Shopping for boardshorts can be very overwhelming, especially deciding from hundreds of different styles and from countless brands. If you are trying to be a conscious consumer, I would highly recommend looking into the Outerknown Apex Trunks. Outerknown is a company started by surf legend Kelly Slater and is built around sustainability. They are transparent throughout their supply chain and are focusing on increasing the circularity of their materials. This sustainability does come at a premium though with the Apex Trunks costing $145. In this review you will see why Outerknown is a trustworthy and sustainably focused brand and why, if you have the means, you should support them.
The Apex Trunk is made out of 86% recycled polyester, 8% recycled spandex, 6% spandex with Quick Dry. The recycled polyester is made from 100% post consumer waste such as plastic water bottles. As nearly half of the world's clothing is made of polyester, finding a sustainable alternative is very important. Recycled polyester or rPET, has both pros and cons relative to virgin polyester. To begin with, recycling polyester plays a huge role in keeping plastics out of the landfills and the ocean. According to the NGO Ocean Conservancy, 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate in marine environments. So any way that this flow of plastic into the oceans can be lessened is very valuable. Another pro of rPET is that it is almost identical to virgin polyester in quality and only marginally weaker in strength. This means that polyester can be recycled many times before the fibers become too weak, exponentially increasing the lifetime of this non-renewable resource. The Swiss Federal Office for the Environment did a study in 2017 that concluded that rPET 59% less energy to create than virgin polyester. It's also estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by 32% in comparison with conventional polyester. Although rPET is much more sustainable than virgin polyester, it still uses much more energy to produce than hemp, wool, or cotton. I do understand that for some types of products, like boardshorts, synthetic materials are preferred because of their quick drying and mobility but that doesn’t change the fact that these materials are inherently unsustainable. One last concern I have about the 14% of the short that is spandex is that if it is blended with the polyester, that makes it extremely difficult to recycle. This is because with current technology, separating heterogeneous fabric into its base components, which needs to be done to recycle, is almost impossible from a manufacturing standpoint.
Although Outerknown provides an extensive list of their production partners, I could not determine where the Apex Trunks are specifically produced. This made it impossible to investigate into the actual method of production as the only information provided on the website was that the trunks were sewn in a fair trade certified factory. However, I do not think that Outerknown is trying to hide anything due to the fact that they provide the name and address of all of their manufacturers. This is the highest level of transparency I have ever seen from a company but would suggest that they find a way to link their specific products to a specific factory to achieve 100% transparency. Another thing worth mentioning in this section is that in their sustainability strategy document, Outerknown emphasizes that they are encouraging their partners to integrate renewable energy into their production factories.
Outerknown was founded by 11 time world champion, arguably GOAT surfer, Kelly Slater. On the website there is a section with a message from Kelly about why he started the company. The first paragraph reads, “Sustainability is not a marketing slogan or something we take lightly. Sustainability is literally who we are. Sustainability is why the company exists.” This is a bold statement, but Outerknown backs it up. Aside from the aforementioned transparency about their supply chain, the website provides extensive information into sustainability initiatives the company has, and plans to institute. Before even selling a single product, Outerknown was already deep into the process of pursuing Fair Labor Association accreditation. They were very soon after, FLA approved faster than any brand in history. Outerknown also addresses the faults of the linear economy in their sustainability strategy report and outlines their plan to “embrace circular models”. By 2025 their goal is to make 75% of their fabric as well as 50% of their products circular and by 2030 they plan to have 100% of their products be circular. This is an ambitious goal but it shows me that they understand the problems of their company not being circular and are looking to solve them. In their strategy report they also mention how they want to be leaders and for other companies in the realms of sustainability and circularity. Another thing worth mentioning is all of their textile suppliers are Bluesign certified. These commitments to sustainability and fixing reimagining the economy earns them a good rating.