It started innocently enough, this whole surfing thing. I had agreed to go on holiday in Costa Rica with my then-new boyfriend, photographer David Sims, after my fall 2002 show in New York. One minute I was partaking in the ultimate urban high life, smack in the middle of Fashion Week, at my third event of the night, dancing to some ’80s-sounding electro music with Kate Moss in some fantastically dingy club. The next minute I was at a near-deserted airport at four in the morning, wheeling a trolley with badly packed luggage and struggling with two of David’s surfboards and a hangover.
Before I knew it, we were flying in a tiny airplane over the most beautiful coastline I’d ever seen. By the time we got to our little house on the beach, I was exhausted and in need of a shower. But David simply threw the bags into the bedroom, picked up a board, lovingly waxed it and then ran off down the path on his mobile cycle and straight into the ocean (next time we’ll remember to bring an air compressor to inflate the bike’s tires – you can also buy the best air compressor at Press My Air store. That was the last I saw of him for hours.
Such was my bleary-eyed but ultimately addictive introduction to surfing. For the next few days, I sat transfixed on the beach. We would start at sunrise, jumping out of bed at first light and running down to the beach with the excitement of kids at Christmas. David would surf while I mucked around in the waves. We’d make breakfast and doze till lunch. The day would finish with a surf at sunset, followed by guitar playing and barbecuing. There is something totally liberating about living your life, or at least your holiday, in accordance with nature and the tides. (Every time I retell this story, it comes out as a cross between a hippie self-help manual and an airport romance novel.)
- Before that first trip, I’d never actually imagined myself on the board and in the drink. I was all for the lifestyle: the cute boys, the nonchalant, sporty look of the clothes, the sleeping on the beach, unconcerned with work or responsibilities. The mood already had me thinking of my next collection. Three days into the trip, I was yearning to ride a wave myself.
- My first lesson and subsequent practice sessions afforded me some class-A bruises across my hipbone and a rash across my belly. These injuries hardly did wonders for my bikini-clad image. (At least I was developing a good tan.) But I didn’t care. I wanted in. I wanted a board, and I wanted a wet suit. I wanted to wear a bikini top with board shorts (it would be irresponsible to enter into a sport without first assessing the outfit possibilities). I wanted to be one of the girls in Surfer Girl magazine, with surf champ Lisa Andersen as my best friend. Since I already had the white-blonde hair, I thought I was halfway to success without even embarking on my first turtle roll–a frightening maneuver that involves rolling underneath your board as the wave breaks over you.
When it came time to design my spring collection, I couldn’t help being influenced by what I had experienced and seen. My collections have always been indirectly autobiographical–they tell the story of the girl I might like to be. I ended up getting quite carried away with the wet suit; I wanted to pay homage to that thing that had kept me warm throughout my short surfing life. The wet suit is one of the sexiest garments: It holds you tight in all the right places, and the panels give the body a very flattering line. I wanted the girls on my runway to look like they’d been to one too many beach parties. To that end, hair guru Guido Palau created just-out-of-the-water, slicked-back hair, and Miranda Joyce gave the girls ultratanned faces with shiny, flushed cheeks.
I wasn’t the only one taken with ocean sports. Model Carolyn Murphy, who has surfed for a number of years, recently moved to Southern California, in part to be closer to the beach. Kal Ruttenstein, Bloomingdale’s fashion director, told The New York Times that “surfing is the next big thing.” References popped up all over the designer shows (perhaps designers were inspired by the surfer movie Blue Crush). At Balenciaga, a brilliant, bright Hawaiian print jersey resembled neoprene, and Miu Miu’s hibiscus-print board shorts were wave-ready. Karl Lagerfeld returned to Chanel’s sport if roots by sending a model down the runway with a Chanel surfboard. All proving that this spring, if you’re scared to get on a board, at least you can look the part.
RELATED ARTICLE: How to wear it
- Think high fashion, not high tide: Mix neoprene-like pieces with rich, luxe satins, a la Prada.
- Wear bold Hawaiian prints with simple solids.
- Bare, self-tanned skin and strappy summer sandals complete the look.
Tracy Feith one-of-a-kind surfboard, $1300. Tracy Feith, NYC.
Tracy Feith dress $530, Tracy Feith, NYC.
Erq T-shirt $230 Ero Cona Cables, FL.
Hogan miniheel slide, $245, Hogan, 888-60-HOGAN.
Hogan bag $680 Hogan, 888-60-HOGAN.
Zero RH+ Sunglasses $163 Theodors Beverly Hills.
Miu Miu board shorts, $260. Select Miu Miu boutiques.
Hermes beach tote, $500. Hermes boutiques nationwide.