Photo by Mike McGillWalking into the Hurley offices, you hardly notice there's a multimillion-dollar clothing company behind the blaring music and the real-life hip musicians-like the Long Beach Dub All-Stars or Blink 182-who pop in to say howdy and pick up some duds.
Nor, as workplaces go, is it the atmosphere that comes to mind as ideal for a working mom. But it fits working mom Lian Murray. Hurley's lead designer, Murray works for one of the most relaxed bosses in the surfwear business-the kind of guy who watched her daughter as Murray was interviewed by reporters.
Bob Hurley may merely be a nice guy. But he's also a smart guy: when he made his high-profile break from Billabong last year to launch his own line, Murray was one of the people he brought with him. He has since given her creative freedom over his new line, a line that has had to live up to tsunami-sized expectations. Along with her team of designers, Murray is responsible for creating both the men's and women's lines, which have exploded onto the local surfwear scene. The line's flashier street image screams for attention with its mixture of metallic and bright colors, textured fabrics with flocking, and such innovative details as the re-emergence of 1970s rickrack. Who hasn't been waiting for that to come back in style?
Murray talked with us in her office, where she says she dreams of the day she'll be able to design a Hurley women's bathing-suit collection. Until then, she's content with what she's achieved-which is plenty.
OC Weekly: How did you start in the design business?
Lian Murray: I started designing my own line of clothes while I was on summer vacation from college. I had a roommate who was a pattern maker and a sample sewer. I was a designer, so together, we started our own company. We made about 10 girls' dresses and put them in a car and drove around to local shops in San Diego and started selling them. Our company did really well, so we moved to LA and opened a little store off Melrose. And then we started doing the trade shows-like Action Sports Retailer-and I would model bikinis for extra money. And through those trade shows, I met [Quiksilver founder] Bob McKnight, and I talked him into letting me design freelance because they didn't have a designer back then: they got all their clothes from Australia. So I said, "Let me try," and it went really well.
How has the industry changed since then?
There are more individual designers now. When we first started doing that at Quiksilver, there were only a few companies-mostly just Quiksilver, Gotcha, Hang Ten and Op. The big companies. Now there are so many small innovative companies-like Volcolm-that are keeping our industry fresh. It's not just old-style beachwear. It has really transformed into a whole lifestyle clothing range-denim, shoes, watches-and it makes the bigger companies work harder. They make better stuff. We're really out there competing with the Calvin Kleins and Ralph Laurens. I mean, we're definitely an important part of guys' wardrobes. And now girls'-especially girls'. The girls' thing is really, really going big.
What made surf companies pay more attention to women?
I think a lot of girls were starting to wear guys' clothes-and liking them, liking the bright board shorts and all the innovative styles. So I think someone at Quiksilver finally took some of the board shorts and shortened them, and all of a sudden, it was huge. I mean, they're comfortable, and they're easy to wear if you go to a water park. It turned into something you have to have. And from there, it just grew. And then the whole Hawaiian thing, the whole beachy feel. It's fun.
Do you think the increase of women involved in board sports has had an impact?
Yes. Snowboarding has been really big because that's one sport in which women can be just as good as guys. In so many sports, guys excel against women because of their physical makeup. But in snowboarding, girls can be right up there. And that has helped a lot-definitely. Girls are just more into it: surfing, skating, snowboarding.
Do you think that has made more people comfortable wearing those types of lines? In the '80s, people who wore skate shoes skated. Now everyone wears them. My dad wears them.
I think today it just says something about you: you're youthful and active and not afraid to try new things. What you wear says a lot about you. People who are into sports are into being active and healthy, and that goes along with the surf industry.
Have you noticed an increase in the number of female designers?
Yes, and I think it's good for girls to design because we know what we like to see a guy in. That's how I judge. If a guy came and took me on a date, would I think he's a hotty? So it seems natural to design guys' clothes.
Is there a big difference in designing board shorts for women and men?
We try to make the girls' way girlier. We just developed this new metallic thread that we can sew into the board shorts. We have a shiny gold draw cord. We'll do a lot more pink or fuschia, rhinestones. The cut-everything-is different.
Do you borrow a lot from the men's line?
I'm trying to follow the same theme: really young, bright, forward clothes. Keep it classy, fresh and active but still with a really forward edge to it. That's hard to merchandise on tops because you want to do something sheer with stuff happening. But you just have to stay focused on the fact that what you're designing is on track with the look you're after.
Where do you look for inspiration?
All over. We travel a lot to New York, Hawaii, the beaches. We shop a lot: LA, Melrose, the Lab. We read every kind of magazine, go to a lot of movies, just hang out. Kind of get a feeling for what's going on. It kind of evolves from there.
So what's the Next Big Thing?
I think a lot of bright colors. Bright kelly green, yellow, red, royal. Deeper colors or '80s neon. We're doing a touch of neon orange-it's just coming back in. When we go to a lot of punk concerts, the concert shirts are black with neon orange. It looks cool. I don't know to what level, but we're using it. We also came up with a new design for the girls' board shorts. We have a velcro-less fly, and we have a patent pending on it. The velcro would always stick to your bathing suit and ruin it or ball up. Now that we're doing girls' clothes, that was something that always bothered me. It's fun to be able to think of something you see in the stores and make it better; that's very satisfying. As a girl, I go shopping, and if I can't find what I'm looking for, I can come back, draw it up, make it and put it out there, and other people are receptive, going, "Yeah, that's what I've been looking for, too."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Do you feel like you're where you want to be right now?
Exactly. Now I can do what I want. When we were at Billabong, we had restrictions and guidelines we would have to keep to because we were under the parent company. Now that we're off on our own, we can do exactly what we feel.
Like you just moved out of your parents' house for the first time.