Kelly Slater is quite the entrepreneur – from building his very own patented wave pool to pioneering sustainable clothing brands, he’s been hard at work. After leaving Quiksilver he announced his new clothing label called Outerknown. It’s not just another surf clothing brand – he wanted to set Outerknown apart as a premium yet sustainable and eco-friendly clothing line.
Sustainable clothing is not a brand new concept; there are many companies out there that do similar things. So what makes Outerknown unique, and why should you consider it when shopping for some new quarantine apparel?
First of all, how are the clothes? That’s probably why you’re here. So let’s get that out of the way first, and then we’ll talk about sustainability and what sets these clothes apart from your standard surf shop fare.
Outerknown was kind enough to send us some samples to try out. I enlisted a few friends to help me get some outside opinions on the garments. NOTE: I made sure that I didn’t ask these friends to slant their review positive or negative. I simply told them Outerknown was shipping us some samples and let them make some selections to check out for their opinions. So, we attempted to be as neutral as possible.
Outerknown is plastic free. The clothes come shipped in a cardboard box or paper envelope and each garment is tastefully wrapped in tissue paper. Tags are tied on with small strings – not plastic hangtags.
So, the presentation is quite nice – it feels premium without being wasteful. They even gave us a reusable straw as a free gift (not sure if this will come with all orders, but maybe!).
Wally Reviews the Apex Trunks
To get a dude’s opinion of the Slater signature Apex Trunks, I had my buddy Wally try them out. Wally is your quintessential lifelong grom; originally from Puerto Rico and now living in Oceanside, CA, he is out in the ocean every day that he can be. Amazingly we had a string of warm weather and an influx of warm water during the red tide that he could try them out.
Here’s what he had to say about the Apex trunks:
“I usually never write reviews but these trunks deserve one. I got the Apex trunks in Cobalt Surfature color, size 31. I wanted a high end boardshort designed specifically for surfing. Out of the box, the boardshorts looked exactly as they were on the website, super stylish with the new white seam tape and very good quality. The first thing I noticed was that they are extremely light and the quality of the material is outstanding. They actually fit tight in the waist and they are super comfortable and stretchy on the legs which is perfect for a surfing trunk. I wore them for surfing and I would highlight that these trunks stayed very tight to the waist throughout the entire surf session. This feature prevents you from having to constantly be adjusting your trunks throughout the surf session. The 19” out seam helps prevent any leg rash on long sessions, and being 4 way stretch allows you to move without any restrictions.
The material used for waist cords allows you to tighten them once and they will remain tight the entire session, which doesn’t happen with other trunks. I also used them outside the water as a workout short and they worked super good. Very light and breathable as well as super stretchy so you don’t need to be constantly adjusting through the different exercises. These trunks are rad looking and extremely functional!”
Although I (the author of this article) didn’t wear the shorts, when I delivered them to Wally I noticed how lightweight they were. Outerknown, you really need to make a women’s trunk next!
My cousin Katrin was the perfect person to try out some of the more dressy women’s clothing – I’m much more of a tomboy and I tried out a few of the more casual clothes like the hoodies. At first she was a bit skeptical – she hadn’t heard of Outerknown and was worried about the sizing. She’s not really a surfer and doesn’t typically wear surf inspired clothes. But Outerknown doesn’t position them as a very surf centric type of style; they are going for more timeless styles that will appeal to a broad range of customers.
Outerknown Eclipse Tank Review:
“The Eclipse tank has easily become my favorite clothing item in my closet. I ordered the XS size and I was so happy to find that it fit me perfectly. The material is lightweight and comfortable which is exactly what I need living in California. The cropped fit hits above my waist at the perfect spot and is really flattering paired with high waisted pants or a skirt. I love the colored stripe detail and the buttons down the front make it so easy to get on and off without stretching or damaging the material. I also am thankful for the adjustable straps – they allowed me to get the exact fit that I needed. I honestly would buy this tank in every color, would love more color options!”
Sunday Suit Review:
“I love the light feel of the material on the Sunday Suit jumpsuit. It is super comfortable and easy to move in. Great for a casual day of traveling or you could even dress it up with heels. I ordered an XS and am fairly happy with the fit. The only complaint I have are the buttons on the back. There are two buttons that land on the top section of your back that unfortunately makes it extremely hard to button by yourself. Besides the button issue, I love how comfortable the jumpsuit makes me feel.”
My review of the Sur Zip Hoodie:
This is an awesome hoodie – the material is nice and thick and the fit is a perfect slim fit so it’s not too boxy or big. It’s definitely a men’s hoodie so it’s a touch big in the shoulders for me as a female but I wanted a boyfriend fit hoodie so this is perfect for me. The material isn’t super soft but I can tell it’s going to last – it feels very premium. The super soft hoodies tend to be the most delicate in my experience. It’s been my favorite hoodie to throw on in the morning to get coffee and head down to the beach to check the (quarantine) surf. The best thing is that I can tell it’s going to be in my closet for a long time.
