Global fashion powerhouse MR PORTER has just launched an exclusive capsule collection that honors the rich history and tradition of surf culture across the globe. Gone Surfin’ launched globally on Monday July 6, 2020. The series of exclusive capsule collections feature’s 15 brands, including; James Perse, Faherty, Saturday’s NYC and The Elder Statesman. Each collaborator has tapped into their own unique take on surfer style and spirit, and together, they comprise MR PORTER’s nod to the ritualistic sport and subculture.
MR PORTER’s Buying Director, Sam Kershaw, says of the collection;
“In our celebration of surf culture, we collaborated with an expansive and defining group of surf-minded partners, each with their own unique voice, history and engagement with the surfing lifestyle. The collection is wide-ranging and the appeal is universal; both for our customers who are surf zealots through to those who like to embrace the casual style.”
We chatted with Mr Sam Kershaw, MR PORTER, Buying Director & Brett Reynolds, President and Head of Product at Birdwell, and got the low-down on these exclusive surfn’ collaboration’s and collection’s.
Q&A with Mr Sam Kershaw, MR PORTER, Buying Director
- What is unique about MR PORTER’s Gone Surfin’ collection?
At MR PORTER, there are few reoccurring style inspirations that capture our imaginations quite like the surfer and the surf lifestyle. Perhaps we’re drawn to the Zen-like calling or the relationship with the elements. Most certainly it’s the paradisal surfing meccas and the casual, chilled-out utilitarian style of dress and way of life.
If you look back to 1960s and 1970s, the surfer lifestyle was considered counter-culture. The rogue spirit of the surfer, the nomad who spent his days chasing the next best wave, it’s his calling (and the clothes) that we wanted to explore with this collection and campaign.
With the vital support of our partner brands, many of which have steeped relationship with the practice, we’ve brought the concept to life through 15 individual capsules. The result is an honorific collection that represents what we love about the iconic and idyllic surfer and his style.
- How did the project come about? Why choose to focus on surf style specifically?
One thing we at MR PORTER like to do is to zero in on a provenance or a vibe and assemble a group of brands that best represent or inform a certain inspiration or feeling. Take for example past multi-brand capsules, “Made in California” and “The Japan Edit”.
Once we tap into that idea, we develop an all-encompassing and well-rounded collection of exclusive product so as to best portray the vision of the inspiration. As we reach peak summer, our aim is to provide our customers with a unique and thoughtful offering that celebrates surf from the leading voices in the category.
- Can you tell us more about surfer style as a trend?
While surfing has been around for centuries, modern-day surfer style was born during the 1960s and 1970s, what some refer to as the golden age of surfing. Look at the surf gods from that time – Messrs Miki Dora, Terry Fitzgerald and Nat Young – each surfer had his own individual style, but embodied an unspoken renegade attitude. You see that same instinct in modern-day surfers such as Mr Kelly Slater or our campaign star, Mr Mikey February.
For me, there is no one singular descriptor of surfer style. Rather, it is that untenable spirit that has inspired and defined the trend for decades
- How did the design process work? Was there a lead on the creative or was it more a meeting of minds?
Creating Gone Surfin’ was a meeting of the minds between MR PORTER and our 15 partner brands. We tasked each partner in coming up with a collection that both encapsulates surfer style and showcased what they stand for as a brand. The result is an extraordinary 194-piece capsule that celebrates one of the most exciting trends in the menswear market right now.
- How did you decide on which brands to work with?
Each of these brands have surfing in their DNA. From heritage brands such as Birdwell and Reyn Spooner, who have been manufacturing wares since the 1960s, to newer players including Outerknown and Pilgrim Surf + Supply, each partner has contributed to the evolution of surfer style. We felt all these brands would add an original perspective, while also introducing phenomenal product.
- Which are your key pieces in the collection that you’d like to shout about? Why?
With a collection spanning 194 pieces and 15 different brands, it’s hard to pick a favourite, but here are a few.
