July 29, 2008
For Surfing Family, Sport Inspires Design Businesses
By MELISSA MAGSAYSAY
Heidi Merrick may not be a globe-trotting socialite from a high- profile family, but she is royalty. Surf royalty.
Her father is Al Merrick, the legendary board shaper whose Channel Islands surfboards are what surf gods Tom Curren and Kelly Slater ride. Growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif., and working in the store where her father made boards and her mother sewed shorts and Hawaiian shirts made an impression on Heidi, who started her own line of ultra-feminine dresses and jackets in 2006. But don't expect hibiscus prints.
"I started with boned dresses, almost debutante-looking," she says. "Lots of underpinnings, everything lined with beautiful silk. I really wanted to get the construction of the dress right."
Her clothes have a California romantic quality in bright sherbet- colored satins and chiffons and are sold at Lisa Kline, Dari and Wendy Foster.
And she makes more relaxed pieces too, such as the Nonnie caftan, which Merrick was wearing on a recent afternoon in her breezy Moroccan-style abode in Los Angeles. "I try and push the way I live into my clothes," she says.
"When I get dressed, I pay attention to what I want my silhouette to be, what I'm comfortable in, the pieces I gravitate to first. And then I get to my studio and note all those things down. It's the same thing with surfboards: They are shaped from the thought, research and the time in the water my dad's put in."
Merrick's personal style is luxe hippie, which makes sense considering this is a woman who has fly-fished with her dad since she was a child, subscribes to National Geographic and writes a daily style blog at www.heidimerrick.com/blog. Here, a few of her obsessions and opinions.
* "The surf lifestyle as it's portrayed by the public, the stereotypical surfer, is not who I am. It's not who my family is. What my father has is so personal and intimate, and that's what I relate to." Merrick grew up surfing but now prefers to paddle board. She likes the waters off Carpinteria, Calif., where she rides a Channel Islands Caddi paddle board in a chic Tiffany blue.
* When it comes to shopping for beauty products, Merrick would rather not. She does her own micro-dermabrasion, for example, by mixing grape seed oil and sugar. "It really works, and it tastes really good too." She pays no attention to brands of shampoo or lotion but does love the delicate look of a vintage silver fragrance tray that sits in her bathroom. The tray holds classics: Chanel No. 5 and L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons.
n "My family are craftsmen," she says. "My dad is, bar none, the best shaper the world's ever seen, and my mom is an amazing seamstress. I always wondered what craft would be for me, and I'm so glad it was this because it's perfect pieces of them. I basically do what my dad does, and it really honors my mom, because this was inspired by her."
* Most of her belongings, such as her mother's silverware and grandmother's drinking glasses, have been collected or passed down. "I do love furniture shopping and antiques. I love the Pasadena flea market and also Daisy's Market, this great Mexican grocery store on Silver Lake Boulevard. It's part grocery store, part antique shop."
* In her living room are wall sconces with sinewy, branch-like details from her mother-in-law's antique store in Vail, Colo., and a stack of "Heidi" books that her mother passed on to her. Everything has a story. "That used to hang in the entryway of (my husband) Johnny's parents' lodge," she says, pointing to an elegant, rustic wood chandelier. "I just love it, because I know Johnny was a baby when they had it and he grew up looking at it."
* Merrick's list of things she loves doesn't include fall's hot Fendi bag or the must-have skinny jeans. It's everyday pleasures that she finds joy in, including fresh pureed cherry tomatoes, olive trees, Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast," bubbly water with lime, yard- sale fabric and "Battlestar Galactica."
Originally published by LOS ANGELES TIMES.
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