O'Neill: A Heritage Surfbrand
In the first half of the 20th century surfing was a real warm water sport. But travelers took the vibe and sport with them to their homeland and wanted also to surf in the conditions over there. But only the Southside of California was warm enough to surf a session. But having a whole west coast they wanted to go where the swell was best. Only the cold water made that they couldn't stay in that long and they needed to warm up at campfires between the short sessions.
After all kinds of innovative ideas, for example draining wool pull overs in oil, there was this small SurfShop owner Jack O'Neill who found a PVC foam and recognized it from serving in the army at he marine. The frogmen used it to stay warm, because the air in it was the best isolator. It became the first steps in innovating the wetsuit...
Meanwhile Jack had builded further on his shop and started to get a broader attention from the westside surf community by shaping boards and providing surf goods. But it still wasn't enough to provide his family and also did till wanted too stay out longer in the cold water. So when he came across the material 'Neoprene' he knew it could be the turning point. And started to talk with the producer so he could make some samples. When the neoprene proved that it worked the selling went up and Jack could finally provide his family and fully focus on his dream from which he eventually said: 'I just only wanted to surf longer.'
The company started to become one of the most innovative company of the world. Not only because of their wetsuits, which they did a lot of research to, but also in terms of marketing.
After being for years in the surf industry only, O'Neill also stepped into the ski/snowboard industry in 1976. Which made the brand more famous and which provided them being a lifestyle brand for sporters all year around. So it was is no surprise that the brand started to shifting more towards selling more sports/casual wear nowadays, instead of the traditional surf shop items.
In 2007 a investment group bought the licenses of the O'Neill company and made the O'Neill Europe BV the headquarter of the company. This is the reason that the formerly Santa Cruz based company now finds it home in the Dutch village of Warmond.
Personally I did only knew O'Neill partly of the clothing and schoolstuff like a planner. Those always were full of graphics and it was my idea that I also wanted to design those accessories. So I was quite surprised when I found out the O'Neill company was in Warmond which was only 12 kilometers from my hometown. But even more when I found out that the company did not design those accessories but did the clothing design in there. And although it is a big company, I couldn't have wished for a more relaxed and friendly environment to have my first experience in the fashion industry with.
The graphic department of O'Neill was a group of originally five members. Head Designer Anita did most of the meetings and scheduled what had to be done, because although everybody had their tasks there was also a lot of exchanging. In this way everybody's qualities were used to the fullest and also everybody enjoyed their work even more.
So beside having some small tasks I was welcome in all meetings, and that openness off the company really gives trust to me as trainee. It also made helping out other members easier and it eventually is the best part of education I had. It probably is the reason I wanted to go further into the fashion industry, which I still enjoy today.