Stab Magazine | A little more Outerknown data

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A little more Outerknown data

Words by Jake Howard | Photos: Business Of Fashion/Todd Glasser/Outerknown There are two ways to start a surf company: the easy way and the hard way. A degree in astrophysics is not required to print up a few tees, trucker hats and stickers and let your garden grow organically. After all, the punk approach certainly […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Words by Jake Howard | Photos: Business Of Fashion/Todd Glasser/Outerknown

There are two ways to start a surf company: the easy way and the hard way. A degree in astrophysics is not required to print up a few tees, trucker hats and stickers and let your garden grow organically. After all, the punk approach certainly worked for folks like Volcom and RVCA.

But Kelly Slater, a man renowned for his competitive streak, isn’t making room in his mom’s garage for extra inventory. As details continue to emerge regarding his clothing startup Outerknown, two things are clear: the man loves a challenge, and cashmere is in, denim’s out.

“Our whole goal with the brand is transparency,” said Outerknown lead designer John Moore in a recent Business Of Fashion feature.

The sweet aroma of irony hangs around the comment considering Kelly’s arguably the most enigmatic surfer in the world. But to be fair, while he may be putting his image and insight (which seems to be pulled straight from the pages of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s book “Let My People Go Surfing”… which is a good thing) into the Outerknown effort, there are bigger forces at work.

With a planned launch for Fall 2015, the role that French conglomerate Kering, owners of labels like Gucci, Saint Laurent Paris and Volcom, will play is coming into sharper focus. Looking to grow their lifestyle holdings, they’re the muscle behind the infrastructure. From logistics to e-commerce to building a top-shelf team of fashion executives, the Kering machine will be driving things behind the scenes.


John and Kelly.

“Kering has a whole sustainability team working on it long term and we are able to entrust that to them,” said Kelly in the same story. “You have to have certain sized batches. You have to order a certain amount of material. You have to have firepower behind you. We can share the sourcing with their other brands.”

As far as look and feel, the relationship between Kelly and John, who was named Best New Menswear Designer by American GQ for his surf lifestyle label M.Nii, is the critical cog in the wheel. They’re the two really driving the direction of the brand. Their men’s line will launch first and be primarily comprised of standard tees, woven shirts, knits, chinos and jackets. It will be made of pieces “that you won’t get called out on,” as John puts it.

The women’s side of the brand, which will launch later in the year, will be considerably more, dare we say, high fashion. “With women we are exploring many more categories, more of an emphasis on style and being relevant to what’s happening in fashion, whereas with men it’s extremely timeless,” said John.

As noted, sustainability is one of the founding principles of Outerknown, so look for them to use everything from organic cotton to recycled fishing nets in their fabric choices. This also means they won’t be getting into denim anytime soon.

“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,” said Kelly. “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.”

In Let My People Go Surfing, Chouinard dissects the concept of slow-growth success, and after watching Quiksilver and Billabong go public and implode, Outerknown’s team is also adopting a slow-growth model.

“Because we are small and we’re private, we’re able, on a board level, to scale back if we need to or change direction,” said Kelly. “I’m not saying we need to be a massive huge company. In a positive way, if we do it well, we might be that, but the intention is to make good products and to source sustainably and produce clothes with people who we know and whose standards we believe in.”

Read the Business Of Fashion story over here.


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