Soul People: A few months back, Riz of Riz Boardshorts (pretty much the Soul & Surf uniform in Sri Lanka and Kerala), asked Raff, our GM in Varkala, a few questions about his life.
Word by Cat Sarsfield | Photography by Hydar Dewachi | 9th March ‘18
We thought we’d return the favour, seeing as we are proudly stocking Riz in our brand new shop, Kit. We talked to Riz about all things design, environment and what soul means to him.
Did you always have a strong affinity with the ocean growing up?
Considering I didn’t grow up by the sea, I suppose I did. I longed for family holidays on the beach and spent as much time as possible swimming and pretending to be a fish. I still joke I’m a fish. I think there’s an old ocean soul in there from somewhere. My parents then bought a house by the sea in Devon when I was eighteen, and that changed things a lot. That was the start of the real love affair.
As a brand rooted in ocean lifestyle and sustainability, what do you do yourselves on a daily basis to ensure our beaches and oceans become plastic free?
Being a London based brand means our day-to-day physical connection to the beach and the ocean comes through our partners. The tentacles that keep us connected and rooted in the watery world we love so much. It’s a strange contradiction building a business around the beauty of nature and being in the cold grey of a city. It’s for that escape we do what we do.
Our main environmental partner is the Marine Conservation Society who we are working with to spread the message about plastic in the oceans and how we can rethink our relationship with plastic in general. We also donate £1 from the sale of every short sold directly to them to help with marine conservation.
Essentially everything we do daily – our designing, our business plan, our conversations, this sentence I am writing here – everything we do in our brand is trying to change people’s perceptions of how they consume through a deeper connection with nature.
We are personally starting to do more beach cleans and Thames river cleans, which is a great way of having a tangible effect and growing a community. We know that cleaning beaches isn’t the answer to the oceans becoming plastic free, but by engaging more and more people, it can change peoples consumer habits. By us as a brand re-thinking the the way plastic is used, re-designed and recycled we are on a path to perhaps being able to design it out of the future.
We read your journal piece on “Taking Plastic Out Of The Thames” and the plastic bottles donated to Riz to be recycled into boardshorts. Being based in London - do you ever feel that limits you to help with the plastic pollution projects? Or is it even more important to be setting the tone in a city?
We have started focusing on London more as that is where we live and there is a lot of plastic floating down the Thames on it’s way out to the sea. By catching it early we hope we are preventing further ocean pollution. We have partners in Cornwall where we get plastic bottles from their beach cleans and are also planning on more UK beach cleans ourselves this year to further our work. We’re talking to people all over the world about plastic pollution projects but acting locally is actually the most sustainable way. It will be really interesting to see how this year pans out but I do think setting the tone in a power house of a city like London is important.
Surf tourism is booming - we see it especially in Sri Lanka - what do you think could and should be done to encourage this growing number of largely western tourists to be more mindful of our global oceans?
I think in areas of booming tourism the hotels, restaurants and services need to lead by example in providing environmentally sound options for tourists. Hopefully most surf tourists are pretty clued up when it comes to what’s going on in our oceans. Plastic usage and its disposal in developing countries is unfortunately more of an issue.
What changes would you like to see people making in their relationship with plastics and the oceans? How can we make a positive difference?
Every choice we make has an effect. Everyone needs to realise this and do their bit if we are going to make a difference.
I would love to see more people think that every little helps. We can easily change our relationship with plastic with small, simple steps; for example, using a re-usable water bottle and coffee cup, or taking a cotton tote to the supermarket or doing a #2minutebeachclean.
I wish more people would ask where their fish supper came from? If you understand the provenance of something you buy and it’s after life, you are creating a chain which may link to other decisions - like choosing a surf retreat or choosing a pair of board shorts. But maybe we all need to spend more time in the ocean to truly deepen our relationship with it. Maybe then we will change more…
Stylistically, what inspires your collections and designs?
Stylewise it has always been to take a boardshort and make it more grown up. Boardshorts are such an iconic garment for men, they are like a suit jacket but for the beach. I like the fact they are tailored yet free, the simplicity that one item of clothing is an outfit.
We work with a small collective of artists and illustrators to come up with prints that convey our own 'British-Hawaiian style'. It is here we incorporate themes of endangered fish, flowers and insects that we hope will foster awareness and inspire appreciation for the natural world around us.
As we’ve grown up so have our designs and we now offer five different cuts of short, from our original boardshorts to our new tailored beach shorts, taking you from the the sea to the sand and onto the street. I like the idea of a life in shorts, with different styles for different activities, classic prints, party prints, refined yet flamboyant - that’s the inspiration.
You’ve created a 100% recycled boardshort; you’ve started the Rizcycle scheme which means your recycled boardshorts are also recyclable too; what’s next for Riz?
Essentially do what we do better. For example make the shorts from better recycled elements if possible and engage more people in the recycling scheme. We haven’t perfected the system yet and are always learning ,so would love to nail this. I’ve always loved the idea of doing just one thing really well and being an expert, for us that’s sunshine ocean shorts!
What I’ve learnt from our brand over time is that the more you push the envelope, the deeper down the rabbit hole you go, the brighter it gets. Which makes what’s next, pretty interesting.
You’ve travelled a fair bit in your pursuit for waves and inspiration; where has been the place you’ve been most shocked at in terms of plastic pollution? And the place where it seems to be making strides?
I have to admit a lot of my major global beach and surf trips were over ten years ago and I never noticed plastic on the beaches wherever I was. Even since then, I have to say I’ve been lucky and haven’t seen any disaster beaches first hand. I recently came back from Lanzarote and didn’t see one piece of plastic on any beach, that’s pretty good!
Where will you be heading for the next surf trip?
I have a trip to Japan booked for this September which I’m extremely excited about, so will be surfing there for sure. Will report back on their relationship with the ocean and plastic! Otherwise it’s surf trips down to Cornwall soon, sadly not in boardshorts.
You proudly say you create swimwear with soul; what does soul mean to you?
It’s a good question. To me soul has always been about something having meaning and depth, about having a genuine passion of character that exudes and touches others. I hope that’s what our shorts have.