Every season, New York designer Adam Kimmel explores a new archetype of American menswear, basing his collections on unlikely high fashion icons like Snoop Dogg and the Marlboro Man. For spring/summer 2012, Kimmel dug into surfing, channeling his friend Taylor Dunfee, a lifelong surfer and artist from La Jolla, as a hybrid muse and collaborator. Kimmel dubbed the collection “Dark Surfing with a Psychedelic Undertone,” referring to Dunfee and his friends’ love of paddling out and taking mushrooms under a full moon, and debuted it in Paris, where the pro surfer and skater models walked barefoot to an old workout tape voiced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The collection’s Italian-made fabrics are subtle and suitable for everyday wear, with dark blue and olive green bases and only hints of surfing’s stereotypical bright colors; hallmark beach-flowered Hawaiian prints have been overdyed and turned an oily black. Here, Dunfee, the Windansea Beach wild man, and Kimmel, one of the most tastefully unpredictable designers around, look back on their partnership and forward at the new standard for high-end surf wear.
TAYLOR DUNFEE: I grew up watching people getting beat up on the beach. A lot of mainstream people don’t know that happens. There was a guy, Butch Van Artsdalen, who was one of the best surfers in the ’60s, and if you came to Windansea without his permission, he beat you up. It was an extremely aggressive environment, and me and my friends really embraced that. The world believes that surfers are these super-stoners who wear bright, bullshit clothes and who are shocking out all the time, and, yeah, there is a small portion of that. But all the best surfers in my town are tattooed and wear black.
ADAM KIMMEL: I love Taylor, and he’s a sweetheart, but he’s also got that animal nature to him that’s kind of crazy. He scares me a little bit. Taylor’s definitely a real man, and I’m always fascinated by people like that. I’ve always loved surfing, but I felt like it was a cliché thing to do for a fashion collection. But then I thought, How come no one’s ever done surfing Taylor’s way? Not just some designer’s fantasy of surfing but the actual thing, coming from a real place.
DUNFEE: Not too many people, especially in the higher end of the fashion world, really understand surfing culture and how I do it. But he knew exactly what should be done.
KIMMEL: There was just a common understanding from the get-go. It was important to me that Taylor was down to wear all of the stuff. I’d ask him questions along the way. Does this work? Do you like this? Just making sure my interpretation wasn’t off the mark. It’s not like these kids are punks that have no style. How they dress is really elegant, and they have this unique code: surfing plus the dark clothes, kind of minimal but really beautiful. There’s a simplicity to how they do it that needs to be told. For me, that’s the icing on the cake. I’m selling designer clothes, and in the end it is about quality. So the story and the authenticity are there, but what is it in the end? Is it something beautiful? Yeah, it is.
DUNFEE: When we went to Paris to see the actual clothes, I was just like, Dude, you fucking killed it. I hadn’t anticipated that I would actually be in the show. I thought I would just come and hang out. But the day before, Adam asked me and I was like, Sure, I’m here to help, and pounded a couple beers to loosen up a little bit. To see it finished then wear it first walking down the runway was hands-down one of the best memories of the whole thing. It was a really crazy, beautiful experience. I was stoked.