Friend of the People: An Interview John Moore of Outerknown
Arvin Goods and Outerknown were bound to cross paths eventually.
Both brands set out to create sustainable essentials that were suited for everyday life, and ended up setting their sights a little higher — by trying to change the way we think about waste in the apparel industry.
When we were first getting Arvin off the ground, we looked to John Moore, the legendary Creative Director of Outerknown, as a huge source of inspiration.
His effortlessly cool sense of style and sharp eye for design have helped guide Outerknown in creating lasting collections that serve a real purpose, all while minimizing waste and building cleaner manufacturing systems.
As Moore puts it, “We all talk about great quality and craftsmanship – well, sustainability must be the benchmark of great quality moving forward.”
A few months ago, we teamed up on a limited-edition batch of naturally indigo tie-dyed socks — and it got us wondering how else we could experiment with natural dyes and creating our own colorways.
For our latest partnership, we put a spin on our classic Crew Sock style by creating a handful of limited-edition colors using our all-natural plant dyed process.
The colors in this collection are all sourced from things found in nature.
We sat down with John Moore to talk about our new collaboration, what excites him about the future of plant-dying, and what he thinks is next for Outerknown.
What first inspired the idea for Outerknown? Was sustainability something that brand always set out to strive for?
"Smashing the formula of how we make clothes is why we exist. This was 100% Kelly’s desire from day one, and hopefully I’ve been a good wingman on the design side of things. Now there are 50 of us learning new ways to build better every day."
How did you first meet Kelly? Any good stories from those early days?
"We collaborated previously. Too many good stories and trips. One of the best memories is just sitting on the floor in the studio in the earliest days – Kelly, Jeff, Terry and myself just dreaming of what this could be."
“We knew we had to do something with Arvin Goods based on our shared values, quality, and comfort. Just made sense.”
What drew you to Arvin Goods as a partner? Tell us a little bit about the indigo tie-dye collection. What was your favorite part of that collaboration?
"Jasen and I have been buddies for a while and he introduced me to the gang and sent me some damn good socks! I’m usually a sandals guy, but I wore the socks he sent me daily and started wearing sneakers again. Ha. I passed some pairs to my teammates, and we knew we had to do something with Arvin Goods based on our shared values, quality, and comfort. Just made sense. With the indigo tie-dye collection, it was right at the beginning of the pandemic. We were all spending time at home, wearing a lot of socks to stay cozy, and started talking about tie-dye and other DIY ideas to keep us busy, and then you guys just got nuts and decided to hand make the indigo dipped socks yourself. So glad you did!"
When you’re designing a new piece, do you typically start with the material or does it begin with a concept? The S.E.A. Jeans collection felt like a very intentional decision to tackle something that traditionally is one of the worst polluters in an attempt to create a more sustainable alternative.
"Everything starts with a concept. A material or other form of inspiration might spark an idea, but then that idea becomes an entire concept. The concept drives the design and development process and ultimately becomes the story we tell when we deliver the product.
With S.E.A. JEANS, we wanted to build the best blue jeans in the world in terms of fit, quality, fabric and detail, and that also means that (besides wearing vintage) they must be the most sustainable jeans you can buy. We all talk about great quality and craftsmanship – well, sustainability must be the benchmark of great quality moving forward."
Outerknown maintains close relationships with all of their suppliers—from Peru, to China, and Mexico. What do you think those tight-knit relationships allow you to achieve together? How do you go about seeking new suppliers and brand partners?
"Yes, we have a close relationship with all of our makers all over the world, and celebrate their stories along with ours. Our strict sustainability standards come with no compromise and our sourcing team led by Meg, Josh and Lexi are selecting suppliers based on their shared commitment to the planet and the wellbeing of the great people making our clothes."
"Many of our supplier relationships are also fair trade certified which means we pay an additional premium directly to the workers which they can use to help address important local needs."
"We all talk about great quality and craftsmanship – well, sustainability must be the benchmark of great quality moving forward."
What excites you the most about this new Arvin Goods collection? Do you have a favorite colorway? How do you see plant-dye fitting into the future of sustainability?
"Too hard to choose. I like them all together. I’m thinking that acorn grey that almost feels like blue will get a lot of traction in my day-to-day, but I like the idea of the madder & sappen wood pink socks to wear with some Lavender eco-canvas VANS I just got. Getting adventurous. LOL. I had to look up madder by the way."
How has having children of your own affected the feeling of urgency around the climate and sustainability issues you and Outerknown are looking to help solve?
"I look my kids in the eyes every day and think about their future. Many of my teammates also have kids. And you can assume every decision we make from our food purchases, travel decisions, the home we live in, and the brands we support beyond Outerknown are all driven by this desire to leave the planet so much better than we found it for generations to come."
Are you hopeful about the future of sustainability in the fashion industry? Or do you see many of these initiatives as greenwashing and attempts to capitalize on the movement without committing fully?
"I’m very hopeful. I’ve seen so much positive change in the seven plus years we’ve been working. And I believe this pandemic has given our industry great perspective and there’s really only one path forward – the responsible one!"
"Sure, there’s varying levels of commitment, but we all need to start somewhere, and hopefully the good intent will drive innovation and become the new way of working. The best part of voting with our dollars and everything we share on social media is that these factors will continue to keep us honest. If brands aren’t being planet-friendly, you can stop supporting them. Get enough people on that tip, and watch what happens."
What’s next for Outerknown? Is there something you would love to see the brand accomplish, or that you personally would love to have a hand in designing?
"Big question. So many ideas. The team has a vision for some really cool retail opportunities next year that I’m looking very forward to designing in an unexpected way!"
Had to add in this recent shot of John getting covered up at The Surf Ranch