selfridges, Barneys, and then smaller stores such as Pilgrim Surf & Supply in Brooklyn, and etailers such as Net-a-Porter. They have on their team Stella Ishii from The News to help make sure that distribution is done right.
Key to the Outerknown team is John Moore, a fellow surfer and designer who was named the American GQ Best New Menswear Designer for his label M.Nii. He has a history of understanding the crossover that Slater is hoping to achieve by knowing the laid-back lifestyle of surf-inspiration, higher end design, sustainability, and the changes in lifestyles among new consumers. He likens Outerknown to APC and Acne.
In addition, he’s planning the womenswear collection for Resort 2015 that is slightly more trendy than the menswear, and with pieces ranging from statement pieces to outerwear. Both men’s and women’s will have travel as an inspiration—which is typical of a pro surfer’s lifestyle—meaning that the pieces need to be light and adaptable, yet quality.
Other aspects to the team to note include Julie Gilhart, the fashion director formerly from Barneys New York, and Stella Ishii from The News which is known for brands like Alexander Wang.
Overall, having Outerknown launch in 2015 will be an exciting time for fashion, and for fans of course, of Kelly Slater. The 11-time ASP World Surf Champ is currently at the Billabong Banzai Pipeline Pro, the final jewel of the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing on the North Shore of Hawaii. Not that he needs to win this week for Outerknown to be successful, but it would be a timeless moment for the king of surf at highpoint transition within his career.