My review of the Verano Beach Pants
I got these to get a loose fit pant I could cuff the ankles and get a wider leg fit that still looks nice enough to go out in. I love them – they look sharp but they’re comfortable and they’re exactly the style I want. They’re a bit scratchy so don’t expect to wear these to bed or anything – but as a comfortable yet sharp casual wear item they are perfect. Unfortunately with Covid-19 I’ve only worn them to the store so far, but stay tuned!
Do They Hold Up?
The biggest test of clothes is how they fare through a few wash cycles. I have a couple T-Shirts from Outerknown from a sale back in summer, and I have to say they still look NEW. I’m very impressed. The color and fabric hasn’t faded and the fabric looks great – not much fuzzing or pilling. The Sur Zip hoodie has been through one wash cycle so far and looks very good, much better than my other favorite hoodie from UNIV that uses a typical cheaper sweatshirt base fabric. I can tell it’s going to last a while.
History Of Outerknown
Launched in 2015, Outerknown is a more fully fleshed out version of what he tried to do with Quiksilver and VSTR, albeit with limited results as Quiksilver’s Monsanto links were not so hot and the VSTR project was reportedly killed by Quiksilver soon after launch.
When Outerknown was released the internet community of commenters had a meltdown over the price of the garments. And it’s true; Outerknown is a bit more on the expensive side. However, the issue with our global predicament today is the influx of cheap throwaway goods that destroy the environment. There is a higher price tag with sustainable and fair trade goods. And if they’re made with enough quality they won’t need to be thrown away after a season because they get worn out due to cheap materials and manufacturing. So perhaps the hoodie is $90, but it lasts several years and still looks good — it doesn’t get “pilly” or worn looking as so many cheaper materials can do. You know the drill – you get an awesome and soft hoodie but the first time you wash it the material starts to pill and fade and it looks…worn.
Outerknown’s prices have come down since launch – there are no $100 T-Shirts. T-Shirts range from $48-58 now, and there are regular sales. This brings them more in line with Patagonia level pricing.
Outerknown’s Sustainability Concept
Outerknown has a plan – their “2030 Plan” is to encourage products to become “circular” – that is, recycled and reused or repurposed to reduce the amount of new construction from resources. Less throwing stuff into a landfill and more repairing and repurposing. Their styles aim to be more timeless and less trendy to encourage them to stay in your closet for a long time.
The fashion industry has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry, and cheap trendy clothes worn for one season and tossed out is a huge part of this waste.
We could re-type their entire sustainability plan out here, but it might be best to see it right from their own site – they have a huge section all about their sustainability plan at this page.
We were a bit concerned when a few of the pieces said “Made In China”. Upon researching this, however, we note that the place of manufacture is clearly disclosed on their website. Their garments are made around the world in various countries and each manufacturing location is listed on the website. Chen Feng is the manufacturer in China, and the page states that: “Chen Feng has been making apparel since the early 1960s and employs 15,000 people throughout their 11 factories. They were the first supplier to join the Fair Labor Association, and have recently become fully accredited. They share our values and work hard to ensure that their employees are treated fairly. Chen Feng makes one of our favorite styles, the Blanket Shirt. They also make some of our jackets, woven shirts, and bottoms.”
So, although I’d like to see companies move away from cheap labor or countries with questionable governments, I see this as a very good thing – the full disclosure leads to transparency of manufacture and you can feel confident that the workers are at least treated fairly and work in good conditions.
To be fair, only a certain amount of their clothing is made in China. Some of the T Shirts are made in Peru, and they have manufacturers and suppliers in Mexico, Sri Lanka, USA, Vietnam, and Portugal.
I personally think that people need to start paying attention to where their merchandise comes from and how it is made, especially when it comes to the garment industry. I am happy that companies such as Outerknown are attempting to pave the way in terms of manufacturing transparency, a clear plan of action in regards to sustainable product, and high quality clothing that looks and feels good. I will say both my reviewers were pleasantly suprised, especially my cousin Katrin. I could tell she was skeptical about how the pieces were going to work because she’s more picky about fit and style but she has privately told me she’s addicted to the tank top she got and wants it in every color. Wally is genuinely stoked about the trunks as well.
Even if Outerknown is a bit on the pricey end, it definitely caught the attention of the surf community and in that sense it’s doing a good job spreading the message of sustainability. Thankfully it seems the pricetag has come down since initial launch, putting it in the crosshairs of more shoppers. If you’re considering Outerknown I’d highly recommend giving it a shot.