Surf Expo Offers Launch Pad for Summer 2024 and Beyond
Last week’s Surf Expo September edition offered brands the chance to test retailer appetite for newness.
The timing was just right, about a week after the official close of the Boardriders portfolio’s sale to Authentic Brands Group as many buyers continued a quest to diversify their store floors.
What follows are just some of the launches SES saw at Surf Expo that reflect business and brand growth, whether that be evolution of new lines or product innovation as brands respond to the always changing consumer landscape.
Here’s a glimpse of some of what SES came across on last week’s trade show floor.
What: Bless Up shirt dress.
Key Details: About a year ago Roark launched its women’s collection. Surf Expo offered a look at the progression of the women’s assortment, which Womens Brand Manager Dayna Cottee described as having matured into a more elevated and refined offering.
“This really embodies what we’re trying to do here,” said Cottee, pointing to the women’s Bless Up shirt dress with magnetic pockets and the general design philosophy of functional, yet stylish pieces.
The Roark booth was busy with more than 70 appointments booked for the Surf Expo show and plenty more walk-up business across the event’s three days.
“As we’ve grown the community of women, it’s really multi-faceted,” Cottee said of the brand’s fans, which spans everything from free divers and outdoor content creators to models and musicians.
What: Men’s Core Fit Performance Boardshort, women’s Heritage Boardshort.
Retail: Men’s shorts, $75; women’s, $70.
Key Details: Plenty’s happening in Rhythm’s business. The brand’s new, expanded booth size at Surf Expo offered a good physical representation of the growth it’s seeing.
“We’re experiencing a lot of momentum right now. We’re definitely in a growth phase,” said U.S. Sales Director Sean Fleuriau.
Rhythm was showing buyers pieces from its 2024 Indent Collection and year-round Classics staples across men’s and women’s, including an expanded boardshort offering with longer leg lengths Fleuriau said comes not just at the request of buyers but the market in general.
“This is really going to open us up to more people,” he said of the new length.
Also for summer 2024, women’s will see the launch of the Heritage boardshort, with a 13-inch outer seam, designed with Rhythm’s vintage aesthetic.
What: Legacy Glam hoodie.
Key Details: Last week marked Former’s second go at Surf Expo. The brand proved it’s made several strides since its show debut in January.
The line’s cut-and-sew pieces have expanded with new, interesting pieces such as a contrast collar button-up shirt and unique washes on basic T-shirts.
“People wanted to see if we could knock the training wheels off,” Sales Manager Chad Van Valkenburg told SES on Day 2 of the show.
The brand touts its rider-owned and operated model, with founders Craig Anderson, Austyn Gillette, and Dane Reynolds overseeing all aspects of branding and design – a plus for many who stopped by the Former booth at Surf Expo.
Said sales rep Connor Carpenter: “People have asked how involved are they, and I tell them everything runs through the founders.”
The Critical Slide Society
What: Everyday Chino and a button-down shirt from a new capsule featuring prints by French painter Lucas Beaufort.
Retail: Everyday Chino $70; Lucas Beaufort print shirt $65.
Key Details: Critical Slide Society made a big splash back into Surf Expo after several years away as it eyes a big push back into the North American market.
“It’s been a few familiar faces, but lots of new accounts stopping by,” said Brooks Riley, the North America head of brand who joined the company a little over a year ago. “It’s been really busy, and the line’s been doing well so far.”
The art- and surf-inspired brand had plenty to show from its Summer 2024 line to buyers in Orlando.
That included everything from longer boardshort lengths (an emerging trend it would seem from the show floor), a new oversized T-shirt fit, chino pants that launch next summer, and a capsule with Birdwell to be sold by Birdwell in the U.S.
Lotus & Luna
What: Master Healer 2mm bracelet and necklace.
Retail: $35 bracelet, $50 necklace.
Key Details: Lotus & Luna launched with jewelry and kimonos made by Thailand artisans.
It continues to build on heritage pieces made from an assortment of healing stones.
Two months ago, it rolled out a daintier, 2-millimeter version of the Master Healer jewelry franchise, showing it to buyers for the first time at Surf Expo.
Last week’s show offered the brand exposure to a number of retailers from the Caribbean as that region’s season gears up to start. That’s in addition to new faces to the brand, including a first-time visit from the drop ship buyer of Macy’s and an uptick in retailers from Hawaii stopping by the booth.
“I saw way more (buyers) from Hawaii than I have in a long time,” founder and CEO Janelle Clasby said.
