‘Sustainability for all:’ Outerknown lowers price points, expands into surf retail

Kelly Slater’s brainchild Outerknown has been building its roots for the past few years. It’s strategy has, up until now, primarily revolved around speaking to high-level retailers (read Fred Segal, American Rag and Ron Herman, to name a few) and consumers in this space.

Now, as the brand unveils a new collection, Project Nomadic, Outerknown CEO Mark Walker talks with us to explain that this line — most notable for its more accessible price point — marks a shift into the endemic surf market — a move that has always been a part of the brand’s strategy, he says.

sustainability for all outerknown

A tee from Outerkown’s latest drop, Project Nomadic. Photo: Outerknown

“The products were designed with the nomadic surfer top of mind so they deliver on comfort and function without emptying their wallet,” says Walker. “When Outerknown launched, ‘Sustainability for all’ was the goal, and the launch of Project Nomadic gets us one step closer to that goal.”

We caught up with Walker to hear the details behind Project Nomadic, the brand’s journey up to this point and what we can expect from their organic push into the core surf retail market.

sustainability for all project nomadic

Kelly Slater’s thoughts behind Outerknown’s ‘sustainability for all” strategy and the launch Project Nomadic.

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The collection marks a bit of a departure from speaking to a more fashion-driven, higher price point audience. Why did it make sense at this time for Outerknown to shift gears and speak to the core surf audience and retailers?

We're not so much shifting gears as we are augmenting our assortment.

Surf is at the core of who we are as a brand, and the plan was always to go into this market and after this consumer. We wanted to wait until we could deliver a line like Project Nomadic with the quality, style and price that the customer deserves from Outerknown and still stand for our Sustainability goals.

sustainability for all outerknown

Clean lines and muted, neutral color ways from Outerknown’s Project Nomadic. Photo: Outerknown

What changes in marketing will we see as a result?

“Sustainability for All” is our mantra. Making amazing items that are made the right way for people and the planet will continue to be our message.

Specifically to "surf shops," we will use a segmented strategy to assort and style key Outerknown products the way we feel that the consumer shopping in these locations will want to wear it.

It sounds like Project Nomadic will be a limited release – How did you decide which core retailers in the space to work with?

Project Nomadic is a core of the Outerknown assortment and will continue to exist under the umbrella of Outerknown products.

We took a quality vs. quantity approach with the launch. We hand-picked the best surf shops across the country that we felt had a customer base that would appreciate what Outerknown stood for and was offering.

We will learn from the launch and decide next steps around distribution after we see how the customer reacts. We took the right amount of time to release it and we want to take the same approach to launching it successfully.

Can you explain some of the sustainable materials you are using and how you sourced them?

Outerknown's product strategy is routed in doing the best for people and the planet. Always striving to do the best, our raw material philosophy is simple: we try to always use organic, recycled or reclaimed materials.

The raw material selection is the single most important step in doing what's right for the planet. To source and select these fabrics, we work in a global supply chain with the best mills in the world. They work with us on the development of sourcing and development of the materials.

How has Outerknown adjusted its model in order to provide this level of sustainable apparel at a more affordable price point? Why does Kelly and team believe this is important?

There are three key strategies that are allowing us to offer the same high level of sustainable goods at more affordable price points:

Outerknown has been at this for over two years now. True sustainability is not fast, easy or cheap. Outerknown has developed a network of partners and suppliers over the past few years who are working with us to make it easier and more affordable.

We are shifting to a more direct to consumer approach. We will always be in wholesale and are even exploring retail, but we would like to sell a majority of our goods directly to the consumer through Outerknown.com. This direct model allows us to run a higher margin business which, in turn, allows us to pass the cost savings on to the customer by offering lower prices without sacrificing quality or style.

Bulk commitments and relationships. By building relationships with our vendors and taking larger fabric and trim positions, we get better costing on materials and can again pass those savings along to the consumer through lower prices.

Sustainability for all is why Outerknown was created. We want Outerknown to be a brand for everyone that everyone can participate in. That means being inclusive around our style, offering and price point. Our goal isn't to be a niche fashion brand, we want to create a line of clothing that anyone can enjoy and appreciate and help move the needle in sustainability.

Project Nomadic: A collection of items built for a nomadic lifestyle that won’t cramp your travel budget. Photo: Outerknown

What other exciting developments are on the horizon for Outerknown that you can share with us at the moment?

Let's just say that Project Nomadic is the first of many really cool milestones that Outerknown will have over the next six to twelve months.
We are exploring some really interesting things, including a more engaging shopping experience on our site and new categories that Outerknown could offer. We're also having conversations with other brands who are interested in what we are doing and want to partner with us.

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