Escaping the Winter Blues in Island Style

CTC&G interviews Andy and Fran Morrell about HIHO, their Caribbean-inspired clothing line

After last weekend’s blizzard dropped three feet of snow on the Northeast, the 80-degree weather in Tortola, British Virgin Islands sounds warm and welcoming. Andy and Fran Morrell describe the island and their active lifestyle as the inspiration for HIHO, their light, colorful and comfortable clothing line. If you plan to escape from New England’s cold, winter months, HIHO can provide the perfect island-chic apparel for your Caribbean getaway.

What is the first product that you made/sold?
Andy: I was a keen windsurfer as a teen and in my twenties. In 1986, I won the HIHO – the Hook-In-Hold-On – race. Now I own and organize the HIHO windsurfing regatta, and our clothing line originated from the first t-shirt we made for that event. We started as a small surf store in Road Town, the main town in Tortola, selling mens’ shorts and beach shorts.

How has your line improved over the years?
Andy: We knew from the beginning that the quality of our material, the super soft, luxurious cotton and 100-percent linen, would make our products exceptional, so that’s always been a focus.
Fran: It’s all about the feel of the fabric, and quality is the most important factor for me. Eight years ago, we began producing items with original prints. Our Indian prints have become a backbone of the line.

Where do you find inspiration for your clothing line?
Fran: We draw inspiration from the colors of the sea and beautiful island sunsets – the blues, corals and soft greens.
Andy: We’ve lived here for 40 years, and we’re still in awe of Tortola’s beauty. A strong nautical theme runs throughout our line. Not only are we motivated by our surroundings and the climate, but HIHO also reflects our fun, active lifestyle of sailing, surfing and boating. I would describe HIHO apparel as wearing a piece of the island. Our soft, lightweight sweaters are like a breath of Caribbean air.

Which items are your most popular right now?
Fran:For women, it’s definitely our beach sweater in a variety of colors. It’s a fashionably functional piece that doubles as a beach coverup.
Andy: It can be thrown over a swimsuit or worn with a pair of jeans when going into town. When we design, we make our clothes inclusive and multi-purpose – for on and off the beach.
Fran: The Kurta shirt dress  is another popular item as well. It didn’t fly off the shelf last year, but when we added our own Indian-inspired floral and paisley print designs, it became a huge hit.
Andy: It’s all about our collection of stretch twill pants too, which promote the “nice and easy” island lifestyle. They provide a great fit with comfy material that’s good for boating. For men, our classic linen shirts characterize Caribbean comfort.

When packing for a trip to BVI, what should we bring?
Fran: A staple for your suitcase would be a Mayreau scarf in a bright Punch or Daiquiri color. It can be worn on the plane ride to BVI and then used as a sarong on the beach.
Andy: Also bring along the linen beach sweater, which is light enough to wear as a coverup but perfect for a breezy island evening, and the Suntek shirt with SPF+50 protection to ward off the Caribbean sun.

What’s the best part of your job?
Fran:Working together! And I love seeing someone wear our designs.
Andy: I enjoy the whole process of making sample designs, sending items to production, and seeing the entire collection come together. It’s a rewarding experience.

HIHO clothing is available in Connecticut at Downunder in Westport, Out of the Box in Greenwich and online at HIHO.