Surfing Legend Kelly Slater’s New Outerknown Takes Beach Wear to a New Level
Pro surfer Kelly Slater and designer John Moore prove they can conquer fashion as well as waves.
Even if you somehow live in a landlocked state with no access to the media, you’ll know the name Kelly Slater. The 11-time surfing world champion—who holds the dual distinction of being both the youngest, at 20, and oldest, at 39, to hold the title—has become a pop culture icon, dabbling in acting, modeling, writing, and music. Most recently, Slater parted ways with long-time clothing sponsor Quiksilver to launch his own brand, Outerknown.
Teaming up with celebrated designer—he was GQ’s Best New Menswear Designer in 2014—and fellow surfer John Moore, the duo melded classic surf style with sophisticated casual design, all manufactured with sustainability as a key factor. While sustainably sourced surf wear isn’t a wholly new concept, with heritage brands like Patagonia paving the way for decades, Outerknown is pushing the boundaries that have long divided outdoorsy and fashion brands. Inspired as much by travel and the lifestyle surrounding avid outdoorsmen, Outerknown have produced a line that is as at home in an upscale West Village café or hip internet startup as it is jumping a puddle-jumper in search of secret breaks. It’s a concept that’s working, with the fledgling brand finding a home for their initial Fall ’15 offering in big box fashion mainstays like Bloomingdales, Barneys, and Nordtsrom as well as core surf shops.
We caught up with John Moore to discuss the theory behind the label, and see what’s next for them.
Since surf style is not new, why is it having such a big moment in menswear right now?
From my vantage point the surfing lifestyle has always been referenced in fashion, music, cinema, and art since the ’50s & ’60s. What started as this counter-culture tribe of men & women from Hawaii and southern California has evolved into this intangible cool that transcends eras and trends globally. It’s a pretty romantic notion—the idea of a sundrenched lifestyle filled with traveling to exotic destinations while searching for the perfect wave. Designers love a little romance.
Key Surf Looks for Summer '16: Print short-sleeved shirt, t-shirt and shorts by Patagonia.
What is it about surf style that has so much appeal to men who may have never even touched a surfboard?
Girls and a good tan... (Laughs) Just kidding. I dunno, it’s been my experience that everyone dreams of the coast even if you’ve never been there…
How did Outerknown come about?
Kelly and I were coming off other experiences that made us really question the status quo of manufacturing clothing. We knew what we wanted to do, and we knew it didn’t exist in the marketplace today, so we decided to do it ourselves.
Print windbreaker and shorts by Patagonia.
Do folks who have taken to Outerknown share any common personality traits?
The common thread of the man we’re designing for is that they live these multi-faceted lives that take many twists and turns daily, and they need to be prepared for anything that comes their way. They’re constantly traveling through life and work, and their outdoor pursuits and family just roll with them. Coastal is our personality, but our clothing is clean and classic so it works in a comfortable and stylish way for a variety of environments and conditions.
Knit crewneck sweater and shorts by Outerknown
Kelly Slater must have been approached several times to do a clothing line. Why did you think now was the right time?
It just felt right for a lot of reasons. The fashion and surf industries are both in a state of great change today in terms of how products are made and distributed and how consumers interact with brands. Outerknown didn’t happen overnight, it was a couple years of deeply considering all the reasons we wanted to do this. Kelly has relationships all over the world, and I could have worked with just about anyone in fashion, but we chose to do this together with an amazing team around us that are passionate about building a brand sustainably.
Is Outerknown a “green” brand? If so, what challenges come with designing such a line? Are there advantages?
I have a vision for the product, and I do everything I can to manifest that vision using responsible ingredients and practices. Everyone talks about the future of sustainability, but the time is now. Ethically sound decisions are just the way business should be conducted today so we can survive. As a business, we run up against hurdles everyday, mostly because ethical resources aren’t readily available. But you adapt and learn better ways of working, designing, and distributing. Each season gets better.
Knit baja sweater, T-shirt and shorts by Outerknown.
How has your background prepared you to create a brand like Outerknown?
Brand Experience is everything. These are exciting times. Retail is evolving and the opportunities to interact with your consumer are all around us. I’m looking forward…
What are the key must-haves from Outerknown?
Our Blanket Shirts, Evolution Trunks, and Sojourn Pocket Tees are the signature styles we’ve been doing since our first collection. The Halcyon Blanket Shirt and Baja Stripe Evolution Trunk from summer are my favorite two pieces in the new collection.
How can a non-surfer sport surf style without looking totally inauthentic?
Just wear clothing that makes you feel good. Don’t overthink it.
Crewneck T-shirt, cotton and linen pants both by Outerknown.
Styled by Wendell Brown