LONDON, United Kingdom — After two decades as the face of surfwear giant Quiksilver, top-ranked professional surfer Kelly Slater has announced that he is leaving the ailing sports apparel brand to forge a new partnership with luxury group Kering.
“For years I’ve dreamt of developing a brand that combines my love of clean living, responsibility and style. So I am excited to tell you that I’ve chosen The Kering Group as a partner. They share my values and have the ability to support me in all of my endeavors,” wrote Slater, the 11-time champion of surfing competition ASP World Tour, in a heartfelt message on Facebook that has circulated around surf and sports media outlets.
According to a spokesperson for Kering, the group will help Slater launch and develop his own clothing line, and support the brand operationally in areas such as logistics and e-commerce. Slater, a well-known advocate for marine conservation, will also act as Kering’s brand ambassador for initiatives around sustainability. Kering’s stable of brands includes luxury fashion houses Gucci, Stella McCartney, and Balenciaga, among others. The group already owns Volcom, a board sports label that also sponsors surfing competition Volcom Fiji Pro, and has prioritised lifestyle brands.
“There is little I can say that would give the credit due or cover the debt of gratitude I feel on a personal and professional level to Quiksilver. As a brand and on a human level, they have been a part of my life, career, and personal relationships for more than 23 years now, well over half my life,” he continued.
The Huntington Beach-based surfwear company initially signed with Slater as his sponsor in 1990, launching his professional career. In recent years, however, Quiksilver — part of surfwear’s ‘Big Three’, alongside Rip Curl and Billabong — has suffered mounting financial losses, exacerbated by ill-timed and expensive acquisitions in the mid-2000s and over-expansion. The loss of its longtime brand ambassador may significantly hamper its turnaround efforts.
Editor’s Note: This article was revised at 4:55 pm GMT on 1 April, 2014. An earlier version of this article did not reflect comment from a Kering spokesperson.