When you're an eleven-time world champion surfer, pushing limits and boundaries are pretty much part of your M.O. So when Kelly Slater launched his sustainable menswear brand, Outerknown
, it's not what you'd expect from one of the most famous surfers in the world, and yet it is. Understated and casual in design, the debut collection features contemporary menswear pieces imagined through a surfer's lens, but its Kelly's and designer John Moore's dedication to establishing sustainable manufacturing processes that really puts the brand above the rest.
"I created Outerknown to smash the formula," says Kelly on his vision for Outerknown. "To lift the lid on the traditional supply chain, and prove that you can actually produce great looking menswear in a sustainable way.” This vision comes from years of experience working in men's surf lifestyle fashion; with John awarded GQ Best New Menswear Designer in 2014 for his own label, and Kelly representing international surfwear brands throughout his career.
So the idea to create a sustainable menswear brand was a long time coming. "Kelly and I had collaborated in the past, and knew we had a shared aesthetic and value system. But the creative partnership was really born around challenging and questioning the traditions that fashion was built on," says John. "So starting the brand has been more about channeling a lifetime of experiences and learnings into something we believe in."
For Kelly, his exposure to mass-produced fashion was the impetus for why he launched Outerknown. "Once I understood how low-margin, high volume stuff that I’d been wearing all my life was made, I wanted to see if there was another way," he says. "The last two years have been a huge eye-opener for me. It’s clear now just how challenging it is for any brand to put sustainability at the forefront of their business and I’m proud that we’re one of the few taking the lead."
It's clear that it's more than just awareness of how fashion is made as the brand prides itself on its sustainable production processes, ethical sourcing and working conditions, even down to the manufacturing label's water solubility to minimise waste.
"We just want to question every part of the process and see where we can do things better," explains Kelly. "Our board shorts are made from Econyl, which is a material created from discarded fishing nets that would otherwise end up polluting the ocean. We are using organic cottons and recycled fabrics. We vet all of our factories and are certified by the Fair Labor Association — we didn’t have to do that but it’s part of who we are to make sure that the people who make our clothes are paid fair wages and have opportunities."
"For us, sustainability means making every decision with the highest regard for the environment and the people that are building our products. Sustainability is an investment we all make together. Today it’s our point of difference, but we hope it becomes commonplace very soon," John adds.