On The Radar: Local Authority, the Dark Side of Surfwear
Co-founders Alan Sutcliffe and Jeff Skene talk about the dark humor behind the brand that's being worn by everyone from Sting to Kourtney Kardashian — and decipher the 'Fucked Up Friends Club' tagline.
That cheeky "Cougar Lounge Beverly Hills" T-shirt that Kourtney Kardashian rocked in 2016 amidst rumors that she was having a fling with Justin Bieber, 14 years her junior, was the creation of Malibu streetwear label Local Authority. While the brand name may not register immediately, flying under the radar is one of its chief attributes — one that's appreciated by a fan base that includes Sting, David Beckham, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, The Weeknd, Kristen Stewart and Kendrick Lamar.
Need we say more?
On Thursday night, Local Authority co-founders 37-year-old Alan Sutcliffe and 33-year-old Jeff Skene (also co-surfers, co-motorcyclists and co-residents of Malibu) feted their weekend takeover of Maxfield Malibu with cocktails made of Casamigos tequila, the brand created by George Clooney and Rande Gerber, another Malibu success story.
The pop-up shop, open through Sunday, features Local Authority’s graphics-and-logo laden merchandise — one-of-a-kind upcycled vintage T-shirts ($450) and hand-painted items such as denim jackets ($1,805) and Converse Chuck Taylor All Star high-tops ($895).
Easier on the wallet are small runs of baseball caps ($125) and screen-printed T-shirts ($110) cut and sewn in L.A. and adorned with provocative phrases such as "Sunset Strip Club" and "City Of Angels, Dealers Of Death & Destruction." There are even a handful of surfboards ($3,800) and skateboards ($1,200 or $950 for a deck) showcasing the brand's signature dark humor.
Come Monday, a smaller selection of items will continue to be available in L.A. exclusively at Maxfield stores in Malibu and West Hollywood. The line is also sold worldwide at stores such as Montaigne Market in Paris, Selfridges in London and Jeffrey New York.
Below, Pret-A-Reporter caught up with Sutcliffe and Skene to chat about the line they created in 2014.
On the designers' backstory:
Skene: I grew up in Malibu. My dad is a very focused businessman [mortgage broker Jack Skene] and my mom is an artist [sculptor Roxanne Skene], so they are both creative. I grew up surfing and met a few guys who worked for industry brands like Hurley and Volcom, and they hired me right out of college to do illustration work. From there, I worked with Diane Von Furstenberg's son Alex Von Furstenberg to remodel a store and design product for his [now defunct] surf shop Clout in Malibu, where I had the opportunity to do a lot of custom stuff. Then I worked for Jason Bleick's L.A. brand Ever, where I really learned the trade of doing custom design.
Sutcliffe: I've worked in sales for Harley Davidson, Chrome Hearts and Maxfield; I spearhead business development and play a role in the brand's overall design and vision. Jeff and I have worked together on different creative projects for about 10 years now. I'm originally from Southampton, England, but have lived in Malibu for 12 years.
On what inspired Local Authority and its edgy humor:
Sutcliffe: We launched in 2014 with a reworked vintage collection of T-shirts, jackets and shirts ... we really thought we could capture something unique that was not in the market — the essence of a more rebellious side of the Southern California surf, skate and motorcycle culture, as opposed to the more commercial, Beach Boys stuff. This is more aggressive and rock 'n' roll.
Skene: There are a lot of small core surf shops around here that offer product that is about the Malibu lifestyle, but we didn't see anything in this market that was a fashion-caliber product. We thought it would be cool to do something that had an element of fun but was still edgy. It's dark, but everything's supposed to be taken lightly.
On the vintage vibe:
Skene: We started by going to the Rose Bowl Flea Market and thrift stores and buying true vintage pieces and then screen-printing our logos on them and remaking them, cutting them up and doing custom patches. Now that we've grown, we offer our main cut-and-sew line [made in L.A.], but for specialty stores, we get information about their location, which is as special to them as Malibu is to us, and work with them directly to come up with fun, custom concepts that really pay tribute to that community … The exclusivity of the brand is really important, so that's something we're trying to hold on to. That's part of our strategy, to keep it pretty limited.
Sutcliffe: We've always been inspired by vintage textiles and the way they look and feel on your body. We really wanted to capture that in the DNA of the brand, even once we started to [manufacture], so we worked on the wash of the garments a lot and Jeff developed the screen-printing techniques to create an aged look and feeling.
On that tagline:
Sutcliffe: One of the reasons we came up with the Fucked Up Friends Club idea was that almost all our friends had gone to rehab or been divorced or gone bankrupt, so we thought, you may as well enjoy and own the revelry and craziness that life holds. It's better to laugh at it!