The Business of WetsuitsMatuse

The Business of Wetsuits, somewhat a loose follow up to our Business of Wave Pools, is a look at how the wetsuit game works, how brands are managing it and what to expect. It’s a run of short interviews, conducted by Jimmy Miles from Lipped, with either the founders, design directors or category managers of wetsuits from a variety of brands. If these short interviews catch your interest be sure to listen to the full run of interviews that will end up on the Lipped Podcast rotation very soon.

This first article/interview is with Matt Larson, the Chief Design Director at Matuse Inc, and we find out why Matuse entered an already saturated market back in 2006, what are the challenges of growing a wetsuit brand and how does Ichiban play a key role in the Matuse brand?

For those unaware of Matuse, they are a Californian based independent brand that entered the wetsuit market almost 15 years ago and introduced the 1st limestone based neoprene as a viable alternative to petroleum based neoprene, creating the environmental niche that the majority of wetsuit market chases today. 

So, the first big first question is…

Tom Williams

In 2006 the wetsuit category was already a saturated category - what were the big brands missing or not doing that inspired the creation of Matuse?

In 2006 the wetsuit category was not nearly as saturated as it is today with many more smaller brands popping up all over the world. In 2006 it was still only the largest long-time companies making suits, until Matuse showed that a smaller brand could enter into the fray and provide a new customer experience that surfers were wanting. We created Geoprene, the creme de la creme of Limestone rubber, to fill a niche that the more sophisticated surfer was wanting, but didn’t know yet. In 2006, when you walked into a surf shop or perused online, you could purchase an entry-level, mid-range, or high-end Neoprene wetsuit – tiers based on the glitz and glam of features rather than rubber types, which is the most important material quality to be concerned about. This is where Matuse was born. We educated the surfing world on why Geoprene Limestone was the best and how it had significant benefits for user experience and added longevity. Today, most surfers are concerned about what their suits are made from and that’s because Matuse was the first to inform consumers that there is a difference. When you purchase a Matuse suit, you know what your wetsuit is made from. 

What has been the primary challenge in growing the brand ?

For us at Matuse scaling has been the biggest challenge. It requires discipline and focus. When scaling, everything you do becomes magnified – product quality, customer service, messaging, and finances. We want to grow with our customers while still proving the quality and forward thinking they have come to know us for.

The inside look at a Matuse Wetsuit is a nice calming blue, it also comes with the word Ichiban printed in Japanese. 

Matuse Dante Wetsuit Review

We've seen many brands conform to the seasonal cadence of new wetsuit releases - do you feel this carries a risk of exposing under tested technology?  Does it lead to better suits or just more sales?

At Matuse we don’t chase trends, we create archetypes that we slowly develop over time. We believe in refinement and longevity because through learning we can make the appropriate adjustments to make everything we design last longer. We want to create connections with our products, and this is done through time — the longer we keep a product the closer we feel to it. This is where a connection happens with an inanimate object that now shares memories with us, making it harder to simply toss out. The longer you have it the more you’ll love it – this is why we use the hashtag #lovematuse. In contrast, following trends will set you on a path of uncertainty because you are continually looking outward to your competition for direction, versus looking at your customers, who are telling you through their personal experiences with your product. At Matuse, we touch and breathe all of our products, making sure that we are learning and improving on every new idea.

Arenui Frapwell, from San Diego, riding @joshhallsurfboards magic 5’8 quad. // @whothephotoisjohnking for the 📸

You led the way with the transition to limestone based neoprene, however some brands would now say that's not far enough.  Do you envisage a day when suits are no longer made from neoprene but rather alternatives like Yulex or Hevea?

At Matuse we design for longevity and performance and take this responsibility seriously. This means we are always open to looking at new alternatives that might be better for our environment, but if this greatly compromises the longevity of a product’s lifespan, then we don’t see how that is an answer to being environmentally friendly. There is a slow balance of moving forward and sometimes reacting to new technology can be just as detrimental to our environment. With every new product or textile that we introduce, we constantly learn from its successes and failures. With this information we move forward doing our best to improve experience without sacrificing durability.

How does Ichiban play a key role in the Matuse brand?  Can you give an example of when it has influenced a design decision or direction?

Ichiban for Matuse means to make products and experiences the best. This all starts with a lens of designing for longevity, taking into account the materials, construction, maintenance and the ability to repair said product. Longevity is sustainability, and the more time we have with a product that shares and reinforces good memories, the more we love it, trust it, and want to keep it. In turn, this reduces our carbon footprint through extending user experience, which is ultimately the most ethical way to approach designing products for global use.

The branding on a Matuse suit is pretty minimal, stealth for the most part. But you can still find it if you’re looking…

Overall, in our opinion, Matuse are worthy of more of your attention (and dollars). They’ve got a great wetsuit program happening, are approaching ‘surf’ in a unique way and are all about

If you’re looking for Matuse info, hit up their website or Instagram. Always plenty of stuff getting thrown around between those two spots. Or if you’re looking to get a solid hand feel and look at their suits, best bet is hitting up the Matuse retailer page and finding out who’s closest to you. But if you’re chasing a review on their suits, hit up this post – it’s review we did on the Matuse Dante with Hydrasilk 3/2m fullsuit.

In short, from Tim:
I was really impressed by the Matuse Dante suit. It’s stretchy, polished and ultra comfy. This tease of the middle-tier has me dreaming of what their high-end version is like. Like a Telsa sunbeam of eco energy tech? I don’t know.”