Warriors of Radness: The next wave in men's beachwear
Warriors of Radness, an irreverent take on Southern California's cliched sun- and surf-soaked image, has been quietly building buzz since its 2007 launch with a men's beachwear collection of bold, brightly colored graphic T-shirts, color-blocked shorts, casual pants, button-front shirts and light outerwear pieces inspired by the surfwear of the 1970s and '80s. Now, it's riding a wave of momentum into the summer of 2012, with a special collection for Opening Ceremony and an exclusive four-piece selection for retailer Ron Herman.
"Creatively and momentum-wise, we're in a really good place,"says Warriors of Radness founder and head designer Rick Klotz, who was among the 2011 finalists in GQ's annual search for the best new menswear designers in America. "Things are pretty solid."
Part of the reason for that momentum is that Warriors of Radness (Klotz refers to the brand by its acronym WOR, which he pronounces "war") keys into two current fashion trends: the resurgence of '80s style and the ever-increasing appetite for made-in-America goods. "It was important to me that I was able to make the line here," Klotz says. "And 99.9% of it is made here in Los Angeles, just like the stuff was in the heyday of vintage surf fashion."
Klotz, 44, whose clothing company CV includes launching the Freshjive streetwear label, grew up skating and surfing in Southern California. Those fond memories of growing up in the '70s and '80s inspired him to create WOR. "Surf fashion at the time was unique, original and inspirational," Klotz says. "And now it's not ... everybody's making the same trunks."
The result is a line that's as fun and sunny as a day at the beach: shorts and baggy pants covered with palm-tree prints, short-sleeve cotton poplin button-front shirts awash in a sea of daisies, color-blocked nylon board shorts and pullover hoodies in shades of yellow and lavender, and sweat pants and French terry zip-front hoodies in washed-out shades of magenta, teal or gray.
WOR has even put a fresh spin on the T-shirt (no easy feat in Southern California) with multi-stripe tank tees in citrus yellows and eye-popping purples, along with retro-flavored, in-your-face graphic T-shirts. Some of the latter bear versions of the WOR logo. Others are printed with photos (Richard Nixon's image appears on one beneath the words "uppers, lowers and liars," while another has a black-and-white photo of surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku with the single word "respect"). Still others sport slogans such as "Welcome to California now go home," accompanied by a yellow smiley face wearing sunglasses, or "GLSA the Gay and Lesbian Surf Association" in bold black letters accompanied by a cresting rainbow-stripe wave and the slogan "Come on out ... the water's fine."
The capsule collection pieces at Opening Ceremony and Ron Herman don't differ from the rest of the WOR wares in silhouette or price but do offer those high-end retailers the kind of exclusivity in color combinations and T-shirt design prized by the fashion-conscious consumer.
Klotz says positioning Warriors of Radness as a boutique brand influenced by California beach culture was a very conscious one for two reasons. The first was practical.
"It cost us a lot to make everything here," Klotz says. "And who is going to be your customer for a pair of shorts that retails for $140? We knew we had to go to the fashion stores; we went there and they embraced us."
But Klotz also has a philosophical reason for not wanting to be lumped in with the surfeit of surf brands.
"I also don't think today's surf stores are that cool. They're kind of just funnels for the big corporations, and for the most part I don't want anything to do with them.... I do make a couple of exceptions for stores like Thalia Surf Shop [in Laguna Beach] and Aloha Saturday in San Diego -- surf stores that really get it."
Warriors of Radness T-shirts ($40 to $55), tops ($110 to $140), shorts and swim trunks ($80 to $150) and jackets ($150 to $225) are available locally at American Rag Cie, Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach, Opening Ceremony, Ron Herman at Fred Segal Center Melrose and online at Revolve Clothing.
Photos: Pieces in the Warriors of Radness summer 2012 collection. Credit: Warriors of Radness