Photos: Ruby Nichols
"The real constant for me is that when it’s over, I’ve learned something about myself or decided something about my life. That’s the best part." — Heidi Merrick
When your parents are the founders of famed surf brand, Channel Islands Surfboards, you have a lot to live up to. Luckily for Heidi Merrick, talent and success is in her blood. Marking the designer’s 10th anniversary last year, Heidi opened the doors to her flagship store, H. Merrick, in LA’s bustling Downtown neighborhood.
The easy-breeziness of Heidi’s sophisticated ready-to-wear line is inspired by her upbringing in a small beach town of Santa Barbara. There, she spent her days surfing and helping her mother place buying orders for the shop. Heidi eventually found her calling after collaborating with her mother to design her own wedding gown. She enrolled in Los Angeles Trade Tech College to learn how to sew and make patterns, and the rest is history.
In addition to ready-to-wear that includes swimwear and outerwear, the collection now includes dreamy home goods. Think embroidered leather pillows, silk robes, Moroccan blankets and beach towels. You know, all the essentials for a well-lived life on the coast.
Speaking of coast, it’s no surprise that every item is made right here in California. In fact, Heidi moved her production team in-house under one roof with the store, creating an airy yet buzzing vibe at the headquarters.
We talked shop with Heidi about what currently inspires her and what she hopes to pass on to her two children.
You must have had an interesting childhood as the daughter of a famed surfboard shaper. Can you tell us what it was like growing up?
I had a really wonderful childhood. Surfing culture in Santa Barbara is pretty beautiful, and I was lucky to be a part of it. I just hope I can show my own kids the important things in life: the ocean, the land, the good and normal people. I should probably move back. Ha!
How often do you get to surf now, and what are your favorite spots to catch some waves?
I like surfing wherever I can do it with my whole family. The best days are when the water has grandpas, moms and kids all catching waves together. I’m a very mellow surfer. My favorite place is still the beach where I learned to surf in Carpinteria.
Can you describe your creative process as it typically unfolds?
It changes so much as my business and life changes. Sometimes I begin with a clear vision and the collection turns out totally differently from what I had envisioned. Sometimes the collection comes alive in front of me during the process. The real constant for me is that when it’s over, I’ve learned something about myself or decided something about my life. That’s the best part.
Tell us about your most recent collection. What was the inspiration behind it?
This spring is my 10-year anniversary collection. I revisited some of my favorite silhouettes and modernized them with updates to make them even more wearable. There’s a certain nostalgia to the collection.
Any hints you can share about what’s next for the brand?
I’m beginning to try out some men’s pieces just in the store throughout the next few months. I’m also working on an exclusive swim collection that will only be available for purchase online.
You decided to house your production team under one roof with your store. What’s the daily vibe like there?
Well, I’ve been told by other people it’s loud! We have multiple sewing and cutting machines going, but I don’t even hear them anymore — I love it. It’s one open space and just an incredible team effort. It’s such a great reminder of the point of the process and the effort that goes into ready-to-wear. It’s fun, ambitious and empowering all at the same time.
How does the neighborhood inspire you?
Downtown is just cool. Being around other designers and so many peers in fashion has brought me loads of joy. There’s a practicality to Downtown LA, especially the historic district, that feels right. There’s a huge diversity of people, and I think that’s pretty unique for a neighborhood that’s up-and-coming in Los Angeles.
As a successful mother of two running your own business now, what advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago when you just started out?
Honestly, I don’t know. Whatever I would have said I’m sure would apply now. I’d tell myself to just enjoy it — but I think I do. I’m happy.
Heidi Merrick (115 W 9th St, Los Angeles, CA 90015) is open Monday through Friday from 11am to 6pm, and Saturday from 10am to 6pm, Sunday from 11am to 5pm.
Ruby Nichols is a Fashion Mamas LA member, the founder of Almanac of Style, and mama to Dash.