Moore and his Los Angeles-based luxe retro-surf
label M.Nii. Moore was recently named by GQ as one
of the best new menswear designers in America for
John Moore was named to GQ magazineís 2014 class of
best new menswear designers in America for his
retro-cool surf label M.Nii, it was the branding
equivalent of catching the perfect wave. Not just
because the 3-year-old label is stealth-brand small
(with barely 50 retail accounts globally, retail sales
are about $1.5 million annually) but also because the
entire line was born out of a chance flea market find
ó a single pair of navy blue twill surf shorts.
is what started it all," Moore says, sliding a
photograph across the conference table in his Culver
City. Calif., studio. "My [business] partner Randy
[Hild] is a ferocious surf memorabilia collector, and he
found these. When he threw them in front of me, I just
fell in love with them. I had this immediate reaction to
the label. But we didnít know the story; we had no
turned out to be a story that stretches all the way back
to the birth of the first surf-specific boardshorts,
which Moore and company discovered as they started
researching the name in the waistband label ó M. Nii
Moore says, was the first initial and last name of a
mom-and-pop tailor shop in Waianae, Hawaii, on the
island of Oahu. In business from roughly 1948 to 1968,
it crafted everything from menís jackets and trousers
to school band uniforms.
a time when most surfers were tackling the waves clad in
nondescript cutoff military-issue chinos, standout
styles evolved as a way for surfers to distinguish
themselves from afar, Moore says. He shares a tale
imparted to him by surfing legend Greg Noll.
told us heíd be out there charging these waves, and at
the end of the night, everyoneís drinking beers and
watching footage, and some of the guys were claiming his
waves," Moore explained. "So his whole vibe
was: ĎI need something to stand out.í So he went to
the M. Nii Tailor Shop."
shop not only had a range of heavy-duty twill fabrics on
hand but also all manner of decorative taping, which
helped make Nollís trunks distinctive. "Word
spread fast," Moore says, "and every guy who
would go in there would have a different tape or
pretty short order, M. Niiís surf trunk business
quickly moved beyond Hawaii, and President John F.
Kennedy was photographed in a pair at Santa Monica Beach
boardshorts with a backstory couldnít have found their
way into a more capable pair of hands. Moore, a bearded,
surf-loving 40-year-old Venice Beach resident, has been
steeped in the art of storytelling for more than a
decade. He was the guy who came up with the name of
Abercrombie & Fitchís Hollister line, and for the
last six years, heís helmed Culver City-based Pop
Studios, whose bread and butter is crafting compelling
brand stories for fresh-out-of-the-box concepts.
that serendipitous flea market find as a jumping-off
point, Moore, Hild and a third business partner, Ramez
Toubassy, launched M.Nii for summer 2011 (jettisoning
the originalís space between initial and last name).
debut season consisted of variations on that surf trunk
ó dubbed the Makaha Drowner ó made of heavy-duty
twill, with a lace-up waist, button-fly closure and a
wide, vertical red and white contrast taping down each
current collection includes boardshorts in a variety of
fabrics ($110-$195), as well as tees, chinos and other
clothing for men and women. The line is designed in
Culver City and made in the U.S., most of it in the L.A.
area. Itís carried at a range of retailers from
high-end department stores such as Barneys New York and
Nordstrom to smaller, upscale menswear shops, including
Ron Herman, Unionmade and Wittmore locally.
is our first season [carrying M.Nii], and itís done
extremely well," said Paul Witt, owner of the
Wittmore menswear boutique on L.A.ís West 3rd Street.
brand has proved so popular that heís expanding his
merchandise buy for the fall season. "I really
believe in it," Witt said.
to Moore, growth has been steady since launch, but M.Nii
still remains a relatively unknown cult surf brand. Thatís
about to change.
donít even think weíve hit our growth spurt,"
Moore said. "[And] I think with the GQ recognition,
weíre entering the next phase."