Stories

IT’S A GROUP EFFORT | JOHN MOORE

If you haven’t bumped into John Moore on social media (@bonfirebeachkids), read about him in an industry who’s who or clocked his laid back Cali family lifestyle on @hannahmas (this is his old ladies feed, you know Hannah Henderson from General Store? #girlcrush) then let me introduce you. Meet John, builder of brands, creative storyteller, and most recently Chief Creative Officer for the sustainable lifestyle brand Outerknown alongside good friend and partner, world surfing champ Kelly Slater.Raised by conservative Christian parents in a small town on the outskirts of Los Angeles, we caught up with John at his design studio Group Efforts in Culver City where we had a chance to talk about family life, how becoming a father has impacted his career, new traditions, finding the “in between” and not fucking with love…

Photographed by Scott Soens

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A typical day? It’s not even linear right?

For instance this week we started the week and Costa was really sick, Hannah was in New York on a buying trip last week for General Store so came back and she was sick, and I was up with Costa all night on Monday, literally all night, and then you still have to wake up in the morning. Every single day of the week I get up with my kids, get them ready for school, Hannah’s a sleeper in the mornings so I’m on morning duty and I get them out the door. Kids have to be at school by 8 and they go to school conveniently by the studio. I’m an early riser, I’m up at 530, they’re up some time between 6 and 7; and we’re out the door at 745, I’ve had two coffees and a whole day by then but then I’m at my desk by 8 and I cherish that first hour of the day in the studio where I don’t have a whole lot of distraction and when I don’t have that hour things go awry. From 9am onwards it’s just a free for all. Cause I’m running two businesses with Outerknown and the studio that is now called Group Efforts, I rely so heavily on the people around me to get me through the day. I think part of me probably thrives a little bit on that chaos. Someone who knows me well said to me the other day that I wouldn’t be me without all the buzzing around and the more I have on my plate, the more inspired I am about everything I’ve got going on. But you know it’s hard work and I never stop. No matter what we have on, no matter how big the deadline is, I always run out the door at 6pm every single night.

I have to do that and everyone knows that…

Half the time I’m having conversations literally on my way out the door, they’re going all the way to my car, there’s been more than one instance where someone will just jump in my car for the ride and they’ll get an uber home cause they’ve got to get in my ear about a few things. I pick up food every single night, we’re just so busy so we never cook, so I pick up food every single night, we fight over which different Mexican place I’ll pick up from because the kids only eat burritos.

So Hannah and I are going to be together 15 years this year…

We never got married, just wasn’t something either one of us was into but fell hard, fell early, moved in together, just shared so many similarities and just the things we were into, the places we wanted to go. She’s all about the desert and I’m all about the ocean but she loves the ocean and I love the desert and so it’s just this really nice balance the two of us have. When I met her I was kind of travelling all the time. She was working for Ron Herman here in Los Angeles, which I would go into. I was working at the time, travelling it was my job to know what was up in the world, well this was long before the internet was what it is and you could kind of Google any brand or idea and find just a plethora of information and images. So I was around the world constantly shopping for ideas and she worked here on the floor at Ron Herman so I was at Ron Herman all the time cause they were sort of the best store in LA and I was, I actually had a girlfriend at the time and the shortest version of the story is the guy who helped me there was always telling me there was someone he wanted me to meet and you know I kinda said, yeah, I’m just not in the right place in my life; he was like you’re a fool, I’m going to make this happen and ultimately it ended up being, I never really saw her, I never saw her face, every time I’d walk into a room, she walk out of a room which was kind of funny. So we met at Ron Herman almost 15 years ago. Daryl invited me over one night for a sale which was so funny, they have this one general sale, I walked in, I grabbed wine off the table and Hannah walked across the room, I’ve never met her before in my life, I think we’d had one phone conversation before then, and she came over and grabbed the wine out of my hand and took a big huge chug of it and started twisting her hair and that was it… I was in her spell forever so that was the origins. And I like that story because kind of growing up in LA, Ron Herman was just this place that I always found so much inspiration from, the design was super cool right, especially in those years.

