His name is John Moore and he is going to take Kelly Slater's new brand OuterKnown into the stratosphere!
Have you ever thought about why you wear the fashion you do, why you ride a certain craft, maybe even talk in a manner just so? It ain’t because of our so-called freedom of choice or the genetic kink that makes you so special and so unique and beautiful etc.
It’s because there are creatures out there who are the drivers of whatever culture you squeeze yourself into. And, as far as surfing goes, it’s hard to find anyone as influential, as game changing in surf fashion (surf fashion ain’t an oxymoron!), as John Moore, a 5’4″ Manuel C. Caro arc-swallowtail riding pussycat from the City of Angels.
John, as y’might already know, is the stud behind Kelly Slater’s new, and as yet unseen, label Outer Known. He lives in Venice Beach (natch) and has a design past littered with success, which we’ll investigate shortly. Recently, GQ featured him among their best designers for his vintage label M.Nii.
John created Hollister for Abercrombie & Fitch (now worth, and we ain’t kidding, hundreds of mills), was the brains behind Modern Amusement, and his company The POP (Pencil on Paper) Studio was the creative muscle behind VSTR (Kelly Slater’s offshoot clothing label that Quiksilver snuffed, as they did his master) as well as a doz or so other companies.
Recently, John and a pal relaunched the previously dormant Hawaiian label M. Nii. If you like canvas and buttons and sixties stylings, you’ll faint when you punch in the code www.mnii.com. Full-service brand engineering is what Pop do. Now let’s soak in John Moore’s learnings…
BeachGrit: Authenticity (that buzz word!) appears to be your thing. Like, when a brand needs to get back to its roots, it comes to Senor Mas and The POP Studio. How important has it been to your game? Seems you were into the artisan side of things (producing Hollister for A and F) long before it became fashionable.
JM: Yeah, we have that reputation. Probably ‘cause we love true-stories, but in the case of Hollister, authenticity was more of a nostalgic patina ‘cause that was one big lie… just a well-played fantasy. Hollister, like most good brand concepts, are successful because of the energy created around the brand. It’s all about an incredible experience. But, I guess that’s the thing about authenticity. It’s an emotional connection versus a reality. Most surfers will tell you it’s about participation in the sport, but the consumer would tell us differently. Look at how bad the surf brands are at creating a good brand experience. If the surf industry is to survive, has to look beyond the endemic competition for clues. I believe our work with VSTR and Quiksilver Women’s is a good indication of this.
You have to tell me about about M.Nii. Some ol gal from the West Side made it in the fifties and you and a pal ressurected it, yeah?
JM: Yeah, it’s a true story. M. Nii was a tailor shop on the west side of Oahu in the 50s. It was a Japanese couple sewing up band uniforms for the local schools, which meant they kept stock of bullet-proof textiles and lot’s of trims and tapes to choose from. So, the early surf pioneers hit them up to create the some of the earliest twill surf trunks known, allowing them to trade in their cut-off chinos for some lace-up trunks. My partner found an original pair complete with the label still intact so we are building a modern version of the M.Nii “Makaha Drowner Short” to the same specs as the original.
What are the key elements in branding?
JM: A good story. Fonts tell lies, so there better be a damn good story behind the brand to create an identity that’s meaningful and lasting.