Perfect Pairing: Outerknown + Wittmore
Photo courtesy of Wittmore
Photo courtesy of Wittmore
Photo courtesy of Wittmore
What are the essentials of a coastal life? John Moore, creative director of Outerknown, teamed up with Paul Witt of Los Angeles Arts District menswear boutique Wittmore for an installation of pieces from the new ready-to-wear line launched by Moore and surfer Kelly Slater to answer such a question, both philosophically and physically. Get a first look at fall designs from the new collection as well as found art amassed by waterman Mark Cunningham and personal artifacts Moore has collected while traveling. Here, a conversation with Moore about the collaboration, traveling, and sustainable design.
How did you meet Paul Witt and what inspired the takeover? Paul has been a big supporter of my previous endeavors [including the M.Nii line], and he was one of the first buyers to respond to Outerknown. He explained his vision around collaborating with brands and artists to create temporary environments. When designing products, I’m thinking about their presentation and the environment that surrounds them, so this felt like a great way to bring these other Outerknown dimensions to life. You’ll find objects that inspire us, small clippings of the fishing nets that are used in our Econyl textiles, and our friend Mark Cunningham’s objects from the bottom of the sea.
The Pescadero T-shirt fit is really impressive. Every part of it feels tailored. How was the design process? I’ve been living in the black and olive Pescadero T-shirt since we launched in July. It really comes down to the softness and drape we achieved from the way our Peruvian organic cotton yarn is spun and finished. A T-shirt is treated with the same attention as any other item in the collection, but it’s our jersey that creates this relaxed feeling allowing the precise lines of the shirt to look effortlessly easy when worn.
How did you go about finding the recycled nylon (Econyl) used in the collection? What did you think of it when the first samples came back? Econyl was introduced to us through our partners at Kering’s material innovation lab in Europe. We spend so much time in the ocean [as surfers], so the concept of recycling fishing nets immediately caught our attention. Kelly and I visited the Econyl operation in Slovenia last November and saw football-field sized rooms full of reclaimed fishing nets and other nylon waste from industrial carpeting and discarded molds from furniture. These materials are combined to produce our Econyl yarns, so when the first samples came back, we were blown away by the softness of the regenerated textiles.
How does it feel and fit? The Evolution Shirt Jacket that we built in Econyl nylon and lined with recycled polyester, so no ducks were plucked in the process, is my favorite fitting piece. Where I live in Venice, it will be the perfect top layer throughout the season. All of the styles we produce in Econyl are literally as soft as silk to the touch but incredibly durable when worn, though the materials are so course before the recycling process. And the Evolution trunks we designed are the lightest trunks I have ever surfed in. We can produce it in lighter and heavier weights depending on the season, and add stretch for activewear. We also have an Econyl nylon-and-cotton blend coming for spring.
Do you have the fabrics manufactured specifically for this line or are they used in other Kering lines? Almost all of our textiles, including our Econyl developments, are produced specifically for our collection. However, we would love to partner with other Kering brands in the future to get greater efficiencies of scale with some of our sustainable textiles. We’re so small right now that it’s very hard for us to meet the minimum requirements of our textile mills, so we pay upcharges for almost everything.
What’s your favorite piece in the collection in terms of fabric? The Peruvian Alpaca Organic cotton Jetlag sweater because I love the weight. It’s the perfect sweater for cool nights at the beach and when we first sampled it last winter, I wore it daily. But I also love how the horizontal stitch pattern gives this gutsy sweater a refined fit. And the Hemisphere Peacoat we built from regenerated Italian Wool in China is another style I’m quite proud of.
What Limited Supply items are you planning to manufacture in L.A. for upcoming collections? The most sustainable materials that you can use are materials that already exist, so I’m proud that we’re using some bolts of cloth that I had left over from a previous project. And I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re also adding a pant and jacket to our Los Angeles production and we’ll have two different Limited Supply capsule collections coming out next year.
What have you learned from the places where you manufacture? Are you working with collectives in various cities? Or grass roots organizations? The well-being of the people who make our products is of paramount importance to us. We have a mantra that we work with people, not factories so it’s critical that we’re interacting with the makers that produce our products on regular basis and not merely relying on external organizations for audits and information. Our Chief Sustainability Officer, Shelly Gottschamer, spends most of her year working on the ground with the people in our global supply chain so we’re inspecting and learning every day. We currently manufacture in Peru, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, China and right here in Los Angeles. That said, we have partnered with the Fair Labor Association to ensure we abide by their global code of conduct which is the best standard for protecting and promoting working conditions for our suppliers. Additionally, we have partnered with Bluesign, which eliminates harmful substances from the beginning of the manufacturing process where the biggest environmental impact is made. We don’t accept what we don’t inspect with our own eyes.
By Elizabeth Varnell
Pictured: Wittmore boutique in downtown Los Angeles.
Photo courtesy of Outerknown