The Odyssey of Sustainability in Fashion: A Deep Dive into Outerknown Apparel

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Outerknown Apparel is a revolutionary name in the fashion industry. With design inspirations stemming from the bond one shares with nature, the brand illustrates what it means to cater to style and care for our planet in tandem. Their mission to redefine the norms of the fashion industry has given birth to a sustainable sartorial revolution.

outerknown co-founder and world champion surfer kelly slater
Outerknown co-founder Kelly Slater

The Origins of Outerknown Apparel

Founded in 2015, Outerknown Apparel is a clothing brand created by world-champion surfer Kelly Slater. Having transformed the surfing world over the course of his nearly 3-decade career, including winning 11 World Surf League (WSL) titles, Kelly’s victories had been well associated with many brand endorsements, including a 23-year sponsorship by Quiksilver.

When Slater started asking his sponsors how their clothes were made, he never received satisfactory answers, so he no longer wanted to be associated with them. He wanted to be associated with a better brand for people and the planet. 

Working with the acclaimed designer John Moore, the pair created Outerknown to fill this need. After its inception in 2013, Outerknown’s first range went on sale in June 2015.

Outerknown’s journey beautifully demonstrates the bounds fashion can leap when we intertwine it with social commitment. As a brand, Outerknown Apparel abides by the principle of reaching the pinnacle without compromising its core value of sustainability. The drive to incorporate environmental consciousness into fashionable apparel is an attempt to affect customers worldwide.

This is why they made it into our sustainable brand list, where we rate them gold, our highest rating: How Sustainable is Outerknown?

The Origins of Outerknown Apparel_man surfing
Unsplash – Marvin Meyer

What is Outerknown Apparel’s Style Like?

The Outerknown team believes fashion is an extension of one’s personality. A profound reflection of this belief is seen in their trendy yet timeless designs. They don’t just make clothes that look appealing; they curate experiences that drape you in elegance and ethical responsibility simultaneously.

Unleashing the Unique Style Quotient of Outerknown Apparel

Outerknown’s items are said to be “clean, unadorned, and easy.” Aiming to be simple, Outerknown avoids being too complicated aesthetic-wise to enable both women and men to enjoy the versatility of their clothes. 

Inspired by California’s southern coastal cities, Outerknown’s style and color are reflected through effortless basics that the customers can dress up and down. Dressing up to the office and dressing down for the weekend should no longer be painful.

Modern Man’s Guide to Outerknown

If you think Outerknown is just a surf brand, it is not. Yet indeed, it is in their DNA.

In the era where fast fashion dominates the industry landscape, Outerknown puts forward the idea that style doesn’t have to be a high cost for the environment. Pieces ranging from organized essential shirts to festive sweaters are carefully crafted to suit the modern man who values appearances and their impact on the planet.

Thinking about what to wear every morning can be decision fatigue, especially for those who prefer to keep everything simple and save energy for the decision-making tasks that the day brings. For example, the blanket shirts, Outerknown’s most popular item for all seasons, are made of high-quality material that feels great every time you wear them. And they last for years to come!

Thanks to being made of 100% organic cotton, the blanket shirt supports the elimination of the toxic synthetic chemicals used in the cotton farmland, resulting in safer working conditions for farmers and a healthier environment. And Outerknown even gives a lovely detailed touch. 

kelly slater in the blanket shirt, plaid men's shirt
Kelly Slater in the Blanket Shirt

Their corozo buttons are produced from tagua palm nuts harvested from the forest floor, a natural alternative to plastic. We can now say bye to cheap-looking buttons!

The Artist Oxford is an alternative if you prefer classic and plain shirts for more formal meetings or other events. It is also made of organic cotton!

What if you are looking for a T-shirt? The Sojourn Tee is another bestselling product. It looks like a staple t-shirt, but Outerknown made it better and longer-lasting. It is light, breathable, and wonderfully soft, and remains the best-fitting sustainable t-shirt in the market. Pigment garment dyed in 100% Regenerative Organic Certified® Bronze Pima Cotton for a washed appearance and worn-in feel.​

sojourn tee, organic cotton men's t-shirt

Looking for a new pair of affordable, sustainable jeans? Here is our opinion about Outerknown’s SEA Jeans.

