Photo: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
OP's motto, "Grab your beach gear and head to the West Coast!," describes the focus of Ocean Pacific Apparel Corporation. It's all beach, all the time. If you're into flip-flop foot gear and a sunhat, OP is in your style wheelhouse. From a home sewing project started in the early 1970s, to today's mega-corporate operation that produces hundreds of thousands of bathing suits and casual wear, OP still brings the beach attitude in a big way. Surf's up!
Orange County, before the television show of the same name, was relatively unknown in 1972, when Jim Jenks started his tiny clothing company, but the county had something few other counties in the mainland U.S. could claim. It had a culture of surfing. Even in areas where the ocean was just a rumor, OP sold board shorts, patterned t-shirts and bathing suits. Surf wear was hot and Orange County companies produced the nation's largest supply of surf wear. OP's competition came from Quicksilver, Birdwell and Sims, all Orange County-based companies.
Soaring Sales to Disaster
Riding the big waves while hanging ten lasted just over 20 years for Ocean Pacific Sunwear Ltd. The company wiped out in the early 1990s, when the sale of surf-themed clothing dropped below the peak sales of the 1970s and 1980s. The company reorganized as Ocean Pacific Apparel in 1993 and put John Warner in as chief executive officer. Berkeley International Capital Corporation of San Francisco bought the main company and took over production under Warner. The new CEO was no newcomer to the surf scene; he'd worked as the chief executive at Quicksilver, Inc, another Orange County surf wear maker. Surf was again up for OP, although under a slightly new name, but the waters were not smooth for OP. Warnaco Group, Inc. bought OP Apparel Corp. in 2004. You may not know Warnaco, but you'll recognize their other brands, such as Calvin Klein jeans, Olga bras and Speedo bathing suits.
Teeny Bikinis & Board Shorts
While the Ocean Pacific designs of the 1970s focused on dude's surf trunks, the young company also sold string bikini tops and tie bottoms for the beach bunnies. Most of the gear was designed for surf wannabes. OP helped start the Huntington Beach surfing competition in 1982, now called the US Open, and brought publicity while drawing the top surfers with big cash prizes until 1998. HB, now promoted as "Surf City," features a gnarly public beach; while the surfing isn't primo at the area's state beach, it's quick and easy. The beach had space for the surfers and the crowds. The company also hooked up with some top names in surfing to promote their gear, and OP signed top-ranked surfer Tim Curran in 2000, to endorse its board shorts and casual wear.
Beach bunnies didn't get their real due in the surf clothing until the mid-1990s when Quiksilver's secondary line called Roxy paid to sponsor professional surfer Lisa Anderson, but OP had a full line of bathing suits and tiny, string-pull shorts and cover-ups. T-shirts, before the 1990s lines, were designed for dudes. Chicks bought the smallest size and attacked them with the dryer, if need be, to shrink the shirts to size. After the 1990s, OP expanded its offerings for females, and today OP's casual dress for juniors covers half their clothing line. The company also sells half a dozen tiny-string bikinis, a throwback to the original company surf bunny design.