In 1977, surfing legend and incorrigible rake Bunker Spreckels died at the age of 27, after a lifetime of innovative wave-riding and well-publicized excess. A little more than three decades later, in the spring of 2010, a trio of friends from Santa Barbara, CA launched the Riviera Club label with a collection of clothing inspired by the notorious playboy’s lifestyle. On the docket: A slew of perfectly fitted, highly-wearable casual duds—think plaid shirts, slim chinos, and pocket Henleys—all cut from exceptional fabrics and shot through with an unmistakable dose of West Coast cool. Would Bunker have worn them to ruffle feathers at a black tie event? Maybe, maybe not. But in terms of capturing that famously carefree SoCal vibe, the collection was damn successful. No wonder then that it hit big, getting scooped up by influential shops around the world, right off the bat.
Where to go next? How about a range of fall gear that felt like their surfer dude went off to college in the Northeast (or at least NorCal), complete with jackets, shirts, and knits that were just a bit preppier—but no less stylish. (Sounds about right.) The folks at GQ thought so too, nominating founders Derek Buse, Greg Ullery, and Joe Sadler for a Best New Menswear Designer in America Award in early 2011. As a nominee, they landed a capsule collaboration with Dockers, putting their washed out, subtly detailed stamp on a shirt and a pair of chinos for the megabrand. And that’s just a sideline to their most recent core collections, which keep the “slacker the summer, scholar in the winter” attitude—and the critical accolades—going strong. These guys may be new to the game, but if Bunker were still alive, we’re willing to guess he’d be gatecrashing their parties with pleasure.