NEW YORK >> Bloomingdale’s and its partner menswear designers are riding the wave of surf-inspired fashion, fun and quirky apparel and accessories to many of its stores while raising money for ocean conservation efforts.
Surfer style has for years gone beyond the beaches; it’s a relaxed, carefree vibe appealing to bona fide boarders as well as the wishful thinkers.
Comfort rules among the board shorts and soft, sun-washed T’s, but there’s also a coolness captured in the clothes.
There are no specific surfer fashion dos and don’ts since enthusiasts come from all walks of life, says Saturdays Surf designer Morgan Collett, and that’s what he likes about it. “Men who wear suits six days a week, to those who never wear one, surfing is a sport for everyone. Style comes from the individual. Being able to take a universal sport such as surfing and make it specific to themselves, that is truly special.”
Bloomingdale’s fashion director Kevin Harter also struggles with a definition but knows who the customer is. “I really do think it is for the guy who is relaxed with his style and always looking for an adventure.”
Meanwhile, pro surfer Rob Machado describes the look as “a little more outside the box,” and designer Tracy Feith says he likes the attitude that most surfers accessorize with.
Marc Jacobs, Paul Smith and Ralph Lauren also have contributed to the limited-edition Surfrider Collection, which donates 10 percent of sales to the nonprofit, environmental-themed Surfrider Foundation.
The Associated Press asked designers, as well as Machado, who is serving as an ambassador for the retailer, about their experiences in the water. Their email responses:
>> Machado’s first bodyboard experience was when he was 6, but he didn’t ride a wave standing on a surfboard until he was 9. That’s when he developed an understanding of waves, he says, and “it entered into a whole different realm of excitement.”
“I don’t think you can ever imagine or explain what surfing is like to anyone. It kind of blows away any expectations,” he says.
>> Riviera Club designer Derek Buse first picked up a board on a family vacation to Hawaii when he was 10. “I paddled out by myself at some outside wave with a bunch of locals and got PUMMELED!” he reports.
Since then he’s learned to point his board parallel to the beach instead of straight at the beach, which got him stuck in the wash.
He likes to hit waist-high waves with his buddies but doesn’t care much for surfers who stake a claim on a spot because they scouted a location first, he says.
>> Feith says his first surfing experiences are much like his more recent ones: humbling.
“There’s no real trick to surfing … although I would say the ability to laugh at yourself could be quite helpful in certain situations, ha ha.”
>> Harter, of Bloomingdale’s, grew up a good Midwesterner, but, he says, surfing was on his “bucket list” of things to do.
He had the chance to check the box last year.
It was all — and more — that he imagined. “There’s this amazing thrill you get when you get up for the first time. My first day I did not want to quit, I just wanted to keep pushing myself until I stood up on the board.”
>> The first time Saturdays Surf’s Collett paddled out, he was 5 or 6 years old and on a long, yellow board at San Onofre, Calif. “I remember how clear the water was, how rocky the shore was, and I remember riding a wave all the way to shore and then I hit the shore and fell face first into the rocks.”
The fingers he sprained that day didn’t interfere with the smile on his face, Collett recalls. It didn’t take long for him to ditch the occasional baseball or soccer practice to hit the waves, and then, in high school, he was on the high-school surf team. Yes, surf team. That meant sanctioned late arrivals at school three times a week because they were at surf practice.
>> UNIS designer Eunice Lee comes from the smaller East Coast school of surfing, getting lessons from friends in the waters of Bridgehampton, N.Y.
“It’s definitely not as easy as it looks. It’s sort of like trying to get up on a bar of soap,” she says.
At first, Lee admits being a little freaked out and fought off fears of weird creatures coming out from the water. By now, though, she’s warmed to it, especially since she has built up her upper-body strength.
“You need to be strong to be able to pop up on the board.”
>> Industry of All Nations co-founder Fernando Gerscovich says the greatest luxury of his job is that he can travel the world searching for new products, manufacturers and perfect waves.
He started at age 16 in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
“I remember breaking into a friend’s house and borrowing a very beat-up shortboard with none of the fins left. The waves were super small, no more than 2 feet, but the shape was perfect. I think I got barreled in the first wave, seriously.”
And, even as an accomplished surfer, Gerscovich still has lessons to learn: “In my last trip to Mexico, I learned that is not a great idea to step onto a puffer fish, the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world.”