Surf brands have had a rough time of it in the last few years, with Billabong declaring its own brand "worthless" and Rip Curl's owners looking to make an exit but incapable of doing so in a market that "looks like a bit of a cesspit."
So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that Kering, the parent company of brands like Balenciaga and Stella McCartney, would choose to enter that world now. But as first reported by Business of Fashion, it is -- in the form of a new venture with pro surfer Kelly Slater, who has been sponsored by Quiksilver since 1990.
A Kering representative confirmed the partnership with us, noting that the company will support Slater in the launch and development of his own apparel brand and can lend help in operations areas including sourcing, logistics and e-commerce. The partnership also means that Slater will be an ambassador for Kering and will be involved in certain sustainability-related initiatives.
Details on what this new brand will look like are few. As Slater wrote on his Facebook page, "For years I've dreamt of developing a brand that combines my love of clean living, responsibility and style. The inspiration for this brand comes from the people and cultures I encounter in my constant global travels and this is my opportunity to build something the way I have always wanted to."
Notably, the word "surf" was absent from his description. Although Kering owns Volcom and Electric, which are built around surf and snowboarding culture, it seems that it's taking care to position Slater's brand as tangential to surf but not using the sport as its bedrock.
As Business of Fashion chronicled back in September, surf brands like Quiksilver and Billabong have struggled because of competition from fast fashion companies like H&M and Zara. They've also lost cultural capital as they've become more mainstream and alienated their original customers, surfers. Kering is of course well aware of this, so we'll be watching to see how it chooses to brand Slater's new venture and what kind of customers it attempts to attract.
Note: This article was updated to include information from Kering on the nature of the partnership between it and Slater.