24 April 2013

The Gentleman Surfer

Written by Published in Fashion

‘For us, sustainability seems too general a term. We want to focus the entire product life into a perpetual 360 degree process,’ says Riz Smith, founder and creative mind behind Riz Board Shorts. He talks to Sublime about the gentleman surfer and responsible fashion

Riz SmithBored of baggy board shorts and dad swim trunks, Riz has created the idea of the gentleman surfer. The label’s beautifully designed board shorts, inspired by men’s tailoring, allow surfers to look cool on the board as well as at the bar having a beer afterwards. The hand-numbered shorts unite fashion, sports and sustainability. The best thing about Riz? A women’s range is launching this spring. 

Sublime: What inspired you to launch Riz Board Shorts?
Riz: It all started with a board short dilemma. I had been designing board shorts and beachwear for years for other brands and it was extremely apparent that there was a gap for something better. I was bored by brash, baggy board shorts and ill-fitting dad swim trunks that seemed to be the norm. There didn’t seem to be anything in between. So the Riz brand was born, with the simple desire to tailor the most beautiful, functional and sustainable board shorts possible. 

Slowly the worlds of performance sports, fashion and environmentalism are coming together. I think people want honesty, quality, style and reason behind the products they buy now.  

SHow do you come up with the beautiful designs of Riz Board Shorts?
Riz: The idea behind the prints came from giving a British twist to something typically tropical. Adding more sophisticated and illustrative patterns also seems a natural way to bring the surf scene up to date, as well as appeal to an older consumer. For the first season I was inspired by William Morris and this season its been mens tailoring and wallpaper designs. Essentially the shorts mix the functionality of surf with the styling of menswear. You want to look as cool on your board as you do when youre ordering a beer after, its simple.

SWhat does a usual working day of yours look like?
Riz: The great thing about running a small independent label is that the variety of work is huge! Most days are spent in ‘Sunny Cove Studios’ – Riz’ HQ – working on the short evolution. Whether it’s dealing with the factory, or connecting with stockists, building relationships with surfers and watermen, working on marketing plans, talking to customers etc. No day is like another – thank God.

If not in the studio, I teach design at London College of Fashion on the Sports Fashion course. It’s pretty cool to see what the future designers are into and I’m hopefully able to inspire them too. It definitely keeps you fresh. 

S Tell us more about the gentleman surfer.
Riz: The Gentleman Surfer symbolises the values that we aspire to and also those of the Riz customer. The gentleman is well mannered, well groomed, well read and romantic for example. The surfer is free spirited, fun, laid back, conscientious, humble. Together you get a stronger, more sophisticated, sensual character. I think that the two sides balance each other out beautifully and are really relevant to today’s audience and wants.

Riz rizcycle conceptSCan you tell us more about the concept of Rizcycling?
Riz: All the shorts that we produce are made of 100% recycled and recyclable polyester. Our customers can send us back their old and worn-out shorts and we recycle them. In return they get 25% off their new pair of Riz board shorts. In the end it is a perpetual 360-degree process, which is nice to see.

S You place a lot of value on exclusiveness. Have you ever thought of expanding your business?
Riz: When we started we were exclusive by default. We were tiny. Embracing this, we hand numbered all the shorts, adding value and a personal touch. Naturally we want to expand the business and are slowly growing but hopefully the right way. We’re starting to connect with some really nice independent boutiques globally and are about to increase our online offer too.  

S What are your plans for the future?
Riz: The idea is to keep producing and refining beautiful, environmental, kick ass board shorts. Do one thing and do it well. We’re releasing our first ladies’ short this spring, so this could be exciting if things go well. Moving Sunny Cove Studios to a beach is also definitely on the wish list. Mix this in with a stand-alone store, a gallery and a Riz beach bar and we’re getting somewhere.

S What are you most proud of?
Riz: I think it’s the concept of mixing surf, fashion and environmentalism together –leaving the comfort zone and realising a dream. 



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