The first collection designed by Outerknown in 2015 never saw the light of day: it simply didn’t live up to the uncompromising environmental demands of the young company. So yeah, you could say the Australian brand, founded by surfing legend Kelly Slater and industry veteran John Moore, is serious about sustainability. From the very beginning, Outerknown has been committed to protecting the environment and supporting fair labour – and strives to continue creating the most sustainable practices possible.
Many apparel and equipment companies – as well as businesses in other industries – have made a commitment to the environment, and are shifting their practices to increase sustainability.
But to really understand Outerknown, you have to visualize the opposite: a sustainability company that just so happens to design clothes. The very foundation of the company is rooted in a total commitment to sustainability – and they’re the first clothing brand to be based on this principle.
Outerknown is synonymous with environmental protection and responsible working conditions. In its seven years of existence to date, the brand has prevented 1,300 pieces of clothing from ending up in the landfill, and 7,000 workers have been supported through Fair Trade USA.
Making products that last starts with the materials that go into them. Outerknown’s casual, beach-day-ready clothing is made from 90% organic, recycled or reclaimed fibres. Their process to achieve this includes utilizing recycled factory scraps, as well as recycled polyester and nylon, which helps to reduce synthetic waste in our oceans. What’s more, their cashmere assortment contains their Reimagine line, which is made from 95% recycled cashmere, sourced from a combination of pre and post-consumer garments and scraps. By innovating and paying close attention to the fabrics that go into their designs, the brand creates timeless, durable styles that can be repaired, reused, and resold.
Outerknown is on its way to achieving full circularity by 2030. Through designing products with regenerative or recycled materials, implementing ways to extend product circulation, and establishing resale, repair and recycling programs, the brand is confident that 100% of its production will be circular by 2030
Outerknown also believes that true sustainability starts with transparency. So when it comes to manufacturing its garments, the brand seeks out makers who share the desire to take climate action. Mapping 100% of its supply chain is Outerknown’s priority, and it strives to share every step of its journey with its customers. On its website, the brand describes its relationship with its different suppliers, and allows you to look at all of its facilities through the Open Apparel Registry (OAR).
Sustainability and circularity is one of Outerknown’s priorities, but crafting responsible garments also means creating fair working conditions for the people who make them. Along with increased transparency into garment, fabric, yarn, and raw material suppliers, Outerknown seeks to protect more workers in its supply chain and implement fair compensation strategies.
Outerknown wants to put people first. Through an elaborate code of conduct that supports the standards of its fair labour program, the brand continually works to improve the lives of its workers and advance their rights, by maintaining good relationships with its suppliers, improving its purchasing practices, and aiming to implement a cost-of-living wage throughout its supply chain.
Following this responsible manufacturing process, Outerknown wants circularity to prevail even after an item has arrived in the customer’s hands. That’s why it has a designated section on its website for buying and selling used, gently-worn Outerknown pieces. We all have that one shirt, sweater, or pair of pants that we haven’t worn as much as we thought we would. We keep it at the back of the closet, thinking someday the right occasion will come, but…it never does. So why not do some recycling to let someone else enjoy it?
By incorporating all these responsible initiatives into their business, Outerknown is doing more than creating durable, sustainable (and super stylish!) products. It’s inspiring a new generation of manufacturing. At least, that’s the brand’s goal. The clothing industry is harmful, and it needs new, bold innovations and circular models to move to a more sustainable future.
“We recognize that the sustainability challenges we face can’t be solved alone. We invite other organizations to join us as we pioneer a future where apparel contributes to a world that thrives, not just survives.”
The young company knows that the model it’s putting forward is not consistent with industry practices over the past few decades. It understands that the problems it’s addressing are systemic and cannot be solved on a stand-alone basis. This is why Outerknown aims to constantly increase its partnerships, in order to create more innovative business models, which will in turn challenge unsustainable conventions and practices for the planet.
We all want a world where the waters are pure. Where the beaches are long and idyllic, free of waste. So does Outerknown. And it’s taking the right steps to get there.