As a fashion and lifestyle blogger I get invited to openings and events quite regularly. 90% of these events are in Sydney and as I’m allergic to both sunshine and fake tan, I’m unable to travel north with any regularity. All the healthy people upset me too much. However, according to my wee little statistics counter, most of my Australian readers live in Sydney, which I find unsettling. How you cope with my pasty personae, constant coffee consumption and macabre clothing palette is beyond me. Despite my aversion to your sunny city, far be it for me to deny you local fashion related information, so on that note I’d like to introduce you to the Sydney Smaggle Correspondant, Bek Warnock.
Full disclosure here: I’m a little (read: a lot) snobbish about surf brands. I find them too obvious. Garish. Literal. I prefer a label that can show me what it’s about through design and fabric and unique lines, not by literally writing its name all over my clothes in colours that look like they belong in a box of crayons. Also, I find a lot of products and garments that fall under the umbrella of ‘surf’ are designed in such a way that encourage me to do things I don’t want to do. Like wear a bikini. Or shorts. Or brave sharks and seaweed and getting sand in my bits while wearing something functional and unflattering.
No, thank you very much.
Looking back, there is one particular traumatic event in my past that may have led me to my current prejudice about typical surf wear brands. When I was in year four a girl called Sarah Mulvaney pounced like a deranged she-ninja from the primary school monkey bars onto my back to see if I could hold her.
I could not.
As I spat tanbark out of my mouth, eyes stinging with humiliated tears, all I could see was her pink and green Mambo backpack. Which was identical to the one my mum wouldn’t let me have because it wasn’t regulation school colours.
Little Miss Mulvaney, (who I am sure turned out to be a non-psychopathic adult) along with several other combinations of surf fashion and poor behaviour (Cronulla Riots, anyone?) has left me with a gritty (sandy?) taste in my mouth about surf wear and those who don it.
Imagine my internal turmoil, then, when Carly invited me to head along as a Smaggle Correspondent (I took the liberty of laminating myself an I.D card) to a media day for Co-Op Surfection, a new retail concept promising to showcase the evolution and marriage of surf culture and high fashion.
On one hand I was beyond excited to be asked—as a long-time friend and reader of Smaggle I have utter faith in both her judgement and her incredible generosity—but on the other hand I couldn’t shake the feeling someone might jump from a set of monkey bars, pin me to the floor and forcibly tattoo a Southern Cross on my person.
Lured, however, by Carly’s confident assurances that ‘there’ll be booze for sure’ and the fact that she’s never once steered me wrong in the past, I headed off to Manly to visit the store.
Imagine my surprise when not only was I handed a bottle of branded Surfection Co-Op red wine on my arrival, but was also surrounded by baked goods aplenty, just there for the nibbling. To be honest they had me at ‘would you care for a friand?’ but, professional to the last, I kept a poker (if slightly crumb-laden) face as I walked upstairs. I was met by an utterly adorable pint-sized fairy/human called Lottie, the creative director for the store, who, at least upon first inspection, appeared to be neither a race-rioter or monkey-bar assassin. She hopped about the store, bursting with contagious pride and enthusiasm and explaining the concepts behind the interior design and the architecture, both of which were ridiculously chic, unique and beautiful.
The idea behind the new store is that it acts as a balm against the mass-exodus of customers to online shopping by creating a space that ‘calls out to the counter-culture customer’ (I just love this). The store itself is an architectural orgasm of light and wood, staying true to the vibe and integrity of the Manly Corso on which it’s located (for people who don’t live in Sydney, the Manly Corso is the iconic boulevard leading down to Manly Beach, and encompasses this kind of effortless, cool, beachy attitude the Northern Beaches are famous for).
But onto the clothes—oh, the clothes! Not only was there nary a bikini in sight, but everything from the positioning of the products to the effortless cool New-York-loft-dweller-meets-surf-boho-minstrel backed up Lottie’s assertions that Co-Op Surfection is changing the face of surf fashion. The blend of brands was intelligent and carefully selected. Sunglasses from Ksubi. Jeans (yes, lots and lots of denim) from Wrangler. Graphic tees from RVCA. These are brands at the urban end of surf fashion, or, conversely, at the surf end of urban fashion, depending on which angle you’re coming from. Everything was on-trend. Colours were this season. Fabrics were varied. I fell in love with an oversized knit leopard-print cardigan and had to ask for some alone time with it.
In short, it was everything a retail concept should be—inviting, inspiring, fashion-forward and staffed by smiling, blue-haired ethereal pixies. With cake.
On the ferry home, taking covert swigs of my free bottle of plonk, I began to let my surf-prejudice go. Maybe it was the booze talking, but if a surf store could speak to my urban, sport-fearing, spec-wearing sensibilities, then maybe—just maybe—I could revisit my views. To Sarah Mulvaney, wherever you are: I forgive you.