From the inception of Outerknown, Kelly Slater has communicated a clear commitment to sustainable business practices, and while we’ve gotten a few details around the logistics involved, today the brand released a video revealing more insight around their partnership with Econyl, which claims to turn waste from products like fishing nets into “first grade nylon” through a six-step regeneration process.
“What if there was a better way to make clothing?” asks Slater. “What if there was a way to use fewer resources in manufacturing? I had this question, ‘What are we wearing? Where is it coming from? And who are the people making it? What’s the process that goes into it?”
And he’s finding out firsthand.
When the product line was first unveiled for public consumption, the brand received significant backlash from surfers offended by the high price point. After all, a $500 coat and a $300 sweater sit far beyond the reach of most of Kelly Slater’s core surfing fan base. A friend of mine likened the situation to Cal Ripken announcing his brand new line of expensive ascots. A swing and a miss for blue collar Cal Ripken fans. But I’ve long suspected (and hoped) that Kelly has a clear vision for how we would like to see an American apparel company operate, and he’s not willing to cut corners in order to make that dream a reality.
Don’t want to compromise on labor practices, materials, sustainability? That costs money.
It puts any incarnation of his clothing range at a price point few lower or middle class consumers are comfortable with supporting. So it goes. Slater’s vision isn’t one mired in disposable cotton tee-shirts. That market’s covered. As consumers, we benefit from market pressures that drive prices to the rock bottom while exploiting anything and everything in the way. And if Kelly wants to change how American companies operate (which seems to honestly be his intention), he’s got to start somewhere. And that starting point looks like a $300 sweater made sustainably from recycled fish nets. Maybe that price will drop one day. He’s signaled an intention to make that happen.
“For us, we’re not looking at it like, ‘Okay, people like this color this month. And they like that shape we put on this print or whatever,'” said Slater. “We wanted to make nice, respectable clothing that lasts. This brand is an extension of me and my thought process…and a whole bunch of other people putting their two cents and putting our heart into something we believe in and making it work.”