OC REGISTER - JULY 2014
Wonderful story by Lisa Liddane in the OC Register about rashguards being back in style. Seea designer Amanda Chinchelli was interviewed for the story. The Seea x Royal Hawaiian collab rashguard was on the front page of the Life | Fashion section!
Surfing's rashguards go from sea to street
By: Lisa Liddane, style writer
Amanda Chinchelli was on a quest for the perfect women’s rashguard about four years ago. What the Italian/Brazilian surfer found in stores were loose-fitting and utilitarian, decorated primarily with logos or brand names – and utterly lacking in verve and femininity.
So Chinchelli did what any self-respecting designer would do: She conceptualized and sewed her own rashguards – constructing a silhouette that fit a woman’s curves, juxtaposing prints with solids, mixing colors with a flourish, and even eschewing the surf favorite raglan sleeve. She and her husband, Brian Greer, sold the surfing staples under their San Clemente-based Seea label in late 2011, helping set off what has become a trend this year: rashguards cool enough to pass off as streetwear.
“Seea definitely started that trend out here first,” said Corey Brindley, buyer for Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach. “Forever, there wasn’t any energy put toward the female market of surf. A couple of things culminated at the same time: Women’s surfing started getting more popular, the women were good-looking and surfed really well. … Women wanted to surf but they wanted their own look and not wear the same things as men.”
Stylish rashguards are now sold widely at boutiques such as Molly Brown’s Swimwear, department stores such as Nordstrom, athletic merchandise specialists such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, and online retailers such as Lands’ End. The big brands in surfwear – Roxy, Billabong, Rip Curl, Volcom, Hurley and O’Neill – have versions of printed rashguards, usually priced less than $60. Even designer labels such as Marc by Marc Jacobs, Mara Hoffman, Trina Turk and Tory Burch have added printed rashguards to their swimwear collections, priced from $100 to $250. Seea falls in the designer category, with prices from $60 to $155.
“What we’ve seen this season is rashguards being turned more into ready-to-wear pieces,” said Donna Allen, owner of Molly Brown’s Swimwear in Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. “They’re paired with shorts. They’re sexy. It’s something girls can wear when they’re going out vs. just wearing to the beach. Some women are wearing them as a coverup to the pool. Rashguards are a fashion statement, not just something functional to wear.” Having previewed some 2015 swimwear lines, Allen said she expects the trend to continue next year.
Prints are the driving force in the rise of rashguards. Seea’s Hermosa swimshirt, for example, features a patterned berry mock turtleneck top combined with a sweetheart bodice in contrasting solid squash and broad black faux “cuffs,” a patchwork-like concept straight out of the ready-to-wear runways for Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Fendi and Junya Watanabe. Designers who already are known for their prints, such as Trina Turk and Mara Hoffman, have conveniently parlayed their penchant for the graphic aesthetic into rashguards.
From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t hurt that the rashguards offer UV protection, which makes them appealing to women who want some coverage from the sun’s rays, Chinchelli said.
As for silhouette, the classic mock turtleneck is a mainstay, but the crewneck is becoming more common. Most rashguards are hip length, but abbreviated versions, such as a striped blue, white and black top from Vitamin A and a sheer-sleeved black top from DKNY, are examples of a crossover item. Realistically speaking, these are better suited for land. They’re right in step with fashion’s cropped top revival and can be worn with high-waisted pants, skirts or shorts. The cropped and zip-front styles don’t work for surfing, but can easily be worn for paddleboarding, Allen said.
Thalia’s Brindley has seen rashguards worn under short overalls, an easy pairing of the body-conscious silhouette with something that fits loosely.
As fashionable as the rashguards are, authenticity is essential to surfers: The tops have to be comfortable and durable enough to withstand the rigors of surfing, Chinchelli said. While she tests the rashguards herself, Chinchelli also turns to the company’s team riders for feedback on how a particular style feels and holds up in action.
Still, it’s undoubtedly flattering for her to see her surf items co-opted and reimagined for land. The best appropriation so far? Chinchelli replied, “I saw one of the fashion bloggers wear our rashguard with Balenciaga pants.”