- Mr Greg Chait of The Elder Statesman created these stunningtie-dye sprayed canvas shorts. To me they are the perfect “après-surf” pair of shorts.
- Aside from a surfboard, nothing says surfing quite like a wetsuit. For Gone Surfin’, Saturdays NYC created this fantastic wetsuit top. Being well dressed in the water is just as important as it is on land.
- I love these gold and yellow striped board shorts from Birdwell. Birdwell has been manufacturing boardshorts in California since the 1960s. When you buy these board shorts, you know you’re buying into surf history.
- Mr John Moore of Outerknown turned to Mr Bruce Brown’s film Surfing Hollow Days and emblazoned the brand’s signature “blanket shirts” with vintage-inspired Surfing Hollow Days patches. They’re unlike anything Outerknown has designed before.
Brett Reynolds, President and Head of Product at Birdwell
- Tell us the inspiration and backstory to this collection.
This collection celebrates the surf lifestyle – from your morning surf session to lounging on the beach to talking story around the evening bonfire. The collection reinterprets our classic silhouettes – the original board shorts, cord shorts, competition jacket, and Baja hoodie among others – offered with a modern twist in fun, seasonal colors. We dove into our archives to collaborate with the Mr. Porter team on a collection that is timeless, quality-driven, and well-suited for a life in and out of the water.
- How does it reflect surf style and culture?
As one of the originals in the industry, everything we do reflects surf style and culture… we sold our first pair of board shorts to Newport Beach lifeguards in 1961. Our brand is rooted in the Southern California coastal lifestyle and our product has always been purpose-built for making the most of days spent in the sun, sand, and saltwater. This collection is all about the essential items every surfer needs, updated for the stylish, well-traveled and well-lived Mr. Porter man.
- What does partnering with MR PORTER on the Gone Surfin’ project mean to you?
It’s an honor to partner with Mr. Porter, a brand that has established itself as the leading global retail destination for men’s style. We are pleased to be among such distinguished brands as Mr. Porter offers their customers a view into the surf lifestyle, an ethos and community we’ve had the privilege to be part of for nearly 60 years.
- What is unique and identifiable about your brand in general, and how have you incorporated it into the MR PORTER Gone Surfin’ collection?
We are proud to be one of the pioneers of the board short and the surf apparel industry overall. Everything that we do today is informed by six decades designing and manufacturing purpose-built apparel and accessories in our Southern California factory. We are craftsmen and women with a longstanding commitment to quality. We are lucky enough to be able to draw from such a rich history in surf, beach culture, our own archives, and die-hard loyalists, who continue to provide feedback that informs product evolution. For this collection, we keep to our classic silhouettes, which are as relevant today as they’ve ever been. Collaborations like this one with Mr. Porter also allow us to push the envelope a bit with design and colorways; but for us, everything is rooted in the classics.
- Is there a specific design philosophy you follow?
There’s a family business heart-and-soul, handmade ethos at the foundation of everything we do. “Quality Is Our Gimmick,” is not just a slogan, it’s a commitment we honor with every material we source and stitch we sew. Before we even start a new design for a product, we ask ourselves: Does this need to exist? For what task is it built? Will it last to perform that task for years, even decades to come? And is it aesthetically classic, timeless? These questions are the tenets of what we call “purpose-built” design.
- What do you consider the stand-out pieces of your collection and why?
310 Yellow w/Vertical Stripes
Inspired by a fun 70’s vibe, the warm and happy colors scream, “summer is here!” With an above the knee hem, they are perfect for action in the water or soaking up the sun on the beach or poolside.
310 Paradise – White
The tropical print puts you in mood for fun in and out of the water. The 310 Paradise is constructed with authentic Birdwell DNA to keep that fun going for many summers to come.
Corduroy is back! The Cord Shorts are classic, California style that wears well wherever you go and will patina as they travel with you through the decades.
The Terry Polo offers an ultra-comfortable fit and versatile style finished with Birdwell’s signature attention to design detail, allowing you to effortlessly transition from the beach to the bar with confidence.
Words by Arrnott Olssen