Perhaps only an 11-time world surf champion like Kelly Slater could have drawn famous folks from Hollywood, fashion and sports to a far-flung strip of Malibu.
On Saturday, Julia Roberts, Jason Statham, Gerard Butler, Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky trekked to architect Harry Gesner’s treehouse-style abode on the Pacific Coast Highway to celebrate the launch of Slater’s men’s clothing line called Outerknown. Joining them were rockers Kim Gordon and Anthony Kiedis; athletes Kassia Meador, Stephanie Gilmore and Gabrielle Reece; and designers Greg Chait from The Elder Statesman and Kalani and Oleema Miller from Mikoh. Working with Kering, Slater also welcomed Richard Woolcott, founder of Kering-owned Volcom.
But it was the kids, easily making up a third of the guests, who had a field day climbing the trees, splashing in the waves and toasting marshmallows in the beach bonfire. One of Julia Roberts and Danny Moder’s sons inexplicably hugged Slater’s right foot when they bid adieu to the legendary surfer and his teenage daughter, Taylor.
Slater might build an even bigger audience with the tykes. “We’re actually talking to PBteen about doing a second season,” he said, referring to the home decor collection he launched with Pottery Barn earlier this year. “I love the sustainablity arm of what they did and the design was really nice.”
Certainly, outside of surfing Slater hopes to have his name be synonymous with “sustainable lifestyle,” he said. One of the eco entrepreneurs he admires is Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, whom he plans to see soon while bearing a bag of Outerknown goodies.
“I’m trying to be as responsible as I can be with what I do and what I put my name to,” Slater said. “If a brand approaches me and I don’t believe in their kind of ethos, I don’t work with them. The money is not an issue.”
For several of his fans, however, money was their primary concern with Outerknown, which they criticized as being overpriced. Slater’s favorite pieces, for instance, are a $198 made-in-L.A. terry cloth hoodie and a $385 bomber-style puffer jacket constructed from recycled nylon and polyester.
“All the feedback about the design, the product, has been amazing. We have had, actually, some negative feedback from our price range,” Slater said
Negative feedback is an understatement. Some of the insults on Instagram attacked Slater’s family, forcing the usually chill surfer to wage a war of words against the trolls.
“At the same time, I’m trying to understand what they’re trying to say through the words and I’m trying to get them to understand what we’re after, you know, our purpose behind the brand,” he said. “And our purpose is to make a good-quality product you can trust.”
Slater didn’t need to explain his concept to Cindy Crawford, who said she knew him “just from Malibu.” Along with her husband, Rande Gerber, and their son and daughter, her photogenic family could have had a picturesque stroll to the party from their house “if the tide was lower,” she said. Like a good neighbor, Gerber lent a hand by supplying the tequila from the Casamigos brand he started with George Clooney. Even though Crawford compiled what she dubbed “life lessons” with photos from her modeling career into a book, titled “Becoming,” that Rizzoli is releasing in September, she said Slater didn’t need any of her advice for his fashion venture.
“You don’t need other people to tell you what is authentic,” she said.
Indeed, John Moore, who collaborated with Slater on his previous Quiksilver-funded line called VSTR and serves as creative director at Outerknown, said the emphasis on sustainability “was really Kelly’s vision.”
Staying true to himself, Slater picked men who are relatively unknown in the fashion industry to represent Outerknown. One brand ambassador is Mark Cunningham, a retired lifeguard from Hawaii’s North Shore, who has such a chummy relationship with Slater that he plopped a wig matching his own white hair on the surfer’s shaved head at the party. More than a quarter of Slater’s 1.2 million fans on Instagram approved of the platinum-tressed twins’ selfie. Cunningham relished the opportunity to test a boxful of gear from Outerknown. “The T-shirt cost $80,” he said, “and I felt like a hundred bucks.”