I first learned of Kyle Berner and his socially conscious flip-flop brand, Feelgoodz, through a recent GOOD article. After I got over the excitement that he was a fellow New Orleans native, I totally identified with the boldness of traveling in South Asia with a single pair of shoes (visiting a temple where you have to leave your shoes outside becomes much riskier!). But once I spoke with Kyle, I learned that having just one pair of shoes isn’t a far stretch from his at-home wardrobe. While none of this was too surprising given that Kyle’s laid-back style and personality is closely tied with the feeling of Feelgoodz, I did start to wonder if he’s onto something: what if we all owned just five t-shirts?
Of what you’re wearing today, what’s the most special piece to you?
My t-shirt. People make fun of me and say that I own a total of five t-shirts and I just rotate them out, which – while I do have more than five t-shirts – I do have 5-7 core t-shirts and they all just happen to be black. And I’m wearing one of those core ones today.
Name three favorite items from your wardrobe that mean something to you or represent your style.
I always say it’s my black American Apparel tee, my jeans, and my Feelgoodz. If you were to see me on any given day, that’s probably what I’m wearing. I literally have two pairs of jeans, but I wear them incessantly.
Once something has ended up in your closet, how long does it stay there for?
Until I just cannot wear it anymore because it’s filled with holes or ripped. I find the things I like and I just stick to it. I know what works for me; so the things that I love, I will wear to pieces. That’s probably why a lot of my friends tell me that I have a total of five t-shirts. I just wear things over and over again.
Kind of like a uniform? Like “the Kyle uniform”?
Kind of like the Kyle uniform.
If someone looked into your closet, what would they learn about you?
That I like to keep it easy. I’m the epitome of casual. When [someone] gets to know me but maybe has never seen me before, they will not be surprised about what I’m wearing just based upon who I am.
What influenced that?
When I was a child, I didn’t even like to wear shoes. I would go around barefoot for as long as I could. And anytime I’d get new t-shirts, I’d make my mom cut the tags out of the back because they were itchy. I’ve just always wanted to be comfortable and to wear clothes where I felt that I could breathe. I’ve always been the kind of guy that if I feel like I’m confined in any way, that Kyle Berner as a person is compromised.
Does your personal laid-back style influence the brand’s style as well?
I’ve always been a flip-flop sort of guy. It was not difficult for me at all to absolutely love Feelgoodz.
As far as adding new things to your wardrobe, how often do you shop?
I have a favorite t-shirt shop in New Orleans called Dirty Coast. I’ll go there maybe once every six months and buy half a dozen shirts. Other than that, if I’m shopping, it’s by accident. It’s usually like, “Oh my gosh, my jeans ripped and I need a new pair”. So I’ll go in, I know exactly what I’m going to get, I get it, and then I’ll leave. The thought of perusing around a mall sounds like torture.
Unless I’m in some international market, like in Thailand. Like that’s a shopping experience, but it’s so different. It’s a cultural experience more than a shopping experience.
What’s your favorite souvenir you’ve picked up in your travels?
Something that I can either wear or carry with me at all times. So it has to be something small, lightweight, and easy to fit in my pocket or backpack or wear on my wrist. My favorite thing that I ever got was a black wristband that was written in Thai that one of my former students from Thailand gave to me, and I started wearing it in 2007. I didn’t take it off until it literally fell off – like I literally did not take it off until it broke a couple of months ago.
Has your work influenced your style or shopping habits in any way?
It has always made sense to me that if I’m going to sell a product, like flip-flops for example, let me do it in the most responsible way possible and in a way that isn’t exploiting anyone. That just felt natural to me. But since starting the company, Feelgoodz is extremely looped into the conscious market. So as a result of learning about the amazing companies that exist in this space, when I go out to buy something else, I first consider a Rolodex of companies that I’ve come across first, as long as it’s within budgetary reason. But I do that now – that’s a shift. I didn’t always do that, but then I started Feelgoodz and became linked with all these other awesome companies.
Last question! How many days of the year do you wear Feelgoodz flip-flops?
Out of 365, I would say probably 325. If I’m in my apartment, I’m not wearing any shoes. But it’s the vast majority of days that I’m wearing Feelgoodz.
Thanks to Kyle Berner and Jennifer DeSimone of Feelgoodz for making this interview happen. To learn more about Feelgoodz and to make sure you’re in the loop when they launch their brand-new seasonal footwear line, visit their website or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.
(Photos courtesy of Kyle Berner)