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It is not an April Fool’s joke. Kelly Slater is leaving longtime sponsor Quiksilver to start a new brand with Kering, the luxury company that owns Volcom and Electric.
Quiksilver confirmed his departure with me this morning. (See Page 2 for the company's official statement.)
Slater’s contract expired March 31, and he posted a long statement on the ASP website the same day.
Here’s how Slater described the new brand on the ASP website and why he wants to work with Kering in the future:
“For years I've dreamt of developing a brand that combines my love of clean living, responsibility and style. The inspiration for this brand comes from the people and cultures I encounter in my constant global travels and this is my opportunity to build something the way I have always wanted to.
“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.”
Todd Hymel, Kering's COO of the Sport & Lifestyle division, told me via email about Slater's new role.
"We are very excited about the announcement today and the opportunity to work with Kelly. Kelly is a surf legend /sport icon that encompasses many of the values true to Kering: most notably sustainability, transparency, and a constant quest to be the best at what we do through dedication and imagination," Hymel said.
"The partnership announced will be a multi-layered relationship with Kering supporting Kelly in the launch and the development of his own apparel brand, and acting as an operational partner providing assistance where possible in areas like sourcing, logistics, e-commerce, etc. In addition, Kelly will be an ambassador for Kering and be involved with certain initiatives at the Group level, notably related to sustainability, as well as at some of our brands," he said.
Quiksilver had also started a new brand for Slater, VSTR, that had a modern sensibility and was inspired by his travels, but the brand was shuttered as part of the cost cutting initiatives implemented by CEO Andy Mooney.
In addition to closing Slater’s VSTR brand, Mooney also ended a deal to produce the Summer Teeth line, owned by another marquee Quiksilver surfer, Dane Reynolds. Mooney’s goal is to focus resources on its biggest brands – Quiksilver, Roxy and DC – in a bid to return the company to profitability.
Slater’s departure is a blow to Quiksilver, where Slater has been one of the marquee athletes for decades and was the face of the brand.
Mooney has said several times he planned to elevate the exposure of key athletes like Slater. One reason Mooney had trimmed lesser-known athletes from sponsorship deals was to free up marketing resources for Slater and other high-profile athletes and to market the brands in general more deeply.
There have also been so many changes internally at Quiksilver, especially in the marketing department, which must be unsettling to athletes as well.
Slater is moving to a French-based, quality-oriented, luxury company with a lot of resources, a love of brands and a truly global platform. While the tough economy has hurt its Sport & Lifestyle group of late, the company’s luxury division continues to post strong results.
See Page 2 for Quiksilver’s statement about Slater’s departure