Almost exactly four years ago, I went to surf camp in Costa Rica. At the time, I was far from what anyone would call athletic (frankly, that hasn’t changed), but what scared me more than falling, limbs flailing, off my board was actually looking the part of the amateur I was. At worst, I thought, I would show up on the beach looking kick-ass and then proceed to fall off my board, repeatedly. Unfortunately for me, that proved harder than I thought. Greeted with an onslaught of hearts-and-butterflies-bedecked “rash guards for chicks” or, alternatively, board shorts that could have been cut for men, I was so frustrated I actually described the style vacuum in detail for this magazine. So, needless to say, the proliferation of surfer-inspired (as well as actual surfer) gear in the spring collections has been seriously exciting.
If something’s going to catch on, you usually know right away. In the case of the spring collections, the whole sporty-girl-meets-surfer trend started cropping up within days of Fashion Week’s end last September, with girls on the street attempting the side-braids from Alexander Wang’s runway show and starlets-of-the-instant like Kristen Stewart sporting Proenza Schouler’s eye-catching tropical tie-dye ensembles. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez (the designers behind Proenza Schouler) really managed to tap into something vital with their colorful pieces for spring, something that everyone quickly latched onto, from reef fish-inspired dresses to wetsuit-ish long-sleeve tees—all with a beachy, tropical flair that erred strongly on the side of sporty rather than resort. Though that one collection may have represented the trend at its most intense, the reverberations seemed to be everywhere, from Diane von Furstenberg’s tie-dye print dresses to BCBG’s bodycon mini, which started to look like a new kind of mini-wetsuit.
Now, with spring in full bloom, there seems to be more surf-related gear, even for those who don’t have a share in Montauk. Cynthia Rowley, a veteran of the sport, has put together a collection that ranges from sunny California graphic tees to actual, honest-to-goodness wetsuits in pastel color-block. To further establish the collab’s cred, Rowley even made a surfboard with forward-thinking designer Thomas Meyerhoffer. Browsing the collection at Barneys (it’s also available through Roxy), I couldn’t help thinking a neoprene minidress paired with metallic flats would look pitch-perfect for a warm night’s cocktail party. Who knows if we’re bringing surf camp to the city or the city to surf camp—either way, whenever I head back to Costa Rica, I’ll have more to pack.