This sustainable apparel company was born from an entrepreneur's love of surfing

1 month ago 95
Keefer Charneau holding mug in front of home office setup.

Growing up windsurfing and spearfishing on the island of St. Bart’s definitely gave Keefer Charneau a certain simpatico with the ocean, but it wasn’t until he went on a surfing trip to Indonesia a few years back that he started to think about turning his love for the waves into something more tangible. Fast forward to now, and Keefer has just launched his island-inspired KEEF shirt collection, a milestone that he couldn’t possibly be more stoked about.

Mashable spoke with Keefer about his inspiration for KEEF, the growing pains of launching a fashion company, and how Adobe Express is helping him create, plan, and publish his social media content without being a huge time suck — because he still wants to shred when the surf is good, after all.

Three instant film pictures of different textile patterns with black and white image of surfer and wave in the background.
Credit: Keefer Charneau

Riding the waves of inspiration

Keefer has been a professional graphic designer for over 10 years, but he always kept his work and surf life totally separate. That all changed when he started taking photos of surfers and monkeys in Indonesia and decided he wanted to do something creative with them.

“I used the photos to create these really graphic patterns, and I started to think about making things like wallpaper and pillows with the patterns on them,” Keefer said. “But for the surfer vibe I was going for, designing Hawaiian-style shirts ended up making more sense.”

Close up photo of orange tinted aloe vera plant
Left: Credit: Keefer Charneau
Right: Credit: Keefer Charneau
Yellow geometric pattern created using photo of wild monkey
Left: Credit: Keefer Charneau
Right: Credit: Keefer Charneau
Two-sided photo collage of t-shirt on the left, and t-shirt pattern inspiration on the right.
Credit: Keefer Charneau
Two-sided photo collage of geometric pattern on the left, and landscape photo on the right, with KEEF logo in the center
Credit: Keefer Charneau

From surfer to eco-friendly fashion designer

Keefer is the first to admit that launching an apparel brand has been a big learning curve and, while he’s definitely having a blast, it hasn’t always been smooth waters. As a graphic designer, there was a whole other side of manufacturing shirts that he had to consider, which was as much about the feel of different fabrics as it was about their footprints. 

“I had to learn about different buttons and collars for the shirts and I had to research all the different types of fabrics and source manufacturers,” he said. “Sustainability was also very important to me, and I ended up finding a fabric called Tencel, which is a trademarked cellulose fiber that is produced using sustainably sourced wood processed in a closed-loop system that reuses solvents over and over again to eliminate harmful waste and conserve water.”

KEEF founder Keefer Charneau wearing a KEEF shirt.
Credit: Keefer Charneau

Building the KEEF brand one post at a time

Keefer also had to learn how to build KEEF’s social media presence, which was yet another new landscape for him. Because he’s still a full-time graphic designer in addition to running KEEF, he simply doesn’t have the time to post every single day. 

Animated gif of surfer with geometric pattern background
Credit: Keefer Charneau
Keef collared shirt on red background
Credit: Keefer Charneau

“Adobe Express is ideal for making posts, especially if you don’t have a lot of design experience or time,” Keefer said. “It has all these cool templates I can use for all the different social media platforms, and I just drop in my own brand assets like images, logo, and fonts. I can even animate the images and text to create gifs and make my content a bit more dynamic. I also LOVE to use the scheduling tool because it lets me carve out a few hours on a weekend to create an entire month’s worth of posts and just be done with it. I can schedule a post to go live at a specific hour to figure out the most optimal time and get more interaction. It even allows me to automatically post the first comment for when I want to add some hashtags like #surfsupdude.”

An entrepreneur’s top content-creation shortcut

One of Keefer’s biggest time sucks used to be going through images that he wanted to post and having to remove the backgrounds, which sometimes included his cat curled up on the sofa of his Brooklyn apartment. Since he started using Adobe Express for the task, it has freed up more time for him to focus on other things, like expanding his brand.

KEEF shirt model on sufboard
Credit: Keefer Charneau

“If I do a photoshoot and I have the model on a plain background but want to place them on a surfboard, the remove background tool lets me cut out the image and place it anywhere I want, it’s super quick and easy,” Keefer said. “I used to have to do all that in Photoshop, but now I can do everything in one spot, even when I’m on the go by using the app on my phone.”

Now that Keefer has KEEF’s social media content dialed in with the help of Adobe Express, what does the future hold? Keefer says he’d like to create KEEF fabric beach chairs and women’s apparel, or maybe even open a little shop back home in St. Bart’s someday. That way, he’d be closer to the ocean that launched his inspiration for KEEF in the first place, and he’d be ready to catch whatever wave of inspiration the vibrant island lifestyle spurs him to create next. 

Catch your own wave

Now that you’re inspired to get your own passion project off the ground, bring your brand vision to life by quickly and easily making standout content with Adobe Express. Oh, and look cool while doing it by snagging yourself a KEEF shirt as soon as they’re available for pre-order.

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