From my portfolio

Surfwear Firms Expand Their Markets (OCM)

Posted on 31 October 2009 by admin (0)

Picture 1In the wide world of design and fashion, a band of suntanned entrepreneurs have carved out a multi-billion dollar niche. Huntington Beach and Irvine have become the Milan and Paris of the surf apparel industry.

Cheeky models and brooding hunks may strut spotlighted European runways wearing the newest in high fashion from Versace, Hugo Boss, and Gucci. But it is along Orange County’s meandering 42-mile shoreline that the styles and designs that define surfwear worldwide are dreamed up. From boardshorts to sundresses to sandals, the casual wear from Quiksilver, O’Neill, Hurley and others who call Orange County home have revolutionized casual wear from sea to sea and many zip codes in between.

The industry began in the 1950s with a handful of surfboard shapers designing T-shirts promoting their boards. But as the allure of the ocean and its laid-back lifestyle has grown, so has the pursuit of the comfortable beach style.

Entrepreneurs such as Bob McKnight, Kelly Gibson, and Bob Hurley sensed the trend and today are riding a wave of prosperity only dreamed about when Brian Wilson first wrote the quintessential surf tune “California Girls.”

The surf apparel capital today is Orange County, a sun drenched slice of Southern California where major companies are breaking sales records and tripling in size in recent years.

Quiksilver, based in Huntington Beach, was the first manufacturer to reach $1 billion in annual sales. Anaheim-based Pacific Sunwear is the world’s largest specialty surf retailer and is expected to reach $1.2 billion in sales this year. O’Neill Clothing, in Irvine, has grown from 50 employees to 150 in just three years. The growth has been explosive. It may not be headline news to those inside the marketing and design departments at local surfwear firms. But Wall Street and mainstream apparel companies like Gap and Abercrombie and Fitch have certainly taken notice and have tried to catch the same retail wave in recent years. In fact, total surfwear sales hit $4.14 billion in 2003, a staggering 25 percent increase in less than a year, according to the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association (SIMA). Read more…

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