Ron’s a dear friend and collaborator, we’ve worked with him on so many projects and he’s always supported me on the design side, we helped him roll out his business in Japan and we designed a few different stores for him out there and to me it’s just such an amazing story when you think I actually wouldn’t have my family had he not existed right. Had that place not existed, we wouldn’t have existed. We met through fashion literally…

I was travelling all the time life was crazy…

It was hard to keep up with friends and I met Hannah, and I wanted to be home, I literally walked away from this big retail job and moved back home, I didn’t have another job, I’d just bought a house, and she moved in and we just kind of travelled a little bit that summer you know the money doesn’t last long when you’re young; we moved in together, we just clicked creatively on so many levels. We didn’t initially set out to really have a tribe, it was just she and I and then one day I remember she came to see me at lunch and she told me we were going to have our first child and that’s Lennon, Lennon is 12 now. So Lennon Luella Henderson Moore, she has all of our names, she can use them however she wants, Lennon was named after John Lennon. You have one, you fall in love, you’re like hey we can do this, it’s pretty cool, little family, so then we went for number two and it didn’t quite happen the way we’d imagine, you know it didn’t happen overnight. A few years later Hannah I start Pop studio together, we’ve got young Lennon, a new little baby in the studio and then we went up to build the studio and boom; 4 ½ years later here comes little Costa. So we’ve got Costa Cat Henderson Moore. So he’s got all of our names too. Cat is Cat Stevens. So Hannah got two of her favourite musical inspirations; John Lennon and Cat Stevens, in both of our kid’s names.

When it comes to their names I give their mother all the credit.

She really was the architect there; and it’s such a funny concept if you think about it, you bestow them a name and you know I never liked my name for a lot of different reasons. My dads name was John Moore and I just grew up going God how uncreative, like my parents gave me the exact same obvious name as my dad; and it’s funny I still kinda feel that way; I mean it’s who I am but I just love this idea that following Hannah’s lead we wanted these names which were a little far out at the time but then all of a sudden you’ve got these kids with their own personality and they just come to life and I couldn’t imagine it any different.

I grew up in a very conservative household on the outskirts of Los Angeles

Thankfully, we grew up on this amazing block with some incredible people around me. You know one of my best friends growing up is still one of my biggest influencers. We went to kindergarten together. His name’s Kyle Field. He’s got a band called Little Wings and he’s put out countless records under that name, he’s a fine artist and I think I was always creative but I never really had the confidence to pursue it. But then I saw what Kyle did. Kyle had so much natural talent I think my talent is more in building; I was more about bringing things together. My mum is creative but never pursued it. She puts pen or pencil to paper and just does these beautiful things but she never pursued it; and my dad was not, he was just a tried and true businessman; road warrior sales guy for years. Surfing was an influence, I started doing that really early on but it was like, what else is out there? I felt a bit, in our little suburban town, a little bit protected, cut off what was happening on the outside and I think I was just so curious for what was on the outside. Discovering different ways to express myself. You grow up in this conservative, religious household, and you’re taught to do things a certain way and individual self expression is not necessarily one of those things. My mum was raised a Jew and my father was raised a Catholic and they both converted to Christianity in 1973, the same year I was born, so I was raised in a very religious, very Christian upbringing and I think you’re taught from a very early age what is supposed to be right and wrong. You’re taught to abide by those rules. And I think there was a little bit of hey this just doesn’t feel right to me. There’s gotta be something else out there, you know, I want to kind of find my own way and I think that’s really what led me to where I am today.

