Remember when Kelly Slater stuck his toes in the fashion industry and the surfing world exploded? “I CAN’T AFFORD THAT!” People shouted, wringing their hands in rage. “MAKE CLOTHES FOR POOR PEOPLE, YOU BASTARD!” Well, now Outerknown is partnering with Levi’s, a real symbol of the blue-collar working man. Blue-collar working man or not, though, you’re still going to pay more than a $100 for a pair of jeans.
Many surfers were very upset with Kelly because making clothes from sustainable soybeans and hemp hearts and vegan chia seed/wheatgrass hybrids grown on the high plains of Mongolia and manufactured by local Mongolians made them more expensive. Or he was doing something like that, anyway. Probably not anything like that, but whatever he was doing, his supply line was transparent, his materials weren’t nearly as poisonous as most, and he definitely wasn’t using North Korean slave labor (looking at you, Rip Curl!). All those things, of course, make clothes a little more pricey, and Outerknown was just that. It was the first company to join the Fair Labor Association before selling a single product and they published their full supplier list less than a year into business.
Let’s read JP Currie’s take on it from a piece he wrote called Quit Your Bitching: Kelly Slater and Outerknown Owe You Nothing! because it’s wonderful and worth reading again:
“Kelly is attempting to create a brand that is sustainable and socially conscious. From beginning to end of the process of running a fashion label, everything is done without cutting corners, and with full transparency. This inevitably costs money and inevitably puts the products in a higher price bracket. So what? There are plenty of labels coining it in from harmful materials, cheap labor, and weak trends. Blame the industry, don’t blame the brands trying to change it. And don’t grudge paying a few extra bucks for your t-shirt if it means that it wasn’t stitched by the scaly, malnourished paws of a 10-year-old orphan.”
Now Levi’s is jumping on the sustainable train (it’s electric, I’d imagine) with their collaboration. “Today, Levi’s® announced it is teaming up with sustainable menswear brand, Outerknown, to create a capsule collection of responsibly made products,” they wrote in the most press-releasey press release ever written, full of ®s and™s. “Utilizing Levi’s® innovative Wellthread™ approach and Outerknown’s sustainable design ethos, the entire collection was produced using inventive practices and visionary materials, focused on protecting the environment and supporting the people making this collection.”
So what does this mean for the surfer who might want to wear something made by Outerknown AND Levi’s? Are you the person who wants to be both blue-collar Levi’s tough and sustainably suave surfer? Well, you’ve got three options in the Levi’s/Outerknown collaboration: blue jeans (Wellthread™!), black jeans (Wellthread™!), and something called a Sherpa Trucker (Wellthread™!), which is a jacket with fur inside.
And that’s not all. This ain’t a one-time thing. It looks as though Kelly and Levi’s struck a deal to have a long-lasting relationship. “Both brands will continue to collaborate, crafting seasonal collections for years to come,” reads the press release. “We believe that, ultimately, it takes more than one company to make a difference. Working together with Outerknown with the goal to move the apparel industry forward is a huge opportunity and step in the right direction for sustainable apparel.”