Our Favorite Outerknown Pieces for Her

Even though Outerknown initially targeted men, they later grew to offer women’s apparel too. The blanket shirt also caters to women who love traveling and being outdoors! The fit is, of course, slightly different from the men’s blanket shirt, but don’t worry, it is still suitable for layering all seasons!

blanket shirt, organic cotton women's shirt

The badass station jumpsuit is another piece that we love. At the top of their OK Ten collection, this no-fuss jumpsuit makes you look stylish and practical at the same time thanks to its vintage design inspiration. This jumpsuit is made of 53% organic cotton and 47% European Flax® Certified linen.

station jumpsuit, hemp and organic cotton jumpsuit

The Westbound Utility Pants will give you a similar style vibe to the Station Jumpsuit, but is better if you prefer having separates in your wardrobe. With lots of pockets and a unique wash, this item’s practicality will keep your casual style solid without feeling too underdressed. The high waist and straight cut will keep your look polished!

casual utility pants by outerknown

The success of Outerknown Apparel

Outerknown Applarel’s genesis was rooted in sustainability, and this dedication to ethical fashion practices fueled their journey to global recognition. In a remarkably short span, Outerknown has transformed from a new wave surf brand to a force to be reckoned with in the global panorama of sustainable fashion.

Consumers are more aware and conscious about their clothing choices, influencing the rise in Outerknown’s popularity. Apparel from the brand has swiftly turned into a wardrobe must-have for a vast demographic owing to its commitment to quality, style, and sustainability.

After debuting in 2015 with menswear, Outerknown expanded into a women’s range for spring/summer 2019. Built with sustainability at its core, it touts itself as a company “driven by a passion for responsible action, courageous change, and great clothes”.

Outerknown has considered further international expansion. By the end of 2022, it had over 400 wholesale stockists worldwide, including Mr Porter and John Lewis, and looked to expand its position in the UK market. When it comes to the British market, Outerwear targets customers who care about their environmental impact and appreciate the value of sustainability.

In addition, the UK market needs more items for colder weather in the autumn and beautiful European summers. Outerknown works in all those situations, and they understand that ethical shoppers exist worldwide.

clothing on a rack
Unsplash – Priscilla du Preez

Outerknown and the Ethical Fashion Movement

Outerknown’s business model is defined by a principled approach to fashion. Integrating positive environmental impact and a fair trade supply chain, Outerknown is a beacon guiding the fashion world towards comprehensive ethical standards.

Ethical Standards of Outerknown: Integrating Values into Style

For example, Outerknown’s preferred fiber use increased from 87% to 95% by 2022. They have a fiber policy and scorecard that have helped them determine which ones are selected based on sustainability and circularity criteria. Such an ambitious target is the reason they strive to increase the proportion of preferred fibers (e.g. organic cotton, hemp, recycled cotton, responsible wool) in their products.

When it comes to ethical practices, they diversified the nation of origin of their suppliers. They relocated 67% of their supply chain to ensure that every supplier Outerknowns engages with prioritises and values human rights. 

Their Tier 1 supply chain is distributed around South America, Europe, South Asia, South-East Asia, and East Asia. It has been publicly accessible on the Open Apparel Registry since the end of 2022. This is a good start since they aim to map 100% of their supply chain. 

Open Apparel Registry snapshot of Outerknown Tier 1 suppliers
Open Apparel Registry snapshot of Outerknown’s Tier 1 suppliers

The Fair Labor Association (FLA) accredited Outerknown’s compliance program in 2015. As an FLA Participating Company, they are committed to respecting the FLA Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing across their supply chain. 

Outerknown also has publicly announced its Fair Compensation Commitment. The Fairtrade Premium has helped improve workers’ lives in Outerknown’s supply chain, totalling about $133,000. Workers’ choice programs are covered in this fund, such as extended healthcare insurance, scholarships for their children, housing assistance, financial relief for long-term illness, and more.

Outerknown Revolutionizing Fashion: Game Changers in Sustainable Clothing

By combining a sharp sense of style with an uncompromising focus on sustainability, Outerknown has emerged as a disruptor in the fashion world. They are effectively revolutionizing the fashion industry by seamlessly melding sustainability, quality, and unique designs.

Outerknown Revolutionizing Fashion_person sewing clothes
Unsplash – Alexander Grey

In their 2030 Sustainability Plan, Outerknown clarified that they would invest in research and development for circular solutions. By supporting resale, repair, and recycling operations, they hope to have 100% of their items circular by 2030. Through regenerative design, manufacture, and recommence, Outerknown will contribute to fashion circularity. 

For example, in 2021, they made significant progress toward this aim by developing a platform to repurpose previously sold Outerknown clothes. This platform, Outerworn, allows customers to purchase and sell pre-owned items. 

One of Outerknown’s biggest leaps in circularity is its partnership with Aquafil–a leading carpet recycler. Aquafil recycles vast amounts of waste, such as abandoned fishing nets recovered from the seafloor and carpets removed from demolished office buildings, into raw fibers that can be reincarnated into new products. 

