Surfer's kiss stirs up clothing designer Heidi Merrick
You can take the girl out of Surftown, USA, but you can’t always take the Surftown, USA, out of the girl. Clothing designer Heidi Merrick grew up in Carpinteria, California, a little city with big waves. That’s where her parents made surfboards and family friends went on to be pros. So it’s no wonder that the L.A.–based fashionista always sees some subtle aspect of SoCal boarding culture come out in her work.
This season, however, instead of just intuitively massaging some broad hometown influences into her spring 2012 line, Merrick made a conscious effort to narrow down her focus to one isolated childhood memory.
“This is the first time I’ve ever tried to tell a single story through a collection,” says Merrick, who chatted with the Straight during her recent trunk show at Oliver & Lilly’s (1520 West 13th Avenue). “I wanted to see how much inspiration I could get from one moment, just a simple, simple moment.…I mean, if I can create a collection from one strong moment in my life, then I have a career.”
Considering this particular memory included ’80s surfer superstar Tommy Curren, it comes as no surprise that it stuck with her all these years. Right before he took off for the big league, Curren made the rounds bidding farewell to family friends.
“So I’m like eight or nine at the time, and he’s going on the tour,” she recalls. “We walk out of my house in Carp and we’re on the driveway and he kisses me goodbye, like however you kiss an eight-year-old when you’re 18, and I think I remember realizing that was my first kiss.…And then he got in the car to leave, and I just remember the driveway and me wondering where he was going.”
That coming-of-age flashback was enough to create a stunning 60-piece line that juxtaposes the innocent vibe of a little girl left behind and the revved-up sex appeal of an ’80s surfing icon.
The former you can see in all of Merrick’s understated, untreated, ivory-coloured cotton gauze pieces, like the loose-fitting Fig Tree maxi dress ($549) that comes with a thin, cracked-leather tie belt and her boho-chic Carp Shirt ($245) with Spanish black-lace detailing.
And the ’80s pow can be seen in the brighter-than-bright colour-blocked silk pieces, like the long-sleeve mini Huntington Dress in the Sundeck combo of turquoise, orange, and yellow ($437), as well as the Tommy Shirt ($350), which totally rocks in the Neapolitan mix. Both pieces have an exposed gold zipper on the back for an added touch of glam. Another standout is the solid-canary-yellow silk-chiffon Acoustic Dress ($388), with smocking under the bust line that gives it an amazing drapey fit. While the silhouette flatters, the colour is busy making a bold statement. You wear this dress and all eyes will be on you—guaranteed.
“It really is something to wear one beautiful colour, isn’t it?” says Merrick. “It just makes you feel so special.”
As for her muse, he hasn’t seen all these rad looks he inspired, but he’s heard about them.
“I actually told him just this weekend,” says Merrick. “I saw him at a party. I just said, ‘Hey, I did a collection after you.’ It took me a long time to build up to telling him—but he loved it. He really loved it.”