This winter we received a request to advertise in 032c from MOWGLI SURF, a small surfwear label based in La Cañada, California, and run by brothers Alex and Philip Seastrom. We were immediately hooked: when an independent Berlin-based magazine attracts the attention of a homespun surf brand in LA with an attitude reminiscent of Jeff Ho and the Z-Boys in the 1970s there has to be an energy there worth exploring. 032c corresponds with the designers, Enemies of the Average who also respond with original illustrations of their daily lives.
How did you get started in the surfwear world?
Alex: Philip and I are third generation Californians. We were born and raised next to the San Gabriel Mountains in La Canada, CA. When we were growing up art was a big part of our lives.
Philip: We always loved surfing and clothing. Clothing is a outward expression of how you view yourself and ultimately determines how people view you. I remember in high school saving all my money to buy the coolest surf clothes I could find. If it was different and exciting I had to have it.
Alex: Since we were young we wanted to design and make surf clothes so we decided to pursue it and received a fashion education at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. At the time surfwear had become very stagnate with muted design and unflattering silhouettes. Philip and I decided that we wanted to offer something that we felt represented the fun and excitement of surfing,
Philip: That’s why we started Mowgli Surf as soon as we graduated, producing all the products in the United States. We just went at it full force and the first shop we got into was Thalia Surf in Laguna Beach.
What’s going on in surf culture in California right now?
Philip: Alex and I see many different trends in California surf culture today. Many people are busy trying to look like badass motorcycle riders. I don’t agree with it. I find the whole thing very inauthentic, except for those who are into it for more than the curb appeal. People are afraid to express their true self and stand behind these stereotypes like “motorcycles = badass”. Surfing is about expression and beauty. It doesn’t need motorcycles to make it cooler. The wonderful thing about surf culture and surfwear is it represents eternal youth. I feel many modern surfers are really missing the point.
Alex: Totally, but there is a lot of individualization at the same time. The surf kids in Southern California are really into this Burger Records music scene. It’s all about standing out and making cool music. They have this music festival called Burgerama, and the weekend it happens any kid that is remotely interested in music or surfing in the OC is there. It’s cool and unique and true to the area. Peach Kelli Pop is one of our favourites off the label!
How do you feel about mass-market surfwear brands like Quiksilver, which you can find in every suburban mall?
Alex: The public’s perception of surfwear is unique. Nothing seems more beautiful than wasting away the day on a warm beach, chatting with girls, and having nothing to do but have fun. Surf clothing is, in a way, a vacation from your regular life. That’s what makes it so appealing. The problem with major companies like Quiksilver is that they’re too safe. They worry too much about pleasing everyone so their design ends up lacking punch and freshness.
Philip: All that happens is they mainly just make boring plain clothes that have nothing to do with anything surfing represents.
What reading do you recommend while surfing?
Alex: I’m currently reading Gunther Gebel-Williams autobiography Untamed. I also recommend books like Jay Boy by Kent Sherwood, Battling Boy by Paul Pope, and magazines like Wax out of New York.
Philip: Right now I’m reading Who Framed Roger Rabbit by Gary Wolf. I love to look at books like The Eighties at Echo Beach by Mike Moir, Dove by Robin Lee Graham, and of course my all-time favorite is The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
Give us a little surfing fact.
There is this fairy tale about the origins of surfing in California that American railroad magnate Henry Huntington (namesake of Huntington Beach) was on vacation in Hawaii with his wife and saw Hawaiian surfing and fell in love with the sport. He then used his influence to bring over early surf pioneer George Freeth to Redondo Beach to do surfing demonstrations and teach the sport and help promote his real estate holdings in the region. In the early 1900s beach land was relatively worthless. George Freeth lessons and demonstrations were surfing’s first major introduction to the people of California. The parts of this story involving Henry Huntington are completely false, according to the Huntington Library Henry Huntington never visited Hawaii in his lifetime or mentioned surfing in any of his writings.