When Kelly Slater first announced that he was starting a clothing brand OuterKnown with his good friend John Moore the surf community got excited. The surf industry - not so much. As things progressed and people started finding out more and more about the new brand there was a slight shift in public opinion towards OuterKnown. When they announced the line’s main objective was the use of sustainable material everyone thought, ‘This is great, right?’ Wrong. The general surf public knew that with sustainability came high prices, which they discovered when the line was introduced. This created the question, why would the beloved surf community’s Kelly Slater, the man who had made his millions off the backs of the middle class or average surf bum would create a brand that they couldn’t afford? The message boards on blogs flared up and people used that wall we call the internet to hide behind and throw grenades.
About 27 years ago Michael Tomson started the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA) with a few other fellas. They started it because the surf industry was starting to get taken advantage of from outside businesses. Trade shows started popping up all over the US, people were undercutting the surf brands and at a critical point in the industry he pulled the big boys (Quick, Billabong, Rusty, etc.) together and formed SIMA. For the first 15+ years everything was great, better than great actually, everyone was making fistfuls of cash and the surf industry worked together to make sure that surfers ran surf companies. Fast forward another 10 years and everything went downhill. The recession happened and coincided with the surf bubble popping, simply surf wasn’t cool anymore. Greed had torched the industry and surf clothing had turned into fast fashion. Every brand was undercutting it’s rivals and the surf shops were feeling the burn the most. Quiksilver, Volcom and more started showing up in Costco’s around the country which killed the mom and pop shops that had laid the foundation of the surf industry. Just before the recession surf brands became publicly traded and the icons that built these brands became puppets to their share holders. Corporate monkeys held the reins and it didn’t help that at the same time Nike and new ‘non-endemic’ brands wanted in on surf, all of whom came in with deep pockets. The core brands had to wipe away their middle class to be able to hold onto their premium talent and all of a sudden the surf industry was divided - the rich were rich and the poor were very poor.
In steps John Moore, Kelly Slater and the Kering Group. Kelly had dabbled a few times in the past with starting his own brand. VSTR was a joint between himself and John and for the most part was real cool. Some would say OuterKnown has shades of VSTR and why wouldn’t it. The Quiksilver funded brand was slick, but short lived. The new Disney CEO didn’t see fast enough growth, combined with a petty lawsuit about the name and it was quickly clipped it, pun unintended. After that, the same CEO disrespected Kelly by calling him ‘old and irrelevant to the youth’, which is when Kelly decided that he had had enough and it was time to get behind something he was passionate about - sustainability. With a lifetime of credibility and authenticity Kelly and John pitched their vision to the Kering group. It was the perfect addition to their impressive resume which included brands like YSL, Puma and many more.
Now with their third drop Spring/Summer ‘16 just hitting stores, here’s 3 reasons weshould have trusted Kelly and Co. from the get go:
The Surf Industry couldn’t afford another 'surf brand’
Kelly Slater is arguably the best athlete of all time. A title not easily attained and much debated. With such title comes freedom to do whatever you want. With the rest of the surf industry just keeping their heads above water financially and surf shops in even deeper trenches why would Kelly throw another brand into the mix? Kelly could walk into any surf shop, point at a competitors wall or floor space and say I want that space for my brand. With out hesitation it would be his and just like that, the big guys are further diluted. Kelly and Co saw a gap in the market to create a surf brand that could appeal to a elevated fashion demographic while not interfering with the surf market.
OuterKnown introduced surf to a new audience
Surf can’t be defined in NYC by Saturdays Surf. It’s just not a good enough representation of what our industry is about and while I have a huge amount of respect for their business it’s a corporation, not much different to Hollister, it just has better threads and owners that actually surf, but it gives nothing back to surfing. Just the perception that we are still stuck in the early 70’s when it comes to making beach shorts. OK has managed to bridge the gap between surf and contemporary. Washed down soft fabrics that have a tailored look. It’s not prep but it’s not boho chic either. It’s sits somewhere between where surf and city meet. Barneys and Mr Porter? Now we’re talking. OK has created a niche for themselves that didn’t exist before and it has the story to back it up when a store manager get’s asked about the product because everyone knows who Kelly Slater is (thanks to Bay Watch).
Kelly Slater, from board shorts to trousers
Surf has one athlete to champion and we can’t have him walking around in bad kit. He cleans up nice but his day to day had to get better and board shorts, tee’s and oversized jeans just ain’t cutting it, ( ie - ’98 called and they want to stay there). Throw a few buttons on his shirt, a nice pair of trousers below and the shining beacon of light now has a look. Sure the core market might ridicule him but when Julia Roberts is a close friend and you’ve bumped butts with Pam Anderson, who cares about the core market making fun of your new look.