Whether or not you are familiar with the surf industry, chances are that you’ve still heard, or at least seen, the last name Merrick mentioned or written somewhere – as it is the last name of Channel Island’s founder Al. Founded in 1969, Channel Islands has grown to become the premier surfboard manufacturing company, building some of the best-in-class surfboards for the most notable riders (including Tom Curren, Dane Reynolds, Bethany Hamilton, Kalani Robb, and many more).
However, and though the family is synonymous with surf royalty, it is Al’s daughter Heidi, who has, in her own right, built a name for herself within the fashion and design world. Incorporating key design pointers from her parents, her father being a craftsman/shaper and her mother a greatly gifted seamstress, Heidi has created a brand that infuses unique designs with clean and refined silhouettes, all the while staying true to her seaside aesthetic. Now, having just opened her new DTLA store and expanding her line, which is now sold at major stores worldwide, Heidi has become a major player in the fashion and design world.
Heidi recently sat down with us to discuss the inspiration and ethos behind her namesake brand and aside from being wildly talented, she was also incredibly welcoming and fun. Two things we can certainly appreciate!
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Before creating your brand, you moved to New York. Can you speak more on this experience? How did it influence the vision of your brand?
New York was very good to me. I think it still has such a strong voice in my aesthetic. I moved to NYC the day after I turned 18. My parents flew with me to drop me off. My only memory of my dad in NY was him standing in front of a cab to return to the airport saying, “You don’t have to do this, Sweetie, you can come home with us.” But I was enthralled with the city and the culture, the life there was so romantic to me. Everyday felt like poetry, good and bad. I needed that, to love California the way I do now. I needed it also, to love people and bring diversity to my eye.
I read that the crafts and trades of your mother and father Al Merrick hold the foundation of your brand: can you please further explain their influence on the development of your brand, as something more than just a surfer label?
Seeing parents work hard, I think may be the best education. My folks put there hearts out to world and I was able to watch them. I know how many times it takes to get a design even acceptable. I know how devastating a conceived failure can be. There are so many similarities to the process, it never ends for me.
What does “Made in America” clothing mean to you?
To me, it is the height of sustainability to produce where you design. Local business, community, lifestyle all flourishes within domestic production. It’s not just made in America, it’s having a functional fashion house that gives me total control of the brand and quality.
Where do the values of transparency of production and “brand responsibility” stand within your brand?
At any point customers can drop by the studio and see us making the clothes. We cut and sew in house. As I write this there are 3 sewing machines going around me and it makes me happy to be in the heart of the process like that. I try to be purposeful in letting the consumer know about our process but it is not the point of my collection- the point is beautiful clothes.
How does minimalist fashion relate to the surfer community?
Goodness, I don’t know. Fun story, my brother once said to me that there was no way to know it was my collection, I needed to put a label on the outside of the clothes. Sigh, wink. That’s a hilarious byproduct of growing up with surf brands, logos everywhere. I’ll tell you what though, I’ve been trying to make clothes that you can recognize by the silhouette and simplicity since then because obviously there is great value in knowing the brand. I definitely got that from the surf community.
And to your own personal style?
I’m a uniform type. I wear the same silhouette for days in a row. It just makes sense for me. It’s not boring, I think I wear cool stuff- I just don’t labor over it everyday. I don’t think fashion should own you, you should own it. I don’t know…
What does the new opening of your store in LA personally signify for the development of your brand?
The store is below and a few doors over from my studio so it’s easy for me to be in both places. It sort of hearkens back to days where you knew your dress maker and had a relationship with them. I love knowing my customers and having a small and honest business. My days feel more complete and so does the brand. It has given me incredible freedom.