On The Wire Podcast – John Moore is Kelly Slater’s Creative Partner at Outerknown

Hear this episode of The Wire Podcast:

On iTunes here.

On Stitcher here.

On most days near his home in Venice, John Moore rides a Go Fish. But when he’s in Japan, the Baked Potato comes out for occasional floaters like this one.

John Moore’s magic fits into a single sentence: Without John, the world’s most authentic surf brand wouldn’t exist today, and neither would the world’s least authentic surf brand.

John went to Art School as a surfer from California in the 90’s. His intention was to study painting and printmaking. Designing clothing never crossed his mind.

But John was so talented that Abercrombie and Fitch wanted him. He was recruited heavily. The pitches came and he ignored them. And then one day he allowed the opportunity take him and he proceeded to create the look and feel of Hollister Surf Co.

John Moore and Kelly Slater on the edge of what is known.

It was years later in 2011 that he resurrected M. Nii. These are the initials of a 1940’s tailor from Waianae Hawaii who made the world’s first surf specific shorts for surfers. Think about that – a tiny tailor; M. Nii was the first mover in what has now become the defacto poolside fashion for kids in Montana and adults in France – board shorts.

See, John’s craft is creating things out of thin air and also employing a keen eye for the interesting. His superpower is taking whatever crazy idea you have and actually creating the thing.

Because of this, he’s uncommonly impactful in the act of designing board shorts and living spaces and human experiences. Visual landscapes even. He can discuss the jacket and the pants. And the way their fabric print compliment the skin tone of a model as she stands in front of a camera. And he’ll actually know what he is talking about.

This is why surf brands like Quiksilver have consulted him for input and opinions on the design of swimwear and clothing and the creation of entire brands. It’s how he and Kelly Slater became friends and collaborators.

Cork boards function as creative maps for John Moore. Behind him in this photo is one of many that line the walls of his studio in Culver City, CA.

Today, John is the Creative Director at Outerknown. The brand he and Kelly created to represent travel, sustainability, and style. And this episode will keep your ear close to the speaker for more than an hour. Because John’s story is an example of the incredible control someone can have over the way they live their life and the things they spend their time doing.

John is a potent case study for creatives and surfers and anyone else who is interested in living a life that is self-directed because of how simple his recipe is:

– Get in tune with your talents and practice them.

– Leverage the opportunities of your youth towards the direction of where you want to end up.

– Relentlessly pursue the things that make you happy.

Who else can corral Kelly Slater to New York and into a black tie?

Today John is able to design the look and fit and feel of what he and Kelly think are the best board shorts in surfing.

He also is free to decide what materials go into the board shorts he makes.

For example, he and Kelly decided to make some of their board shorts with zero stretch material, because it allows them to be fully recyclable – they’re made entirely from Econyl. A nylon product that is fabricated mostly from discarded fishing nets.

Outerknown’s Evolution Trunk – built from fishing nets and other nylon waste.
Johns’ hands explore the fishing nets that can become the surf trunks you wear.

In this episode, John shares details of what it was like to visit the Econyl factory with kelly.

The factory is in Slovenia and the details of what they found there sound more like ‘Indiana Jones’ and less like ‘surf industry’. If you ask John, he’ll tell you he’s got a lot of friends in the surf industry, but he’s not part of the surf Industry (to be fair he probably wouldn’t self-identify as Indiana Jones either).

John also doesn’t hold back when describing the bad news about being the one who has to ‘make the call’ as he puts it when being the final word on big decisions at Outerknown. But the news is mostly good…

His position at Outerknown and Group Efforts allows him to do things like the Give Back Box, which you’ve already experienced yourself if you’ve brought pieces of Outerknown into your home.

The Give Back Box is an invitation that arrives alongside the shirt or pants or whatever you buy from Outerknown.com. and it contains three steps:

1. Look around the house for clothes and goods you no longer need.
2. Fill THIS box with those items, instead of a garbage bin.
3. Print a shipping label at www.givebackbox.com/outerknown and mail THIS box to Goodwill for free.

The Give Back Box. Familiar to anyone who has brought Outerknown into their home.

It’s a trip for anyone who has experienced it because you don’t expect it. A box comes in the mail and when you take your trunks or your t-shirt out of it, you can fill it up with any of your old clothing that you don’t want, and like magic, it ends up being worn by someone else.

It’s things like this that make the Outerknown experience unique among the many others who want to tie your torso in clothing because Outerknown places sustainability and social responsibility at the center of everything they do. John and his team cite the team at Patagonia as playing a sort of mentorship role in Outerknown, and it’s clear there is a lot more going on in Culver City than just fashion.

See, as an outsider who looks into John’s mind in this episode, it seems like he doesn’t view a website as something that sells clothing. He views it as a path for all of us to feel what our next trip might look like, or even as a vehicle that can lessen our harsh impact on the earth – for example by wearing clothing that is repurposed from waste or by preventing our old clothing from becoming waste.

Always pulled towards family – John leaves the studio at 6:00 PM for dinner every day with his girlfriend of 15 years and their two children. No matter what is going on at work.

There amount of nuggets you’ll uncover in this episode make it worth mining:

– Why you shouldn’t fuck with love.

– How John developed the confidence that allows him to show his creations to the world.

– John’s toolkit for dealing with the judgment of others.

– Real life, hard evidence of what can happen when someone relentlessly pursues what makes them happy.

– The things Kelly Slater finds most important when it comes to board short design, and what it’s like when Kelly criticizes a coat you’ve designed because the buttons don’t look right.

– The best place to get tacos in Venice.

– The Piece of Outerknown that John wants to give you for free.

– How John Developed the confidence that allows him to show his creations to the world.

– John’s toolkit for dealing with the judgment of others.

– Why he may have photos of YOU on his iPhone (really).

John holds one of his favorites in his Venice, CA backyard. The Go Fish by Rob Machado.

Get deeper into your own creative side and trip with us in this episode of The Wire Podcast.

Listen on iTunes here.

And Stitcher here.