We had the good fortune of connecting with KEVIN O’NEILL and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi KEVIN, what role has risk played in your life or career?
From a entreprenuerial perspective, taking risks is something I’ve forced myself to become comfortable for all of my creative product concepts. The thought of losing hard earned money gives everyone a stomach ache, and I really learned its all about trusting your instincts and belief the product you’re creating will find relevance and resonate with consumers. I also learned a great lesson working for adidas America: product is King and Queen. These are words I Iive by today by because IT’S COMPLETELY TRUE. Brand is essential, but product is King!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Having spent 20+ years as a regional account sales rep for various athletic sportswear companies (Reebok, Patrick soccer & adidas) I was simotaneously working on my own creative side projects thinking up ways to make graphic t-shirts and hat brands. I always thought I was going to get fired from my corporate sales gigs, so my back up plan was to create something I could turn into a business and pay the bills with. I spent countless hours dreaming up concepts for t-shirt graphics and was inspired by everything from vintage Sports Illustrated magazines, Americana ephemera to JCPenney catalogs. Accumulating reference samples was like a treasure hunt and the process was very inspiring. Although I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur at the time, it was more of a necessary creative outlet that I needed to explore. But it was a dark year for me personally and professionally in 2014 when I realized my next endeavor would need to be a very special one. Living in the mountains of Malibu, I was inspired by the rugged sandstone terrain and its close proximity to one of the most popular surfing destinations in southern California – 1st Point. With some many recreational activities literally at my doorstep and my penchant for footwear style and design, I was curious to explore sandal footwear since I was also in the market for new sandals. Without any luck finding something I liked or hadn’t already worn, I decided to create something but with a multi-purpose use, to be worn both casually and functionally. It dawned on me to recreate a product steeped in southern California surfing culture since 1950’s, the classic huarache, like the ones surfers brought back from Mexico. But, with a twist and new modern ergonomic direction. As I put the styles and branding together Malibu Sandals soon became my passion project. And with 3 cobbled together ‘Malibu’ hand made prototypes I was able to locate a factory to help develop selling samples. I’ll never forget how excited I was to see the way the hand woven strap patterns looked on top of the oblique shaped outsole – it was a very gratifying moment. From that point, it was a matter of sharing my Malibu samples with friends, who introduced me to other friends and we’ve been carving out a fanbase ever since. Our brand and business has been built on the shoulders of men’s and women’s premium fashion boutiques around the world and I cannot imagine doing anything right now then to help shepherd the brand into this generation’s Birkenstock.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Living in Malibu the past 8 years, this slice of So Cal paradise is the only place where I like to entertain anyone passing through. With access to a beach key at Little Dume, a fun surf session is priority in the morning before swinging by SunLife Organics for a tasty Wolverine before heading home to Latigo Canyon for an afternoon hike along the fire roads and check out the peekaboo ocean views at Solstice Canyon. Basically, a lot of sun, surf and nature is all anyone really needs.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My cousin, John Dwight IV, has been involved with various creative projects of mine over the years and because of his patience and determination to achieve the right aesthetic from a graphics and branding perspective, certainly enabled me to put the final touches on a finished product.

Website: malibusandals.com
Instagram: malibusandals
Linkedin: Kevin O’Neill

Image Credits

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