Two new kids on the block, Afends and Raen Optics have caught the eyes of skate and surf wear aficionados up and down the California coast. They both seem to be targeting the grown up but still shredding the waves demographic. Think of that guy who worked really hard to save his money, then went on a surf trip to Australia for 9 months. Or the guy who works at a bar in San Diego at night, sleeps and surfs during the day.
Here’s a closer look at the two brands:
Afends works really hard to perfect their “don’t give a hoot” surfer/drifter image. I think they’re going after the cubicle worker who idolizes the lifestyle of the road rebel that drinks too much whiskey on a Tuesday and rides up to Santa Cruz in his VW bus just because he wants too. They’re not targeting trust fund hipsters, per se, but maybe upper middle class kids who are semi drifting through their 20s, going to as many Coachella-like summer festivals as possible and pursuing their dreams of being a travel writer. This is not dismissing this demographic in any way, a lot of cubicle warriors would love to have a break and do that for a few months, we’re just noting the demographic here.
I really like the branding and imaging on their site. Being a luxury brand, they are heavy on image advertising and portraying what the aspirational look of their target demographic should be.
Note the road rockers branding on their home page:
The brand has a self mocking, type feel to themselves, as in knowing they are an up and coming brand and poking fun at the image of the industry a bit, while at the same time fully embracing it and gunning for it. One example of this is the “Gnarlzine” which is their email newsletter. Gnarly is an extremely over used and often made fun example of surf lingo, and they bake that right into their messaging. I’m a big fan of it.
Also note the use of nicely washed up models that look like they just came out of the water after a few days of shredding it at Huntington. This summary was mostly a note of the brand Afends, but what of the clothing? Overall the clothing is on the high end when it comes to a surf brand. The pricing is somewhere between what Volcom prices their clothes and Patagonia does. You can expect to see this line at The Rail section of Nordstrom, if it isn’t already, and you can be sure that I’ll be looking out for them at Nordstrom Rack.
Our boys in the audience will appreciate Raen’s increased use of female models when compared to Ahrefs, which prefers late 20’s males. Raen Optics is a fairly young sunglasses outfit out of Encinitas, San Diego – home to some of Southern California’s best surf. Like their neighbors to the north, Electric in San Clemente, they start off with designs that break the mold compared to other similar premium-casual sunglasses brands. Their bio sums it up: “RAEN Optics is an independent, classics driven brand, aimed at bringing quality and authenticity to the boutique eyewear market.” Raen (or should I say RAEN), borrows a lot of their designs from classic eye glasses trends, whether it be 1940s Coke-bottle rounds or modified cat eye sunglasses.
Their Tumblr-like community page with special contributors is an excellent example of a brand using the washed up hipster glow to showcase some authenticity and grit. It mixes in a healthy amount of nostalgia for a not so distant past with a sprinkling of peaceful nature pics, boys being boys, and hot girls topless drinking beer.
And we also think if Bob Dylan was modeling
…that they totally would have chosen him, don’t you think?
They are very active Instagrammers, which makes for an interesting splash of corporate imagery that blends really well into my feed:
Which makes me really want to break out of the cubicle and go play Smashball on the sand. I recently checked out some RAENs and I do like their unique build. The glasses are “handcrafted” and made in China, but seem very sturdy and quality. I’ve sat on them once, and the glasses won.
What are some upcoming brands you’re interested in?