To celebrate Earth Day 2023, we hosted a day party at our Larchmont, LA location. Cohosted with our longtime friends at Malibu Sandals, we had Mills play a set, and Glen Han document the day. After the event, we spoke to Malibu Sandal's founder Kevin O’Neill, about his relationship with nature, and how that informs his work.


CM:  Thanks for joining us, Kevin! Tell us a little bit about the party.

KO:  It was such a nice day. Dan and I had spoken at some trade shows about doing a pop-up, and Larchmont, and Earth Day, made sense. It was such a great party atmosphere, it could’ve been a Larchmont house or some mansion party *laughs* Everyone was super upbeat and open, and there were just lots of laughs. The sandals were so easy to merch in the store, looked great with the pants and colors, really created a silhouette. We also brought our beautiful woven tote bags, the weekender and the everyday, and they just fit in really well.  

CM:  Did you get to meet (Larchmont store manager) Zach?

KO:  Yeah! We were chopping it up in the back, putting together a photo shoot, and it was fun to get his perspective on how something would look. He’s a lot of fun to talk to, and his wife his super cool, too! It was great to learn about his background, this art student that wanted to make music. Really interesting dude.

CM: He’s got the best energy, really a great representative of the brand. He talked about what a fun sense of community was sort of permeating throughout the party in the event as a whole. Did you feel that too?

KO:  Absolutely. I think that a lot of people are just like-minded in terms of style, of having a point of view. And everyone had their own style, and that’s such a great connector. 

CM: I understand that proceeds went to Heal the Bay?

KO: Yeah, we donated part of our weekend and Earth Day sales. It was just our way of showing support, in addition to helping them pick up trash on the beach. 

CM: That's great. I think it encapsulates what we're all about philosophically. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about just your personal connection with nature. I recall reading that you’re into surfing. 

KO: I got really into surfing at 30, very late to the game. Part of what drew me to Malibu was that I wanted to breathe cleaner air. In Malibu, it always seemed like the sun shined brighter, and I just love the mountains right on the coast. I really appreciate the solitude of nature, and I just feel calm and at ease and everything is just so beautiful. 

CM: It must be so nice to be close to the water.

KO: It only takes 15 minutes from PCH at the beach to get to my house, where I live with my two kids and wife and a horse and three dogs and chickens. I love to turn it off and I'm just in this different world with my family in nature, all the birds and insects. That's my church. That’s my retreat. I marvel at it every day.

CM: Parents often talk about giving their children things they didn’t have growing up, it must feel great to be able to provide that for your kids. 

KO:  Yeah, I'm trying. I have an 11 month old baby daughter, who went to the party by the way, and she’s a little young to appreciate it. But my six-year-old appreciates it. We have butterfly nets, and we catch them and look at them, and he wants to keep them as pets, but we tell him to just appreciate looking at it, while it sits on his finger. I think things like that pay dividends later on. 

CM:  Whether or not he maybe consciously understands and appreciates, it's building a muscle memory in his spirit.

KO:  Yeah, with kids, I think you just want to expose them to different things, interesting things, you know.

CM: How does where you live work into the product?

Kevin O’Neill:  I think it would have been easy for us to connect only to surfing, but in Malibu it's so much more. I think it’s important to consider the heritage, when I think about our hybrid huaraches for example. It was a surfer sandal in the 50s and 60s. When the SoCal surf scene got mainstreamed, and the beaches were so crowded, the surfers went south, to Mexico, where nobody was surfing. No one was even living there, save the indigenous people, who they befriended. And they would sell them huaraches and sarapes and ponchos, and that’s how it was introduced as a style. And so we’ve taken that history and just updated it.

CM:  I'm wondering how that adherence to nature informs the company, just, like operationally. 

KO: Where I think we’ll have the biggest impact is with recycled rubbers, and other materials that are repurposed and reused. For example we’ll be introducing sustainable cordura nylons in our winter line.

I think functionality is key, too. A lot of our products really are multi-purpose. You don't have to take them off to go do something else during the day. I wear nothing but Malibus, whether it’s the slide or the mule or the moccasin, and I do everything in them. 

CM: I think that's so important, to make products that are versatile and long lasting, to help offset the damage caused by consumption. It’s important to us, too.

KO:  Right. Yeah, I mean we're not in the fast fashion game, that’s a whole other problem. We’re not injection molding, all of our stuff is handmade, handwoven, with real technique. It’s not just shooting pellets into a mold and voila. There’s craftsmanship involved. I think just the visual continuity of a woven pattern is really compelling. 

CM: Do you take color inspiration from nature?

KO: Oh, always. We take cues from the ocean, we have a sea blue strap color, and alot of earth tones. The more the better. We're going to introduce a bison brown next year.

CM: Such a lovely color.

KO: Absolutely. I love kicking back on a Saturday or Sunday, and just staring off into the sky, at the trees or whatever's around me and relaxing. And just, you know, not hearing a thing. There's no noise. Birds, maybe the wind, that's it. And I think that's why the line looks like it does in terms of color.

CM: It’s a great way to propagate that sense of inner calm and peace.

KO:  Yeah, that's it. And that's also solitude, just getting settled in that frame of mind, no device, just clear-headed. 

CM: What other styles are you excited about?

KO: We have a chocolate woven Chukka boot that we've finally figured out how to get made, and I love it. I'm trying to develop a range of classic colors and styles that don't change, you get the right material in the right outsole and you just lock it in. 

CM: I can hear the passion when you talk about it.

KO:  You know, I never imagined I'd be doing something like this. Never dreamed of it, but it’s the greatest thing, and I’m so into it. Right now I’m in Thousand Oaks, where our warehouse is located. I love being here.


CM: I'm sure Dan can relate on a very real level.

KO:  That's what it takes. This is when we send out all our new stuff, and introduce all kinds of new things, and it's exciting.

CM: It's about the whole process in the whole work, right?

KO:  Yeah, there's a grind to it, too. We're small businesses, and so you gotta do what it takes.

CM: I know you played baseball professionally, and I think it's similar with success in sports. Loving the details, the little things. 

KO: Right, I just like to know all this stuff too. It's important. So I pack an order, and I’m shipping them, these beautiful pieces of footwear. And I can’t wait for the customers to get them, I imagine them opening the boxes and it’s like Christmas.


Kevin O'Neill is the founder of Malibu Sandals, based in Malibu, CA. Check out his brand here.


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