My parents did the best they could and I’m very thankful for that…

My dad travelled all the time and even if he was just travelling locally, he was always on the road. He left early, he came home late and my mum didn’t work, she was mum, she stayed at home. So I think for Hannah and I it’s always been like, how do we create new tradition, how do we actually do this our way? You’re brought up to think you’re supposed to get married at a certain age, supposed to spend the holidays together but why? What was the reason for all that? What if we kinda create these new traditions that we believe in that we look forward to? I like being able to spend as much time as I possibly can with my kids and really integrate them in everything we do. With so many obligations in their lives; I hate to let them down and I also hate to not be there for them. Because Lennon is 4½ years older than Costa – she’s in 6th grade, Costa’s in 1st grade, their social and school lives are so different. Thankfully they go to the same school but there can be five things that we need to do with Lennon during the week and five things with Costa and I want to be at every single one of them. I’ve got the two business’ that I run, Hannah’s got her business’ that she runs and then we’ve got our kids lives and we want to be there for them every step of the way. I did not grow up in a place like that so when we were thinking about how to build our lives and our house, it was really important to integrate our children in everything we do.

It’s all about true stories through design…

We like to work with people, a lot of time, they’re the founders of brands, they’re an individual who has an idea they want to bring to life, they’re real people with vision and conviction to do what they want to do. It might be in fashion, it might be in retail, it might be in architecture, it might be in wellness, it might be in sport and entertainment but they’re real people doing things. I think before I had kids, I created fantasies like Hollister is the one thing people wanted to talk about for years and I understand why and it was an incredible experience but it was also one big huge fantasy.  It was created on this story we made up and I think you have kids, you look them in the eyes everyday, you think about life and you want them to have this wonderful future and then you explore all these different ways to express your creativity and you only want to do good, you only want to work with good people, you only want to work with good brands, so you know, without a doubt Outerknown would not exist, obviously without my relationship, without Kelly and his vision but also without looking my kids in the eyes every single day and wanting to leave this place much better than they came into it. If there’s one thing that drives every decision I make, it’s them and what are we doing for them, what are we leaving them with?

When we started Outerknown we knew we wanted to give back…

As we’re building and growing a brand we want to reinvest those dollars into these same things we were so passionate about. One of the biggest pillars of our brand is our environmental cost. We’re surfers, we spend so much time in the water, I mean I can’t think of a better ambassador for the environment than Kelly right?

The guy is a fish so while the impact of what we’ve done to the oceans affects all of us negatively, he sees it first hand everywhere he goes all over the world. We started thinking that we have a cool story and it’s inspiring to people and it felt noble at its core and then it hit us like a brick wall; we’re not ok in the world. It’s not ok the way so many people are treated in the workplace everywhere clothes are made all over the world. It’s not ok that there’s potentially going to be more pollution and plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050, that is insane. “Ok” it’s kind of in our name and it’s the international symbol for positivity. You can put your thumb up and go, hey, everything’s going to be ok, and it translates into every language. In that same way “it’s not ok” translates not only into every language but can also relate to all social and environmental injustice. It became really clear that this could be a good way for us to give back, so that’s how we got to “it’s not ok”.

We chose the environment, specifically the oceans for our first endeavor…

So basically every item we make items with the words “it’s not ok” on them, 100% of everything that comes in from those things goes directly to the ocean conservancies, to aid directly with their research and cleaning up of the ocean. This is our first cause, and we’ll have other causes. The idea is not to walk away from this one but to add to that.

It goes back to that idea of telling true stories…

There’s nothing truer than the worlds greatest surfer of all time wanting to use his efforts in building brands to create awareness which directly results in cleaning up the ocean that he spends so much time in. It’s brand new, we launched it two days ago, the reactions been fantastic. We’ve only been around for a year and a half, we’ve been building Outerknown for much longer but we’ve only been on the market for a year and a half. It was the first time we’ve literally sold out of something in 24hours….

