Three surfboards lay on the floor of John Moore’s office. Above, a monitor streamed the Billabong Pro Tahiti from Teahupo’o, and mood boards for upcoming clothing lines decorated the walls. Tacked to the boards were pictures of Yohji Yamamoto in knee-length board shorts, as well as images of exotic textiles and prints, old postcards and washed-out photos. “I’m very analog in my process,” Moore said. “I’m always pinning stuff up.”
Moore grew up in Westlake Village, north of Los Angeles, and learned to surf at a young age. Surfing connected him to the ocean, laying the groundwork for his current role as co-founder, along with pro surfer Kelly Slater, of the sustainable clothing brand Outerknown. “Surfers are, by nature, environmentalists,” Moore said. “It’s in our best interest to keep the oceans clean, the earth healthy, so we can go out and enjoy waves.” When Slater approached Moore to create the brand, Moore hopped on board, bringing with him a wealth of experience in the business, along with the drive to find better manufacturing processes for clothing. “It’s one thing to think about the things you personally are touching,” Moore said. “It’s a whole other thing to think about all the inputs: the raw materials, the growing process, the dyeing process. You actually have to get down to the root of all those things to truly drive change, because a lot of the impact, in terms of fashion, happens at the materials level.”
“You actually have to get down to the root of all those things to truly drive change, because a lot of the impact, in terms of fashion, happens at the materials level.”
Back in college, Moore fell in love with the printmaking process. “It was like building art, not creating,” Moore said. As a junior, he took an internship at Eileen West, a traditional women’s apparel company in San Francisco, where he participated in pattern design and learned the business. “I saw through that experience that I could build clothing kind of like I could build prints.” After graduating, Moore moved to Los Angeles and took a job at streetwear brand FreshJive. “We sketched, we designed, we pitched and developed our own print patterns. We did our own graphics, labels and trims, and then ultimately we would develop the product, fit the product, work on the finishing.”
Before Moore’s 24th birthday, Abercrombie & Fitch approached him to head their new California lifestyle brand, Hollister. Under Moore’s leadership Hollister became hugely successful, and Abercrombie eventually promoted Moore to Senior Director of Global Concept. After seven years, the near-constant travel wore on Moore, and he left to take a position at Modern Amusement, a clothing brand based in Santa Monica. He stayed at Modern Amusement for four years, but then missed the buzz of retail he had with Abercrombie. “You pick something up along the way, and then when you don’t have it, if you love it, you need to get back to it.”
Though wearability is key for Moore, responsible manufacturing is the heart of the brand.
Early in 2008, Moore founded the brand engineering agency Pencil on Paper Studio. “It was a great time to be going into this vision-for-hire game, because no one wanted to invest in their own people or products because they weren’t selling anything,” Moore said. “If anything, they wanted cheaper advice from the outside.” POP’s client list grew by the month and included brands ranging from Pepsi and Nordstrom to Lucky Brand and Kenneth Cole Reaction. “The POP Studio was a canvas; we wanted to surround ourselves with artists and really talented creatives and just build things,” Moore said. “Those next few years were awesome because we were helping brands climb their way out of the recession, and we were launching new businesses.”
In 2013, Slater sought out Moore and the two began work on launching their own product. The result, Outerknown, offers garments that are understated, casual and easily incorporated into any wardrobe. Though wearability is key for Moore, responsible manufacturing is the heart of the brand. “Sustainability and responsible processes in any industry are really an investment that we all make together,” he said.
Despite the creative whirlwind surrounding him, Moore maintains a calm confidence. Along with managing client services for POP, taking on personal projects and heading up design for Outerknown, he still finds time to spend with his family and get in the water. It’s his children, and their future, who give him the fortitude to pursue Outerknown’s sustainable mission. “I hope we, being a small company, can inspire a lot of bigger companies that have a lot more impact than we do,” Moore said. “We may or may not be successful here, but if we can be a part of bringing that change into the world, that would be very meaningful.”
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