Apparel company Outerknown, founded by professional surfer Kelly Slater in 2015, has opened a new store in Malibu.
The 856-square-foot space, located inside Malibu Country Mart, is the Los Angeles-based brand’s second location in the region. The first brick-and-mortar is further south in El Segundo, Calif.
“It was predominantly a wholesale brand, which is how a lot of brands start off, create a line and then sell it into wholesale and use the footprint of those retailers to sell products,” said Outerknown chief executive officer Mark Walker of the brand’s positioning in 2017 when he joined the team.
“But we learned that there’s so much more to the Outerknown brand than just the products,” he continued. “There’s the sustainability attributes. There’s the story of how the products are made and where they’re made and who’s making them.”
Outerknown — offering casual, everyday wear for both men and women — is transparent about its suppliers, which are listed on the brand website. Working with nonprofits Fair Trade USA and Fair Labor Association, the brand aims to create fair working conditions and reduce its carbon footprint by using repurposed material when possible. For one, all swim trunks, a popular category, are created with recycled or renewable fibers. (The APEX collection, priced at $128 and $145, is made from recycled water bottles.)
“As a small brand, the first thing to do was to pull it in-house and do that all through e-commerce,” Walker went on, of launching direct-to-consumer.
When the pandemic hit, even greater focus was put on the d-to-c channel and by end of spring 2020 business grew. Outerknown was well positioned, given that consumers who were able were suddenly looking to buy less but willing to spend more on quality, mindfully made goods, said Walker, who declined to share financials: “Our customers came back in force.…On all fronts, business has been really good for us.”
And retail expansion was always in the pipeline — for “brand awareness and customer acquisition,” he said.
“We’re going into retail — not just with Malibu but overall — because we want to get the brand out there, and we think one of the best ways to get the brand out there is to create these physical locations that people can go in and touch and feel and engage one-on-one with the brand,” he added. “And then, we do think that our stores are more customer experience centers, where it’s not just buying clothes, but it’s doing events, connecting with a local community.”