Words: Jady Ojiri | Photos: Jenelle Ho | Video: Kari Lau
Girls aren’t here just to sit on the sidelines and watch the boys hit the waves, and that’s the exact message Keri Ogden and Stephen Haugse, the creators behind the brand “Elle Mer Swimwear,” are trying to get across. Whether you’re a surf loving chick, a hiking enthusiast, or even a hardcore lounger, this show stopping duo has the perfect piece for you.
Around two and a half years ago, the two met at the Outrigger Canoe Club on O’ahu. After hitting it off and going on a few surf sessions together, Keri came up with the idea of creating a swimwear company. She brought her experiences from living abroad in Paris, and the culture she’s been engulfed in through her family’s history in Hawaii, to these beautifully understated designs. Keri’s creative masterpieces combined with Stephen’s retail experience turned into the amazing, “Elle Mer.”
The name’s literal translation from French is “Ocean girl.” Keri wanted to capture the essence of a girl who loves the water, and who isn’t afraid to go out and have adventures for herself. Keri would describe Elle Mer as a brand for “Girls that surf, girls that want to get out there.”
Her goal as a designer is to be able to create pieces that she would want to wear herself while also having a practical element. She explained how she saw a lot of magazine ads and fashion trends that only complimented specific body types rather than advocating for all figures. So Keri tried to create pieces that flattered a wider range of body types and moved comfortably in the water.
The swimwear designs are inspired by a variety of elements, including Hawaiian culture and Parisian streetwear. One of the prints, in particular, is known as the “Ulu” print. “Ulu,” which means “Breadfruit” in Hawaiian, is a symbol of abundance. Keri explained how, “Hawaii has such a rich cultural history … I think the breadfruit, the Ulu, is such a good symbol of that. So, it’s going to be one of our main prints next season.”
In addition, Elle Mer will be showcasing a few new and exciting changes for the brand in the upcoming months. Keri is hard at work with new designs and prints to showcase next season, and she’s excited to announce that the brand will be implementing a new fabric imported from Italy that enhances durability, comfort, and sun protection. Furthermore, the duo is also planning to launch an apparel line very soon that includes soft sweaters and henley tops.
What sets Keri and Stephen apart from other swimwear companies is the amount of passion they put into their products and how much they each care about putting forth their best effort into the brand.
When asked about the progress of Elle Mer, Stephen stated, “We didn’t rush it. We’ve seen a lot of brands come and go. We’ve seen brands show up and blow up and some disappear. This is something we are both very passionate about.”
The pair has been able to go on so many amazing adventures together and they have their company to thank for allowing them to grow not only as business partners, but also as individuals. Both of their skill sets morph into something truly magical and it’s no wonder the brand has progressed so much.
Elle Mer serves as an inspiration to every girl out there who wants to go out and truly do something in the world. Being a girl no longer means sitting on the sidelines and cheering from afar. Being a girl means being able to do the same things boys do – if not better – and Elle Mer is here to prove exactly that.