Surfing legend John John Florence raised eyebrows last February when he gave up a lucrative, multi-year contract with ubiquitous surf brand Hurley. Rumors were circulating as to whether he would sign with another surfing giant such as Billabong or Quicksilver, or even a more mainstream sports brand such as Nike.
So when the two-time world champion announced last summer that he was launching his own clothing brand, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s another surf brand, you know. Instead, he called his new company Florence Marine X to give him flexibility beyond surfing.
“I don’t see it as just a surf brand,” says Florence, currently on a World Surf League tour of Western Australia. “I see it as an outdoors brand, based around the ocean. I don’t think of this in terms of surfing in any way. In my one life alone I am in the ocean in so many different ways like so many people be it kayaking, diving, sailing or fishing. All of these ways people enjoy the ocean is the idea that I’m building. “
The idea behind encouraging people to enjoy the ocean is also to promote respect for it and the effect of human behavior on their health. Sustainable fashion is a growing trend in the industry. Florence hopes her brand will help people understand why sustainability is so important.
After more than a year of planning and design, Florence Marine X is launching its first series of products this week. The line includes T-shirts ($ 30), hats ($ 30), board shorts ($ 70) and wetsuits ($ 750), many of which are created using reused fabric from waste factory. Brands like Patagonia are a source of inspiration, for the way they build their products and operate responsibly. For Florence, making its initial products with recycled materials and those that can biodegrade over time is a starting point, with the aim of expanding its use of sustainably produced products in the future.
The brand is launching with a membership program called Florence Marine X Society. A one-time registration cost of $ 20 gives you lifetime access (and $ 20 credit to your account), with perks like 10% rewards on purchases, limited edition products, first-time access to new products and exclusive content. Some of the members will go towards revolving initiatives, which will start with the SeaTrees mangrove project.
Regarding the brand’s design, Florence said she asked her team to follow two words. “I’m not a big fan of the big logos on your face, so it was about keeping things clean and simple,” he says.
In recent years, surf pros Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds have launched smaller surf brands (Outerknown and Former, respectively), but the surfing world is largely dominated by a handful of big brands that have been around for decades, such as Billabong, Quicksilver, O’Neill and Rip Curl. Two-time world champion Florence is one of the most recognizable names in the sport, which will only get bigger when surfing makes its Olympic debut with Florence at the forefront of the American squad.
Florence Marine X is a partnership with Bob Hurley’s new company, Kandui Holdings. Hurley started what would become a Southern California uniform brand in the 90s, before selling it to Nike in 2002. Nike then sold Hurley in 2019. The forced lockdowns and tour stop the World Surf League last year gave Florence time and free space. to focus on building a new business “Now it feels like we’re at the fun part, designing clothes, working with the team, and it doesn’t feel like a stressful effort or a distraction », Says Florence. “We’ve been in Australia for almost two months, with meetings twice a week, but they actually energize me, rather than take me away.”
It is Florence’s attempt to build something that will survive her professional career and grow beyond her sport. He cites one of his own sponsors, Yeti, as an example of a brand that can get people going out without tying it to a specific activity. This approach will undoubtedly allow Florence Marine X to reach a large consumer base, whether surf and surfwear are popular or not. As surfing has experienced a boom fueled by a pandemic, in recent years Quicksilver has declared bankruptcy (2015), and Billabong and Rip Curl have been acquired amid declining sales.
By diversifying the potential audience, Florence is banking on the popularity of nautical activities and on a general shift towards environmental awareness. In 2019, 75% of consumers said sustainability was important to them. “Marine X” is short for marine exploration, the kind that brings people together with the ocean and the outdoors, whether it’s for an epic adventure or just to find a new local place. Florence hopes the exploration will encourage people to think more about the impact of their lifestyle choices on the ocean. “You can tell someone to stop using plastic bottles, but it usually goes through one ear and the other,” he says. “But when you experience the ocean in a deep way, you can create a deeper respect and concern.”