People showed up because they believed in the cause…

When you think about the projects you want to work on and when you think about the legacy you want to leave for your kids, think about our habits as consumers today, think about that word consume; by nature it’s such an ugly word just devouring everything we can get our hands on and throwing it out at the end of the day. What we’ve realized in building Outerknown is that we, all of us have so much power in the decisions we’re making with our dollars. We buy something and it sends a message to the world. It’s not going to happen over night, we’re this tiny little brand but if we can inspire others to do the same and you know maybe we’ll inspire some really big brand. We wouldn’t be here without brands like Patagonia that inspired us, so…

We talk to the kids about Outerknown and really, so many things…

They love talking about cleaning up the ocean; when we grew up we didn’t learn much about recycling but they’re growing up with it and they connect to this cause. We took them to the Women’s March in downtown LA, we did that together; they are experiencing everything that we went through during the campaign, they heard everything the man we elected for President stood for but then they also got to see that we aren’t just going to settle and they’ve been able to participate in using their voice along with our voice to really talk about the things that don’t feel right, that they’re concerned about, that they’re taught to believe is wrong. Not only what we’re taught to believe but truly what we know in our soul is wrong and so they I think in these times, that relationship, that bond becomes even closer because we’re just all looking out for each other. We’re building a brand that’s based around doing right by the environment, and we’re learning the highest office in our nation doesn’t believe the same way we believe, so it just makes everything we view that much more important and our kids, I truly give them so much credit because had they not come into our lives when they did and had this big impact on us, I don’t think I would think or act the way I do today.

I have a personal motto that’s don’t fuck with love

I don’t think you need a contract or ring. Just fight for what you’re passionate about and if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Just go out and create, forge your own path, new traditions, it’s not about looking backwards it’s about looking forward…

Inspiration comes from spending time in nature with my children…

We do a lot of road trips, we actually just prefer to jump in the car and drive to the desert, drive to Arizona, over getting in a plane and going to a resort somewhere. I think it’s finding the in between places that really inspires me. And then professionally, I like to touch and feel things; we’re all in this very hyper technology powered world where everything is digital and communicated at the speed of light but I’m surrounded by things I can touch and feel and I think that it’s really important that I’m always building things with my hands. I’m building brands but I’m building environments, I’m building experiences. It’s not one piece of the puzzle it’s how all the puzzle comes together. I’m heavily influenced by music and art and I would much rather spend time with artists around me that anyone else and it’s just devouring books. You know I’m not a ferocious reader, I’m doing my best. Hannah’s an incredible reader and my daughter but I just love history and knowledge and art books, photo books, history books, I’m a sucker for anything that’s vintage, I’ll find a photograph at the flea market and I’ll just try and create my own story about it and I’ll just start researching all the details in it.

Spend as much time with your kids while you have it…

I just think that can never be underestimated but I just cherish every minute with my kids. Lennon went on a trip with me to NY this last summer. We spent a week together. It was the best trip of my life. Best week of my life. I’d seen plays before but seeing plays with her was just eye opening, watching her discover things – spend as much time with your kids as possible. Anytime I have to travel anywhere, I want to now take my kids with me. We had kids early and it’s not always easy, it’s a lot of hard work but then they grow up and they become your best friends.

My style is…

Something old with something new.

Ten years from now where I’ll be…

No longer be living in LA.  Hannah and I recently came up with a ten-year plan that involves sharing a small home in the desert and another near the sea… and I hope to be teaching, writing and working with artists.  But who really knows, I just hope to be getting along with the robots…

When it comes to listening, reading, watching, I’m…

Listening to so much right now… Miles Davis, Leon Russel but also Devendra Banhart, new De La Soul & Tribe Called Quest.  My daily soundtrack in the studio is ReverberationRadio.com.  Hannah recently turned me on to some good podcasts and Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s the Thing” is probably my favorite. You asked me if I have heard the Grace Coddington one, and I haven’t, but we’ll listen to that on next week’s road trip… Lot’s of podcasts on road trips. Barbarian Days by William Finnegan is my slow read right now, but it’s so good, I’m taking my time…binge watching includes docu-series on Netflix called “Abstract” and Tinker Hatfield, Bjarke Ingels and Paula Schere episodes were my favorite and a Mezcal Paloma to wash it all down.

Edited by wordsmith Felicity Bonello

John, Lennon and Costa all wear Outerknown + vintage

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Group Efforts  | @Bonfirebeachkids | @Hannahmas