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The Story of Sustainable Clothing Brand Outerknown

Kelly Slater

Outerknown is a company that was co-founded by designer John Moore, and world-champion surfer Kelly Slater. This company is distinguished by its focus on sustainability and it has an interesting history. Here is the story of the sustainable clothing brand Outerknown. When Kelly Slater and John Moore first established their new company, they had agreed to develop a men's apparel brand that took the issue of environmental sustainability seriously. What this meant to Moore and Slater, was to ensure that each item was created with materials that were both long-lasting and high in quality. They also ensured that the methods of production were completed in ways that protect the natural resources of the planet. The goals they set for Outerknown were simple. They include establishing a relationship between style, function, and sustainability.

The challenges of Outerknown

The founders of Outerknown are designers and producers who are committed to reaching their established goals. They are called upon to create products that are better and more sustainable in the evolution of the line, as well as paying factory workers fair wages. Values of the company also include maintaining transparency along with way to reveal details about the supply chain, as though telling a story of how the vision of the brand is evolving to act as global citizens, bringing together people who were previously unconnected to discover the next version of Outerknown.

The greatest challenge for Outerknown

Perhaps the greatest challenges that the founders of Outerknown faced were those presented by the doubts of their peers in the clothing industry and their friends. Those around them warned that the sustainability of products wasn't something that consumers were willing to pay more money to own. There was an element of truth to the statement, but it doesn't apply to everyone. The second challenge was in finding factories who would be willing to participate in green manufacturing processes that would fall in line with the vision and mission of the company. Extra steps were necessary and this meant that the cost of manufacturing would naturally go up.

The first collection was a no-go

The first clothing collection that Outerknown produced never made it to the public. According to the founders, they had created an entire collection but could not find the necessary partners who were willing to participate in the steps necessary to achieve the vision that the men had for their company. They continued to search for companies with leadership who understood the mission and believed in the necessity of sustainability. After five years of searching, sales for the first items in the primary collection commenced. The pioneering ideas implemented in Outerknown have raised industry standards for sustainable design.

Impressive statistics

In moving towards their goals Outerknown has achieved a high level of sustainability with 90% of the sourced fibers either being regenerated, recycled or organic. The trunks made by Outerknown are made of 100% renewable or recycled fibers. The company is Fair Labor Association accredited with SEA Jeans that offer a lifetime guarantee to either replace, repair, or recycle these jeans. Their goal is to prevent worn-out jeans from being thrown into landfills.

Outerknown's eco-friendly approach

The leaders of Outerknown hand-pick the factories that manufacture the clothing lines for the brand. Each of the factories is socially compliant and are required to treat their workers fairly. Fair trade is one of the major focuses of the company. In addition, as a part of the mission, materials that are eco-friendly, including organic cotton that has been grown without the use of pesticides and through water-efficient irrigation means. Another material that is used is econyl, which is a man-made material that is created from recycled items including fishing nets and other similar waste items. Outerknown's swim trunks are made from material made out of recycled plastic bottles.

Outerknown is branching out and growing

The first clothing line made by Outerknown was designated strictly for men. The collection was such a huge success that Outerknown has expanded its operation to include a new women's line of apparel, which recently launched in the middle of March 2019. So far, the items available through Outerknown include swim trunks, flannels, tees, fleeces, sweaters, pants, shorts, and a variety of accessories. The accessories include water-bottles, beanies, hats, shoes, socks, a duffel bag, band beach towels. Their new line of denim jeans comes with a lifetime guarantee. The most popular Outerknown item is the blanket shirt. Most product sales occur online but there are a few boutique retailers selling the product directly to the consumer through surf shops in Hawaii and California.

Creating a social conscience

Outerknown has been in business since 2015, and less than five years in, the company is becoming known as an ecologically responsible clothing manufacturer. The sustainable lifestyle brand offers clothing items including swimwear and sportswear among other items that are made of eco-friendly materials with environmentally responsible processes. Outerknown is helping to reinforce the feasibility of producing sustainable items and still making a profit. The company is proving that it is possible to create clothing that adheres to the rules of fashion while maintaining a responsible approach to creating them. It stands as proof that we don't need to sacrifice the earth to achieve high fashion standards. A professional surfer got together with a prolific designer to create a men's line of fashion that meets a need for those who feel strongly about the need to contribute to the betterment of the health of the planet. The friends and colleagues of the founders may have been right about some sectors of the population, but there are others who are happy to pay more for the privilege of doing their part.


Outerknown's journey has taken a few years, but the founders were not willing to compromise on their mission. They continued to search until they found the ideal materials and factories. It's a matter of doing what is right without sacrificing on quality and high standards.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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