In 2014, Kelly Slater created a popular sustainable surfwear brand, Outerknown, and later in 2016, a world-class progressive surfboard brand aptly named Slater Designs. He revolutionized the wave pool industry with the Surf Ranch — the world’s most immaculate manmade wave. And, he’s done it all while competing at the top of the championship tour for more than 3 decades.
Now, Slater’s introducing KLLY, a footwear brand that launched today with a pair of flip flops, the first of a handful of styles expected to roll out this year. We got our hands on one of the first pairs to check it out.
KLLY, which are now available direct to consumers in the U.S. and Canada, arrived on my doorstep yesterday, and out of the box I knew they’d become favorites. The light, cushy sole is thick without being bulky. The straps are sturdy and soft, lined with foam and rooted securely in the sole. The fit feels unimposing and natural, while at the same time stout, and a walk around the house in them feels better than going barefoot.
Soles With Bloom Technology
Slater’s new slippers employ Bloom technology, a process that pairs recycled materials with algae, providing a more sustainable alternative to traditional petroleum oil- or plastic-based footwear constructions. Bloom’s foam was initially discovered by a group using algae to help remove harmful levels of phosphorus and ammonia from industrial and agricultural wastewater.
When the founders realized that the material underwent a plasticization process placed under heat, pressure, and time, they inadvertently stumbled upon a new material — perfect for making flip-flops. Roll that material into a pair of KLLY sandals, and Slater is essentially lessening the surf industry’s carbon footprint.
According to KLLY, the process to make one pair of sandals using Bloom technology cleans 52 L of water (restored to the environment). It also purifies 82 cubic meters of air, while only producing 52 g of carbon dioxide. To verify these claims, Bloom commissioned a peer-reviewed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) that attests their material produces 20-41% fewer impacts compared to the EVA foam used in most sandals (again, according to Bloom).
Stylistically, the coolest part about KLLYs new slides is also the most peculiar. The design stems from Slater’s fascination with the relationship between the moon and the sea. The top sole mirrors the moon’s surface while the bottom/outsole represents turtle scales.
As the story goes, Slater is captivated by the way the moon’s gravitational pull generates tides in the ocean, connecting the moon, the surf, and its sea creatures. Turtles have an uncanny connection to the moon, with 13 large scales that apparently represent the 13 moons in each year, and 28 smaller scales that represent the moon’s monthly cycle.
With their turtle print tread and moon-textured top, KLLY’s sandals are a tribute to these coexisting forces. From an aesthetic standpoint, the whole thing works.
Taking Matters Into His Own Hands
Beyond its eco themes, KLLY exemplifies a surf industry trend that defies traditional norms. Rather than partnering with department store sponsors that historically monopolize surfers and their sport, Slater is creating his own brands.
The same can be said for Dane Reynolds, a man hailed as the most creative surfer of all time. In 2017 he founded Former, a respected label in surfing counterculture. In 2021, two-time world champ John John Florence launched Florence, a Hawaiian surfing and sailing brand that makes some of the highest quality technical gear in the game. And in 2022, former world tour surfer Julian Wilson started Rivvia, an apparel brand gaining traction in Australia.
Among them all, Slater’s sustainable apparel brand, Outerknown, was the first, and something tells me KLLY won’t be the last. As a fan of the above athletes, I can appreciate this evolution in the industry.
Price & Availability
A pair of KLLY sandals will set you back $89, which might seem a bit steep for flip-flops. But to me, the causes they support make the price tag more palatable. On a meta level, Slater’s new algae slippers seem to represent bigger messages that he is sending to the surf industry, influencing it to go against the corporate grain and encouraging surfers to nurture the environment that gives them their lifestyle.
At just 51 years old, it’s hard to find a stone in the surf industry that Slater’s left unturned.Learn More at KLLY