In this review, we check out a selection of Outerknown products including the Blanket Shirt, Sur Sweatshirt, Ascent Fleece Sweatpants and Kelly Slater’s Apex Trunks.
As consumers, we vote for environmental and social change with our dollars. If sustainable, ethically produced products are important to you then we recommend checking out the latest range of Outerknown apparel.
Founded by Kelly Slater in 2015, Outerknown was the first brand to become Fair Labor Association accredited before it even sold any clothing. In fact, Kelly Slater and creative director, John Moore, spent two years establishing a network of partners and suppliers who were committed to fair employment practices and using quality sustainable materials. Starting a surf brand while many brands in the industry were going bankrupt was a brave move. Or perhaps a stroke of genius.
I own Outerknown clothes from the first season – and they are still pretty much as good as new. In fact, I’d say the t-shirt is better now than it was before. Remember, sustainable materials like hemp tend to soften and improve with age.
So let’s fast forward to 2020 and I’ve got my hands on a range of Outerknown gear that I’ve been testing out over the past month or so.
The Outerknown Blanket Shirt
First up is the Blanket Shirt – one of the signature garments in the Outerknown range, first released back in July 2016. The shirt is made of 100% organic cotton and features buttons made from nuts. The organic cotton twill is beautifully weighted and can be considered both smart and casual – depending on who you’re with.
I really like the relaxed, loose-fitting design. It’s comfortable, robust and stylish. From a sustainability perspective, organic cotton preserves 90% more water compared to conventional cotton and uses no pesticides.
Next up is the Sur Sweatshirt, which is made of 55% hemp and 45% cotton. The fabric is blended to create a breathable yet substantial fabric that feels somewhat like a warm hug. Clothing made of hemp fibre is lightweight and absorbent, with three times the tensile strength of cotton. It is also UV and mould-resistant, making hemp excellent for outdoor wear.
Probably best of all is that hemp requires no pesticides and little water to grow. I like the simplicity of this design and know I’ll be wearing it for many seasons.
Ascent Fleece Sweatpants
As we ease into winter down here in the southern hemisphere I’ve been using my Ascent Fleece Sweatpants perhaps more than any other item of clothing. The sweat – or tracksuit – pants are super comfortable, warm and constructed of 100% Recycled Polyester. Creating this material involves repurposing raw material waste, like plastic bottles, and transforming it into a premium polyester fiber. Quite amazing.
I like the back zip-up pocket and the front slash pockets, which means these are fully functional pants that can be worn to the shops, the café, maybe even to work. I’ve delivered many presentations while wearing these and a business shirt – granted it was via Zoom.
Kelly Slater’s Apex Trunks
Finally, I’m most excited about Kelly Slater’s signature design boardshorts – the Apex trunks. These are high tech performance boardies with all of the trimmings. They have stitch-free welded seams that have been taped to improve strength while allowing maximum stretch and flexibility. The bonded back pocket has an Aquaguard zipper and key loop.
The material is 86% Recycled Polyester, 8% Recycled Spandex, 6% Spandex. That means you might be surfing in what used to be someone’s activewear!
The boardies are lightweight, flexible, quick dry and they beat anything else I’ve tried this year. I chose the Pitch Black Surfature design which features wavy lines reminiscent of weather patterns or swell charts – there are several colors to choose from.
Best of all these trunks are made in a Fair Trade facility where workers are paid properly for their effort. I went for a run in these trunks to assess flexibility and the chafe factor and am happy to report that they were more comfortable than my running shorts. Massive thumbs up. I can’t wait to wear them somewhere tropical, like Fiji. We’ll release a separate review when that trip happens. In the meanwhile, you might like to watch some of Kelly Slater’s best Fiji moments.
Some of you might think that Outerknown products are little on the expensive side. In comparison to some brands, they might be. But I don’t see Outerknown as a premium or luxury brand. This is what we should be paying for clothing that lasts for several years and doesn’t destroy the environment for people on the other side of the planet.
The fast fashion industry is a huge problem. A 2018 U.S. Department of Labor report found evidence of forced and child labour in the apparel industry in Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Turkey, and Vietnam. Many rivers in these countries are toxic because of dyes and pesticides. All so we can buy a shirt that lasts a season – if we’re lucky.
Outerknown has chosen a different path – what they call “relentless sustainability”. This means that:
- 90% of the fibers they source are organic, recycled, or regenerated
- 100% of their trunks are made with recycled or renewable fibers. As I mentioned – I still have an original pair of Outerknown trunks and they’re going string today.
- Through Fair Trade USA, they’re investing in the livelihoods of over 5K workers
From a consumer perspective, I think Outerknown is leading the way towards a new kind of product that blends sustainability and ethics with style, while not sacrificing high performance. You may pay a little more, but you’re paying forward – both for yourself, for the communities who make the gear, and for our environment.
Sustainability is close to our hearts are Surfd.com so we highly recommend checking out the latest range of Outerknown gear on their website.