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Wrangler and Billabong Put a Western Spin on Vintage Surf

A new partnership blends two of fashion’s most enduring trends: western and surf.

Kontoor Brands-owned Wrangler and heritage surf brand Billabong launched the first installment of their brand-new collaboration Thursday in anticipation of back-to-school season.

The co-branded collection, spanning boardshorts and bikinis, to jeans and graphic tees, pays homage to Billabong founder Gordon Merchant’s favorite pair of worn-in Wrangler jeans. His jeans famously influenced the fit of Billabong’s first pair of boardshorts in 1973, which were created as a new offering at a time when boardshorts were stiff, abrasive and uncomfortable.

Style-wise, the collection emphasizes the parallels between surf and Western culture. Described as a “beautiful intersection of well-worn workwear, forever denim pieces, country surf and timeless bikinis,” garments like jean shorts with shadow pockets and vintage-inspired crewnecks exude a soulful take on country. Polka-dot bikinis tie back to polka-dot-printed jean shorts. The collection is rounded out with summertime accessories like two-tone denim tote bags and bucket hats.

The collection arrives at a time when both vacation wear and rodeo fashion rank high on consumers’ must-have list. Retail analytics firm Edited recently reported that online searches for cow-print bikini tops, cowboy hats, bolero ties and cowboy boots are climbing. Simultaneously, demand for beach-ready apparel like swimwear, resort shirts and beaded jewelry is booming as U.S. travel ramps up. Trend forecasting firm Heuritech named crochet, short shorts and diffusion dye effects as themes to watch for Spring/Summer ’22.

“Both of our teams are intrigued and enamored with the cultures we live in, so it was a true pleasure and honor to celebrate the collision of two distinct worlds in a modern take on our early years,” said Allison Roberts, Billabong women’s creative director. “Just as a denim designer obsesses on creating the most functional and comfortable jeans for riding, we as a surf brand obsess on making the best product for life in and around the ocean.”

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Billabong x Wrangler
Billabong x Wrangler Courtesy

In addition, the collection builds on Wrangler’s industry-leading use of sustainable fibers like organic cotton, hemp and recycled PET. A men’s jean jacket with a corduroy collar is made with 11 percent hemp. Boardshorts are made with 90 percent recycled polyester.

This marks Kontoor Brands’ third collaboration geared toward conscious Gen Z consumers that relies heavily on its sustainable manufacturing know-how. Wrangler teamed with Pottery Barn Teen in January for a line of home décor made with upcycled denim and organic cotton. In January, its sister brand Lee collaborated with H&M for a range of “next generation” denim. The men’s, women’s and kids’ line boasted the debut of H&M’s first-ever 100 percent recycled cotton jeans, along with cotton-free denim made with Tencel, water-saving dyes and lower-impact denim washes.

“Whether you’re passionate about riding in the rodeo arena or riding a wave, a shared love for the outdoors can connect us all,” said Holly Wheeler, Wrangler vice president of global brand marketing. “As we continue to offer new apparel through meaningful collaborations, it’s great to work with a brand like Billabong that aligns with our values and was inspired by our product from the very beginning.”

To bring the collection to life, Billabong tapped into the spirit of the Wrangler-inspired Billabong origin story with some of the surf brand’s most recognizable faces of today. Shot in Australia, the campaign celebrates a “free-and-easy era when function and fashion were one and the same.”

The Billabong x Wrangler collection retails for $25.95-$149.95. Size ranges depend on product but denim pieces range from 24-31.

A second part of the collection will launch in September with more autumnal styles, including denim, fleece and high-waisted corduroy trousers.