Starting Head and Hart

Alec Merlino starting clothing company Head and Hart

Clothing for me is something special. Everyone knows that feeling of buying a new garment and saving it for that Friday night out or that special occasion. Growing up in San Clemente and surfing I was always buying shirts that would fit great for a week or so and then next thing I knew I was wearing it to the gym because it shrank or lost it's shape. That being said, I wanted to make clothes people would cherish. Something that you can wear on that Friday night out, to the beach or on that Sunday bike ride.

I wanted to start with t shirts but i had no idea where to begin. Ironic how I majored in business yet I had no idea what the first sep was to starting a business. It was all so overwhelming.

 Inspired by the coastal vibes, I wanted my shirts to have a vintage look and also be the best quality. I began ordering wholesale shirts off of Amazon and soaking them in Salt Water. Why salt water you ask? Well, let me explain. I was recently a contestant on the CBS TV show Survivor David vs. Goliath. We were given one outfit the entire time out there. I had this button up shirt that by the end of my time on the show became soft and faded. It felt vintage to me and I loved it.

 I continued to order shirts that I believed looked cool and would try to distress them myself but they just didn't meet my expectations. It wasn't until i was with a friend in Laguna Beach after a surf when I cruised into a surf shop and noticed some tie dye tees that caught my eye. I got in contact with the owner of the shop and asked him where he got them from. He ultimately put me in contact with his wholesaler where I told the wholesaler that I “had” a business and was looking for a “new t shirt guy.” We set up a meeting and over the next few weeks I would pick his brain about the fashion industry and how it all worked. I would describe how I wanted my shirts to look “vintage” and “faded” and he eventually put me in contact with dye houses, printers and even people who could make templates for my shirts. He knew that wasn’t his specialty but ultimately pushed me into the right direction.

I knew I didn’t want to just print on a blank t shirt like other companies. I wanted to make something special. I met a guy who had a fascinating factory. The fabrics were rolled out and cut by hand and then sewn by hand. Finally, we came up with a design and fit for the shirt that I wanted. I began cutting my first order and I couldn’t have been more stoked. I was learning about the fashion world each day and was amazed by how much work goes into each garment. 

After the shirts were cut and sewn, I took them to a dye house where they were distressed and then dyed. After, I added the stitching, neck label and embroidery they were ready!

I launched Head and Hart on the 11th on January and from then, business has been amazing. Some days are harder than others and I'm learning new things each day. Every day is a new opportunity for me to learn something new and really understand each facet of my business. 

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