Making waves in terms of design and aesthetic, Australian brand Mocha Salt is a welcome breath of fresh air in the world of outdoor-inspired wear. With sleek designs, a close attention to detail and functionality, the brand’s ethos is founded on a desire for practicality and wearability. The shorts are designed so as to be worn throughout the day: whether it be for swimming, cycling or hiking, the shorts are perfectly adaptable to the requirements of each situation. Schön! sat down with the founder, Rik van Donk, for an insight into the world of Mocha Salt.
Where did the concept for Mocha Salt come from?
It was the start of the summer and I was looking for a new pair of swim shorts; I had in mind a simple, stylish pair of shorts but all I could find were oversized board shorts with palm trees and sunsets. On top of that, I wanted something that would take me through the day rather than just into the water; I’d often take this mountain trail to the beach, go for a swim and then lunch; my outdoor shorts weren’t suited for lunch, my swim shorts were uncomfortable on a hike and my city shorts couldn’t take a beating. So I combined them into one without compromising functionality or style. I figured there might be more people who might appreciate that.
How did you go about founding and setting up the brand?
The starting point for the brand was the product – we wanted the brand to reflect the feeling of freedom that this pair of shorts would allow, the promise of adventure that they make possible. The logo reflects that as well, being a stylised infinity symbol, which embodies the scope of freedom. It is folded like a piece of garment, emphasising the eye for detail and care that embodies everything we do.
Where does the name come from?
It is a reference to Mocha Dick, the white whale that inspired the story of Moby Dick. The whale was named Mocha after the Pacific island off the coast of Chile where it was often seen. We added Salt as a reference to the ocean and to add a certain sharpness.
Functional design is an integral part of Mocha Salt. Can you talk us through the design process?
We start by looking at how an item is used; where will you take it, what will you do with it, what would you expect from the product in those situations. We take a starting point and then we reduce until we’re left with what matters. For us, aesthetic appeal comes from functionality, in the way that the beauty of a racing yacht comes from its optimised design to move through water, and the shape is meaningful, it flows.
How important is the selection of fabrics for Mocha Salt?
The fabric is crucial to ensuring that the finished product functions as we designed it to. We wanted these swim shorts to be as close to regular shorts as possible, to not have that plasticky feel that is commonly associated with swimwear but instead to look and feel like cotton, while still having the durability and quick-dry properties of nylon. We source our fabric from an advanced textile manufacturer in Japan that has been producing quality fabrics for over 70 years.
How do you work with the cut of the shorts? Is the sleek, slim design a signature look you’d like to develop?
Yes. We don’t need to be everything to everyone. We’d like our customers to know that when they purchase from us they’ll get our signature cut; a slimmer, tailored fit that is comfortable and doesn’t restrict movement. We’re all about comfort and style, and we feel that the one doesn’t have to exclude the other. Which is why a great deal of effort went into getting the fit and detailing right; we created countless samples to try for ourselves, until we landed on the perfect cut. We’re seeing a trend towards slimmer and shorter menswear, which also works in our favour right now.
You design & produce in Australia, have buttons shipped from Italy, … how do you source your materials?
We aim to source locally as much as possible, yet if there is a specific characteristic we want from an item then we’d look overseas rather than compromise. Our fabric is very technical and not everyone can produce this, and the same goes for the snap button: we wanted a very sleek outlook, especially on the exposed stud, and there is only one company in the world that makes the ones we like and they happen to be in Italy. Similarly, to guarantee the longevity of our zippers, we source them from Switzerland.
Does Sydney and its lifestyle, its sports, influence the designs and aesthetic of the brand?
Probably more so the concept than the design; Australia has a year-round outdoor culture and our shorts, the way they defy the seasons by what they are (the fabric, the cut, the lining), owe a lot to that culture. From a design point of view board shorts and budgie smugglers have traditionally been the beach staple here, whereas our offering is in the style of the European swim trunk, but we’re seeing a definite trend towards more tailored shorts including on the Sydney beaches so we’re excited for the opportunity ahead.
Finally, what are the future plans for the brand? Where would you like to take Mocha Salt?
We’ve got some ideas for other clothing areas where function has dominated style for no other reason than legacy, and we’re keen to get started on those. We have some great fabrics that we’re trying out right now in a variety of garments so likely one of those will find its way into production later this year, providing we get the concept right – for us it’s about getting things right, not getting into stores.
With its colourful prints, slim fits and down-to-earth aesthetic, Mocha Salt has us excited for a summer outdoors. It was high time that the pervasive, all-present Hawaiian prints were replaced by the likes of Mocha Salt, the world over.
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