Through this partnership, ECONYL® is created. Outerknown has sourced low-impact, regenerated ECONYL® nylon yarn to create their iconic Evolution Shirt Jacket, Evolution Reversible Puffer, and Pocket Evolution Trunks. They also used it to create an extremely durable NATO watch strap made of ECONYL® yarn.

Carpets to recycle from Outerknowns website
Carpets to recycle – Outerknown’s website

Outerknown’s Raw Materials

Now we have talked about their circularity effort, what about their raw materials sourcing?

In collaboration with Bergman Rivera, Outerknown has committed to assisting farms in implementing Regenerative Organic CertifiedTM (ROCTM) techniques. Thanks to this partnership, they have converted 28 acres of farmland to ROCTM, equivalent to 10 tons of cotton, and they are just getting started.

But what is ROCTM? And how is it different from typical organic techniques?

Don’t get us wrong. Organic farming and techniques are indeed superior, and we definitely support this practice. We would like to think ROCTM is another step further than organic practices. While organic practices prioritize safe and non-toxic techniques, regenerative organic agriculture allows us to restore soil, respect animal welfare, and improve farmers’ livelihoods. We can sequester carbon, create healthier communities, and produce more nutritious and bountiful crops.

So, not only avoiding negative impact, regenerative practices also take an extra step by creating positive impact! What’s not to love?

Read more on our take on organic cotton here!

cotton in a field
Unsplash – Trisha Downing

Quality and Craftsmanship with Outerknown Apparel

Beyond ensuring sustainability, Outerknown’s products also exude an extraordinary level of craftsmanship and quality. This is reflected in all their clothing lines, whether the rugged and functional S.E.A jeans or the effortlessly stylish Blanket shirts.

Material-wise, they have a no-nonsense approach. Man-made materials are only used for sports clothing or waterproof items. Elastane is used on jeans for extra stretch and comfort. 

take care of your clothing
Unsplash – Maude Frédérique Lavoie

Such forward-thinking design will help Outerknown achieve its circularity target. With such great fit, design, and comfort, customers will have less desire to participate in the throwaway culture cultivated by the fast fashion industry.

Style-wise, Outerknown is simplistic. It has a simple cut, simple color, and no graphics or frills. Customers won’t spend too long deciding which style fits them best. Necklines are classic–crew neck, v-neck, polo collar, hoodie… timeless. They are created to be functional for daily wear, with the purpose of being worn all season as many times as possible. 

Outerknown’s Green Initiative and its Influence on the Global Fashion Scene

Garnering attention with transparent business operations and green initiatives, Outerknown introduces a profound paradigm shift in the fashion scene. The brand has started influencing global consumer and producer choices through unparalleled efforts.

With a proactive approach towards sustainability, Outerknown is making significant strides in changing the fashion ecosystem with every piece of clothing they craft. Their relentless pursuit of sustainability paves the way for mindful sartorial choices, setting an example for other brands to emulate.

For example, giving back is a part of their initiatives. They have worked with various organizations aligned with their values and purpose, such as Brother Benno, The Ocean Cleanup, Ocean Conservancy, Surfrider Maui Chapter, Surfrider Foundation, and Everytown. When Outernknown said surfing is still a part of their DNA, they were not lying!

cleaning up trash on the beach
Unsplash – Brian Yurasits

Apart from the charity side, other initiatives on Outerknown’s business side include their participation with Textile Exchange. This initiative has helped them source the best sustainable materials available globally. Furthermore, in order to measure their social and environmental impact, Outerknown joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Through this partnership, they benefit from using the Higg tools to understand their sustainability metrics.

Recap on Outerknown and its Remarkable Journey towards Sustainable Fashion

Outerknown’s trailblazing journey in sustainable fashion has not only set an example but also turned heads in the industry, necessitating other brands to rethink their operations. As a prominent player, they’ve proven that sustainability, ethics and style aren’t exclusive. They focus on sustainability as the core of their business to develop stylish and versatile items, rather than what fast fashion typically does–band-aiding their flaws with mediocre targets without innovation and intention in transitioning their business.

It is not just on companies like Outerknown to steer the reins towards sustainable fashion. As consumers, we all play a significant role. We contribute towards a more sustainable future by choosing brands that respect ethical principles.

Next time you shop, remember your choices matter. Embrace a lifestyle change towards sustainable fashion and let Outerknown show you how style can harmoniously coexist with sustainability. Fashion choices define more than your style; they define your values. In this era of conscious consumerism, it’s essential to remember that every purchase is a vote for the world you want to see tomorrow.

So what are you waiting for? Explore a new realm of casual yet solid style with Outerknown.

Looking for more ethical fashion?

For more sustainable brands to fill in your wardrobe gaps, check out over 100 fully vetted brands in our Brand Guide.


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