That’s a nice set up with some of the Lotus & Luna team scheduled to be in Hawaii in a couple weeks for retailer meetings.
“A lot of our business is seasonal so we’re just trying to find other territories to expand, but also grow the company in a strategic way,” Clasby said. “The more cohesive we can stay as a company, the better it is.”
What: Flashbomb Fusion wetsuit.
Retail: Starting at $519.95 for the 3/2mm suit,
Key Details: After about a decade, and hundreds and hundreds of testing hours, Rip Curl was ready to debut the Flashbomb Fusion wetsuit in the U.S. market last week in Orlando.
The competitive landscape of the wetsuit market even prompted the R&D team to refer to it under the code name “Pony” until about a week before it first debuted in the Australian market earlier this year. Workers at Rip Curl’s factory in Thailand were enjoying beers after work one day, more specifically Pony-sized, seven-ounce bottles, which inspired the code name.
The Flashbomb Fusion uses a seamless technology throughout about 96% of the garment to guard against water leaks into the suit. The seams are joined at a 45-degree angle, versus the typical 90 degrees, meaning the seam covers a larger surface area than normal.
“The worst thing for a surfer is when you get that trickle of cold water coming through the wetsuit,” said Group General Manager of Product Nichol Wylie.
The new suit was the halo product in the Rip Curl booth, but the rest of the assortment on hand at Surf Expo underscored the company’s focus on serving the core.
“We’re so, so focused on our core products being wetsuits, boardshorts, swim, and tide watches,” Wylie said. “In addition to that, addressing the needs of color through progressive graphics. We want to have fun. We think the industry needs to be not just looking in the rearview mirror, but looking forward and trying to shake things up. So, we are doing that through creativity, but also innovation through our products.”
What: The RED (Rusty Experimental Division) collection.
Retail: Women’s Billie Low-Rise Ripstop Zip Off Skirt $75 and Rusty Rose Slim Fit Sleeveless Tank $28; Men’s Flip Daddy 2.0 jean short $65; Tasty Ice Polar Fleece Vest $70; and Road House Short Sleeve T-shirt $28.
Key Details: The late ’90s-, early aughts-inspired RED collection made its U.S. debut at Surf Expo last week after an initial launch in Australia this year.
The range offers a more fashion-forward take for the core surf label with jorts, fleece vests, cropped tanks, archival graphics, and utility pieces. RED strikes a balance between something for younger generations looking for vintage-inspired fashion and older consumers who may remember the original styles when they first launched.
“We want to create the buzz. We want to disrupt,” Rusty National Sales Manager Ryan Warner said, adding that buyer response to RED as of Day 1 of the show was positive.
What: Summer 2024 25th anniversary capsule.
Key Details: Hurley, at 2,500 square feet of trade show floor space, had plenty of room to show buyers its line.
The brand, whose signage could be spotted from just about any vantage point in the surf brand section of the trade show – it was the largest booth there – was busy with buyer meetings when SES stopped by on Day 1.
The company was showing the next release of its 25th anniversary collection for summer, pieces from next year’s Moore Aloha by Carissa Moore capsule, and new Americana-inspired pieces among other items inside its booth.
“It’s fun stuff,” said Christina Evans, vice president of product and merchandising for Hurley licensee United Legwear & Apparel Co. “We’ve got a good mix of both heritage pieces with our 25th anniversary collection and then we’re going a little more gritty with our Americana collection.”
What: Really Awesome Drinkwear (RAD) collection.
Retail: Eighteen styles starting at $19.95.
Key Details: Puffin’s assortment of apparel for drink containers continues to balloon as does its business.
Newly appointed CEO Tory Upham was on hand in Orlando last week to meet with buyers and show off the company’s Fall 2023 collection, in addition to Spring 2024.
“For fall, our RAD collection was a throwback to all things ’80s – fun sweaters, great colors. Think Trans Ams, arcades, and hairspray,” Upham said as he went through the line.
The CEO was tapped for the top spot in August, replacing interim CEO Scott Allan. The same day the company revealed Upham’s appointment, it also announced its No. 131 spot on the Inc. 5000 list of the U.S.’s fastest-growing private companies.
Puffin is distributed in roughly 4,500 doors, and last year saw 50% year-over-year growth in recurring revenue, according to Upham.
“We have a lot to live up to looking back, but also feel really positive about what’s ahead,” Upham said.
The business is projected to double revenue annually over the next few years.
For more coverage on Surf Expo September, click here.
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at email@example.com.