In 2014, he left his sponsorship from surfwear giant Quiksilver to start his own surf brand, Outerknown.
Slater, a longtime advocate for sustainable living, wanted to create a lifestyle brand for everyone that was rooted in good design and sustainable production. He partnered with designer John Moore to make this idea a reality. Moore says, "We're surfers who grew up with surf brands, but we grew out of logos. And we want to wear clothing that's made better and looks better."
Made better: That means using sustainable materials (over 90% of Outerknown's products are made from organic, recycled, or regenerated materials) as well as using transparent and responsible manufacturing partners, who follow strict guidelines of safety and working conditions by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), Bluesign, and Fair Trade.
This commitment to sustainability and transparency means you're going to pay more than usual for the clothing. Men's shirts, for example, range from $78 to $148.
Slater points out to Business Insider, however, that "conscious development takes time and investment. There are added costs in creating quality product made to last, in finding and partnering with the right factories that value worker well-being, and in sourcing and leveraging materials that cause less harm."
"At the end of the day, we're looking at the long run and what's best 'For People and Planet.' We're putting in the work to build a truly sustainable model rather than zeroing in on short-term trends or financials," he says.
Casual, effortless beach style defines Outerknown. As you shop its men's and women's styles, you can practically feel the cool and salty breeze run through your hair. They're casual and low-maintenance, but they don't look sloppy or haphazard.
Bestsellers from the brand include the cozy, heavyweight Blanket Shirt ($148, made from 100% organic cotton) and the simple, sleek Neptune Tank Dress ($98, made from hemp and Tencel Lyocell). Other offerings include sweaters, pants, and jumpsuits. They're soft, comfortable, and importantly, durable.
"Having spent a good deal of my life in and amongst the surfing community, it's hard not to want to love Outerknown from the start. Doing my best to be an objective reporter, I've scrutinously worn Outerknown for over six months, and run the brand's shirts and pants through my treacherously cheap washing machine countless times. So far, I haven't even turned up so much as a loose thread."
If you're one to spend a lot of time outdoors, you'll appreciate that Outerknown's clothing is sturdy and practical in addition to any wardrobe.
Of course, I had to take this pair of 'Beach Pants' to the beach. I wore them as a swimsuit cover-up when I went to Coney Island this summer, and they turned out to be the right choice — lightweight, breathable, and relaxed. My legs had plenty of room to move around in the wide pant legs and they had a comfortable high-rise fit. The back of the waistband has elastic, which is smart considering I filled my body with Nathan's hot dogs while on the boardwalk.
The white pair is slightly transparent, so I'm not sure you could wear it outside of a beach, beach town, or lounging setting, but it is a perfect choice in casual environments. —Connie Chen, reporter
While I'm a big fan of its Transitional Shirts and the S.E.A. Jeans, my favorite pieces from Outerknown have been the Blanket Shirts. These are Outerknown's iteration of a "work shirt" or "shacket," as you please, but they maintain their softness and don't pill like many other higher-end rivals.
There's nothing like getting out of the water on a brisk evening and tossing one of these on while I change out of a wetsuit. And, of course, I can stroll right back into town feeling fresh — and warm — as a daisy.
$148 is no pittance, but this isn't your fast-fashion, wear-for-one-season shirt, and you do get what you pay for with Outerknown. Bravo, Kelly Slater and John Moore, for making a line of conscientiously sourced-and-made clothes from start to finish. I'd say I'd keep buying these shirts for years to come, but because of the craftsmanship that goes into them, I know I'll do just fine with the two I've got for the foreseeable future. —Owen Burke, senior reporter
As thick and heavy as the Outerknown Blanket Shirt may be, it actually has great versatility throughout the seasons. It's good for late summer nights on cool and breezy beaches, layering in the fall and winter, or even leaving at your desk when it's cold in the office.
The relaxed fit makes it comfortable to wear, but if you want it to be more fitted, I'd recommend sizing down. I'm 5-foot-5 and about 135 pounds, and the size small was slightly oversized (I had to cuff the sleeves for a better fit). Here, I styled mine with a Brooklinen T-shirt, black jeans, and Tread by Everlane sneakers.
