Riz Smith of Riz Boardshorts talks sartorial surfing, pirates, prints and British boardies.
Sometimes I tell people that my parents were pirate hippies when they ask about my name – that would be a cool connection to the sea! Alas it’s not true. My parents bought a cottage down in south Devon when I was a teenager which allowed me to spend a lot of time by coast. I think that was the start of my love for the sea, and surfing of course. Call it fate or whatever but my first job out of fashion uni was designing beachwear for Speedo. They sent me to beaches all over the world which was amazing, and that enabled me to connect further with water, the ocean, the escapism and ignited the passion I have now for it.
I launched Riz Boardshorts with my business partner Ali in 2010. Our simple aim is to create the most beautiful and sustainable surf shorts in the world; shorts that perform perfectly in the sea but are designed and styled with a sartorial eye.
People’s perception of board shorts are bold, baggy things churned out by large, commercial surf brands. To me there was a glaring gap in the market for shorts aimed at a more grown up, stylish and sophisticated surfer. We also want to create more ethical and sustainable products.
The three elements I try and ensure that are in all our designs are Style, Surf and Sustainability. Designing the shorts is a process of blending classic surf with casual tailoring. Trying to keep the silhouettes simple and refined also allows the prints to do the talking.
There is a lovely irony of designing board shorts in England where it rains a lot and the sea is freezing.
The idea behind our prints came from giving a British twist to something typically tropical, bringing the surf scene up to date. The British Endangered Species series has been really interesting and fun to do. It’s our way of telling stories and raising awareness of the natural world around us. I would love to collaborate with more UK artists and illustrators to come up with even more beautiful prints.
Every pair of shorts we make uses a recycled and recyclable polyester which we source from a company called Libolon in Taiwan. I met them years ago when working for Speedo and they had just started producing recycled fabrics. We then digitally print this here in the UK. This is an expensive process but gives us the most beautiful effects, limitless colour and is more environmental.
I’ve always loved the idea of specialising and just doing one thing well. For me this is shorts.