Sadly, it's come to this: surf brand Quiksilver has filed for bankruptcy. According to WWD, after the label's shares dropped about 67 percent, it became public knowledge that the once-mighty brand would be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. There's several reasons behind the downfall, but it's believed that a poorly handled acquisition of Skis Rossignol (a French winter sports outfitter) back in 2005 left Quiksilver overpaying for the label, leaving the surf label in debt when the struggling ski brand was unloaded at a loss in 2008 (but we'll get to that later). As skate-centric brands flourish, it's disappointing to see the same doesn't apply to surf-centric brands.
This turn of events isn't necessarily out of the blue, as Quiksilver had been looking for a buyer-savior; simultaneously dropping about 80 positions from HQ earlier this month. As Racked reports, the brand will hand over control to Oaktree Capital Management LP, a private equity firm tasked with providing Quiksilver the $175 million it needs to restructure.
Quiksilver CEO Pierre Agnes noted in statement regarding the bankruptcy filing, ""Oaktree’s financial strength and expertise, deep experience working with companies in situations similar to ours, and successful history operating in our industry make them an exceptional partner for us going forward."
Founded in 1969, Quiksilver began life as a local surf label in Torquay, Australia, pioneering boardshorts with materials and details (like Velcro straps) that would normally be found on wetsuits. According to the brand's website, it was the first to create boardshorts with a Velcro fly, yoked waist, scallop legs—all in a quick-dry cotton. In 1976, the brand would make its way to America's shores through the entrepreneurial efforts of competition surf Jeff Hakman and his friend Bob McKnight. Producing their first line of apparel under the Quiksilver U.S.A. banner, a run of around 600 pairs of boardshorts debuted in '76. Starting by offering the product at three separate surf shops in California, in nine days, the brand's first run of apparel sold out.
From that point, Quiksilver established itself as leader among competitors like Ocean Pacific, exporting its gear to Japan (in 1977) and France (in 1978), becoming globally active in 1979 with the establishment of Quiksilver Garments in 1979. As the brand entered the 80's, Quiksilver pioneered design for its products; creating bold graphics with its "Echo Beach" offerings in 1980; and technically, with its comfortable stretch fabric "ST Comp" boardshorts in '81. By 1984, Quiksilver had produced the first branded surfing home video with The Performers. 1986 saw the company go public on the NASDAQ Exchange.
Starting the next decade, Quiksilver made three incredibly important moves: the introduction of surfwear's first denim line—"Saltwater Denim"; the unveiling of Roxy, the first female-exclusive surfwear label; and the sponsorship of Kelly Slater. While the label had, and would, go on to sponsor several championship surfers, the addition of Slater to the roster would bring nothing but positive press to brand; especially with Slater taking home major international titles like the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Title in 1992, and from 1994 to 1998. As arguably the symbol of surfing the 1990's (shouts to cult video game Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer), Quiksilver rode the wave of Slater's Tony Hawk-level of crossover success well into the new millennium.
By the early 2000's, Quiksilver was king of the castle when it came to surfwear, and arguably one the biggest forces in the action sports apparel market. It secured its place on top by snapping up several competitors, including: Hawk Designs (naturally associated with Tony Hawk); skate shoemaker DC Shoes; and the company that started it all—Quiksilver International Pty Ltd. This rapid expansion would inevitably hurt the company, when it acquired the aforementioned Skis Rossignol, in the mid-2000s.
Following the financial crisis in 2008 (and debatably, the end of the action sports wave that dominated the 1990s and early-2000s), the rapid expansion that Quiksilver embarked on ultimately floundered when its acquired properties suddenly tanked in value. As a market analyst told Business of Fashion, "They expanded too fast into assets that were overvalued and, in hindsight, underperforming." Coupled with the rise of fast-fashion competitors, and not only was Quiksilver bloated in its surf lane—losing cred among surfers with moves into department store sales floors—it was getting squeezed out of the apparel market. Yes, Quiksilver made subtle moves to try and dodge its impending fate, (a collaboration with English designer Julien David showed the brand was willing to try new things) but the damage was already done.
Suffering from its own success, with the announcement of bankruptcy, Quiksilver joins once-competitor Billabong as its value plummets. As Business of Fashion noted two years ago, the likely outcome for a brand in Quiksilver's position has already come true: acquisition by a private equity firm who will strip down the brand in an effort to keep it afloat. Considering that Billabong was also saved and refinanced by Oaktree Capital Management, it looks like—at the very least—Quiksilver has the right partner in its boat for the future.