At $148, the Blanket Shirt is at the higher end of what I'd spend on a shirt, but it's so well made you'll be able to wear it for years on end. —Amir Ismael, reporter
I generally don't wear color, but something about this green midi dress really caught my eye. I love that the straps are adjustable — I'm 5-foot-1, but I have a large chest that often requires me to to size up, which means straps are usually too long for me. The ties on this dress allow me to get a custom fit, and the length is perfect on my frame. —Sally Kaplan, editor
The Station Jumpsuit is utilitarian, cool, and very fun to style thanks to its front zipper, sleeves that you can roll up or leave down, and tapered silhouette. It's tough and functional, but you can also make it look more casual or dressed up, making its $180 price tag feel more justified.
It's made from 51% organic cotton and 49% linen, resulting in an instantly comfortable feel from the very first wear. Right now, NYC weather is a little too hot and muggy for me to wear the suit without overheating, but I can't wait to live in it during fall and winter. —Connie Chen, reporter
Hopefully you can't tell, but I had a 102-degree fever when I took this picture. I was on my way to the doctor's office when I remembered I needed a shot of my Outerknown sweatshirt for this article, so I took one quickly on my way out the door.
The takeaway here, though, has little to do with what I look like and everything to do with the fact that this was the sweatshirt I chose to wear on a day I felt my absolute worst. It's the perfect medium weight, lined with a terrycloth-like inner that felt simultaneously cozy but not thick. I feel better now, but I've worn this sweatshirt nearly every day since. —Sally Kaplan, editor
Having worn plenty of jeans over the years, I went into testing Outerknown's $168 Selvedge denim with high expectations — and they actually exceed them. The jeans have that hefty weight and rigidity you'd expect from well-made selvedge denim and handsome brass and nickel hardware on the rivets and buttons. The fact that Outerknown was able to achieve quality this significant while still being considerate of the environment is truly impressive.
Craftsmanship aside, the S.E.A Jeans are simply great-fitting pants, and for me, that's super important. I had no problem styling these jeans with casual shoes like the Wu-Tang x Clarks Wallabees I'm wearing or sportier sneakers.
The jeans are available in every waist sizes from 28-38 and inseams 30, 32, and 34, so most guys will find a pair that fits them well with no alterations. —Amir Ismael, reporter
The S.E.A. Slim Fit Selvedge Jeans have, far and away, become my favorite raw denim jeans. They're sturdy yet tidy, and I can pull them off dressed up or down for just about anywhere and anything as needed, short of a black tie dinner (not that you'd ever find me at one). —Owen Burke, senior reporter
This top is so flowy and perfect for summer. It's made from organic cotton spun to be exceptionally thin and lightweight, so you can feel the breeze even when you're fully covered up. I love tucking it into jeans for a casual look I can pull off at work or on the weekends.
It comes in six colors, but I will say the lighter ones are slightly sheer, so choose your undergarments accordingly. —Sally Kaplan, editor
Featherlight and airy, these pants will serve you well on a scorcher. The color also does wonders to conceal any spillage that might take place at an outdoor barbecue, though that's another story that probably says more about me than these pants.
There's nothing like seersucker in summer, and the slight bit of linen (20%) worked into them mostly pays off. I'd prefer them to be 100% linen, especially at this price, but the fact that they're sourcing organic cotton (at least for 64% of the pants — the rest is 16% pesticide-reliant cotton) and corozo (tagua palm nuts) for buttons mostly makes up for it.
In the end, they're sturdier than my all-linen pants that ring up the same bill, and I imagine they'll last longer. Again, you get what you pay for with Outerknown. —Owen Burke, senior reporter
Black Mesh Inset Yoga Tights Leggings
This cropped top is sweet, breezy, and easy to wear. You can tuck it into a skirt or pair of pants, or let it flow loosely over your body. It features touches that are both stylish and practical, like the shoulder ties, which let you get a customized fit, and the elastic at the top, which prevents the chest area from gaping. —Connie Chen, reporter
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