Stab Magazine | OuterKnown misses Trade Show; World doesn't change!
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OuterKnown misses Trade Show; World doesn’t change!

Words by Jake Howard | Photos: Agenda LB There will be no more dickin’ around in 2015. The surf industry is back! Sort of. Just… different. Shaken, not stirred. Stateside, the New Year brings a flurry of trade show activity as every brand worth their spreadsheets – except OuterKnown – hustles back to life. The […]

news // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words by Jake Howard | Photos: Agenda LB

4179There will be no more dickin’ around in 2015. The surf industry is back! Sort of. Just… different. Shaken, not stirred. Stateside, the New Year brings a flurry of trade show activity as every brand worth their spreadsheets – except OuterKnown – hustles back to life. The nuts and bolts of it is that reps make sure their accounts are dialled for the spring/summer onslaught and line things up for their Fall ’15 campaigns. Updated marketing campaigns are revealed. Hands are shaken, babies kissed, and gossip exchanged.

Two days at the Agenda show in Long Beach, California, are dusted and after 48 hours in the L.B.C. there is no shortage of bullshit to digest. First things first, there were a lot of people asking: Where was Kelly? The short answer is that he was in Panama with Sunny Garcia charging gorillas in the mist at Bocas Del Toro. The more complicated response is that the Outerknown is still a big unknown. Unless they’re really bucking the system and putting the “non” in non-traditional, for core surf brands looking to solidify sales for Fall ’15, this is an important time of year. In their most recent press flurry, Kelly and designer John Moore noted they were targeting Fall ’15 for launch of the brand. The absence of a booth is one thing, but we’re apparently still over a month away from even seeing a logo. Nobody said turning recycled fishnets into fashion was going to be easy though, so we wait.

4206After the boondoggle of 2008, ’09 and ’10, when big brands were shedding employees by the hundreds (which Dane Reynolds colourfully referred to as the “massacre” in his famous Surfer Poll speech), there was a lot of doom and gloom surrounding shows like this, and the state of the industry in general. A few years down the track now and things appear to be on much firmer ground. There’s more optimism, and that do-it-yourself ethos that made so many business models unique has returned. Gone are the branding wars between Quik and Billabong. And in so many conversations it seems the lesson was learned that surfing and Wall Street go together like oil and water.

Consider that in the last year a number of startups have made serious plays at marketshare. Salty Crew, which was named break-out brand at Agenda, is hanging its hat on CJ Hobgood’s everlasting youth and Nathan Hedge’s grit. Brad Gerlach’s Banks Brand has developed a little cache with a devoted following, albeit heavily Japanese. Luke Egan’s baby, Depactus, is also off and running. They enjoyed a brisk business at the show. Roark has some mojo, and Vissla’s gray and teal “V” is appearing in more and more places. None of them have any immediate aspirations of answering to a board of directors and meeting quarterly quotas, which is refreshing news.

4217The usual suspects were in attendance playing their usual roles. Bob Hurley fronted the gates of the Hurley booth for a period, his wingman and artistic inspiration C.R. Stecyk by his side. On the second night of the show he lectured at a speaking engagement alongside Mike Ness of Social Distortion, one of his musical heroes. Michael Tomson was seen lurking, probably convinced that the next Gotcha is right around the corner. And Volcom’s hanging tight to their team costume concept. This year the middle-aged men against establishment all donned dark blue denim jumpers. Previous trade shows have seen them arrive as paratroopers, pirates and red necks. And then there are all the klingons, replete with neck tattoos, beards and Instagram shots of their friends riding (see also: sitting on) motorcycles.

4220Of course, it’s not all bro-shakes and high fives. An argument was overheard in the hallway that Ross Williams is a better commentator than Pottz! And for those concerned about the people that stitch the threads you wear, news of the Cambodian government raising the minimum wage of garment workers to a luxurious $128 a month – or about the going rate for a pair of top-of-the-line boardies – has some brands retooling their manufacturing operations and shifting even more soft-goods production to China.

Other than that, just remember, when the free beer starts flowing at around 4pm and the klingons flock like the salmon of Capistrano, it’s always wise to make a hasty retreat before you end up with a neck tattoo or something worse… like a job.

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