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Upstarts: Catching Up With The Founders Of Issa de’ mar

Surfers Jasniy And Eveland On The Future Of Young Brand Issa de’ mar

Marissa Eveland and Melissa Jasniy have come a long way in a very short period of time. What started with a passion for hand-sewing their own swimwear and testing it in the local surf lineup to make sure it could withstand the elements, has turned into a full time business that the Hawaii natives couldn’t be more thrilled about.

Their endless hours spent on late-night designing and sewing have taken shape into swimwear line Issa de’ mar, named after the founders’ combined nickname, “The Issa’s,” paired with the Hawaiian saying for “of the sea.” The brand, which launched in March 2013 with support from five shops, has built a solid foundation of more than 20 retailers over the past six months, including landing in latest account RevolveClothing.com.

With the amount of momentum the young brand is gaining, TransWorld Business saw it fitting to catch up with Jasniy and Eveland to hear more about the faces behind the brand, lessons learned on the business side since launching Issa de’ mar earlier this year, and what their future vision for swimwear looks like.

How long have you known that you’d like to start your own brand?

We both have backgrounds in design. Mel attended FIDM and got a degree in Fashion design, and Marissa has been sewing and designing her own clothes and swimwear since she was 12. We both have a passion for surfing so when we decided to start swimwear it was a perfect match for both of us.

How and when did you start hand sewing your own suits?

Issa de’ Mar’s roots are both of us handsewing each piece for our mobile store in Hawaii called Roam Hawai’i. We started this mobile store with two of our other best friends, Brooke Dombroski and Cassandra Rull, and it was all handmade items. When we first started it was many late nights of brainstorming, pattern making, sewing the pieces, and then the next day we would wear it surfing to try it out. It sounds like all fun and games but what people didn’t see were the late night tears because we had skipped out on surfing that afternoon only to finish a piece at midnight and when we tried it on the fit was all wrong- so we’d cry, then we’d laugh, and we’d move on to the next piece. Now we look back and are grateful we have those memories to laugh at. Once girls started liking our suits and we grew a small following we decided to start manufacturing them so we could spend more time on the business and creative side and put the suits in stores.

Take a spin through Issa De’ Mar’s Spring/Summer ’13 collection: 

When did you have the “aha” moment that you could turn this hobby into a full time career?

We were getting a lot of positive feedback and when we designed our first collection and got the samples all our girlfriends were really impressed- so we looked at each other and thought, “hey maybe this is going to work out.”

Give me some more background on the two of you – how and when did you meet?

It’s pretty funny how Mel and I met because it’s the perfect example of how small Hawaii is. Mel actually met my family out in the water while I was living in California for college. My mom got to talking to Mel and found out Mel was transferring to the design program at the school I was attending. She called me and said she had met a girl in the water who surfs and was transferring to my school. I kinda blew it off thinking ‘Yea, okay mom.’ A couple months later, Mel and I met at a surf group and we became insta best friends. We did everything together and close friends started calling us the issa’s.

What inspires you?

We are both inspired by traveling, art, fashion, and all things ocean related. We love meeting meeting inspirational people who go against the grain. Growing up in the surfing scene, we both saw one missing component- bikinis that were fashionable and worked for surfing. Issa de’ mar is bridging the gap between high fashion and sporty.

How much growth have you seen with the brand since it’s initial launch?

It has been a whirlwind for the both of us. When we first launched in March 2013 we had about five stores carrying us and we are now at 20+.

What are your goals for the brand, and how much growth would you like to see over the next 6 to twelve months?

Our longterm goals are to continue to grow the brand Internationally and constantly be pushing the limits with design and swimwear. In the next six to twelve months we want to grow our sales & start to give back to an organization. We feel so blessed for the opportunities we have been given so we really want to give back.

 What does your current distribution look like? Are you hoping to expand this?

We are very grass roots, everything is done out of our studio and we do it all- really. From designing to sales to social media to packaging- it’s all by our own hands. We are definitely going to be delegating duties to new hands very soon!

“We are so thankful for all the retailers we work with. We are all pursuing dreams and it’s inspirational to work with other women who are going for it.” – Issa de’ Mar

What retailers have been your greatest supporters and which ones have you recently secured after this last round of trade shows?

We are so thankful for all the retailers we work with. We are all pursuing dreams and it’s inspirational to work with other women who are going for it. When we first started Local Motion in Hawaii and Diane’s Beachwear were great supporters. At Swim Collective, we met with Raelayn Monces from Local Motion and we were reminiscing about our first meeting, when we had a tiny rack with one of each style and there she was less than a year later, and we were showing the new line at a trade show. Melissa from The Girl & The Water has also been a great supporter. After the trade shows, we will be available at select retailers including ISHINE365, San Lorenzo, I Heart Hanalei, and a few more are in the works. We hope they go through because they are companies we LOVE.

How do you view the overall state of the swimwear market and how do you see Issa de’ mar fitting in to the mix as far as pricepoint, product offering, and from an overall marketing standpoint?

The swimwear market grew overnight. What used to be a slim market and very sports oriented has been flipped around and now girls want pieces that are cute on the beach and can be incorporated into their daily outfit. We designed Issa de’ mar for the fashionable girl who wants to go from the street to the surfing line up looking just as cute as she was before she got in the water. We want to bridge the gap between high end fashion and surf— our price point is also affordable. Our girl is one of us, an Issa- she loves to travel the world to surf new waves and try new things, all while wearing a bikini that will work while surfing the North Shore to Biarritz.

Melissa and Marissa, during one of their recent underwater adventures.

What are your favorite surf spots?

We love a day out at Pupukea with all our friends, especially a sandbar day at Pupukea.

What has been the best part of starting your own brand together?

The best part has been getting to do this with each other. We get to experience all these new things, like our first trade show, which was this past July in Miami. We felt like two little girls and had to learn on the spot but it was a great experience. Getting to travel, work, and have fun with one of your best friends has been the best part.

Most challenging moment so far?

We were very laid back and we went from hand sewing suits and surfing every day to learning the manufacturing and business side. We had to jump in head first, and now we’re running a full time business, which can sometimes be a struggle when there’s a good swell!

What are three lessons you’ve learned along the way that you think all entrepreneurs should know?

One thing we definitely learned with business is everything doesn’t go as you plan- so roll with the punches, stay positive, and know it’s only going to go up.

What else do you do for fun when you aren’t surfing and sewing bikinis?

We like to travel and see new places, so that’s always one of the topics of conversation: “What’s next?” But if the waves are flat you can usually find us swimming the bay, diving, jumping rock, riding bikes, or lounging at the beach.

For swim specific retailers, what do you think are the top tips for being successful at merchandising and selling swimwear?

Being organized by size and color– girls often times know their size and what they’re looking for. I’m always impressed when I walk into San Lorenzo or The Girl in the Curl and everything is organized and easy to find.

Anything else you’d like to add about yourselves or the brand?

We are so so grateful to everyone who has supported the line and all of our retailers, blog shout outs, family, and friends! We really are just a couple of surfer girls with a passion, so the fact that our dream is becoming a reality is more than anything we could have asked for. And keep your eyes peeled for SS14 we have a few tricks up our sleeve.