Andy Morrell - Hook In & Hold On
Former pro-windsurng champion, Andy Morrell, takes the helm of BVI-based HIHO Clothing Company, purveyors of classic Caribbean cool.
Words by Juliet Austin.
For some, the wild call of the sea cannot be denied. Such is the case for Andy Morrell, visionary, entrepreneur and charismatic CEO of HIHO, a Tortola-based lifestyle brand with a penchant for spreading island fever one garment at a time. A natural oshoot of the annual Hook-In-Hold-On sailing regatta that he took over in 1992, HIHO’s designs capture the essence of Morrell’s love aair with the Caribbean. In classic colours, original prints and easy-wear fabrics, he serves up T-shirt philosophy to make you want to kick those life coaches to the curb and ‘Live Slow, Sail Fast’ – the HIHO way.
As well as growing up hanging out in mango trees and playing barefoot in the hills, Morrell’s childhood lies largely anchored in the waters of the British Virgin Islands: idyllic days spent fishing for crayfish in the ghuts, weekends roaming the beaches of Cane Garden Bay or doing what he loves most – simply messing about in boats. Acquiring a Sunfish at ten, and later a windsurfer, on which he and his friends raced the ferries to Peter Island, Morrell’s 1986 victory at the famous Johnnie Walker Hook-In-Hold-On race ignited a lifelong passion for speed and competition, teaching him the sailor’s creed: “You cannot change the direction of the wind, but you can change the direction of the sails.”
“Racing windsurfers helped me appreciate action and
risk. Whether it’s racing boats or building a business,
I like the thrill and possibility of some uncertainty.”
No sooner had he graduated from Boston University with a degree in Economics, than he declared his professional status as a windsurfer and headed off to The Bahamas International Regatta followed by a World Cup tour starting in Maui. “I couldn’t wait to get out of school,” recalls Morrell. “I always felt I wanted to get on with life. I had won the coolest amateur windsurng race on the planet, and I was hooked.” Travelling extensively from Hawaii, through Asia, Europe and the US west coast, he had an inkling that following his north star would lead to something, but despite his wanderlust, he had to admit, “Nothing, and I mean nothing, was ever better than flying back to the Caribbean. To this day, arriving in Tortola makes my heart skip a beat.”
With trademark tenacity, Morrell decided that if he had to choose between the devil-of-work and the deep blue sea, it would be strictly on his own terms. “I knew from an early age that working for someone wasn’t my thing,” he states, matter-of-factly. Like a sea turtle returning to the beach where it hatched, there was only one place for him to go. Creating a business out of his love of watersports, in no time he had bought the Hook-In-Hold-On event, rebranding it the HIHO, and started to grow it into the Caribbean’s wildest and most renowned windsurng and sailing regatta. A week’s racing included island hopping around the Virgin Islands, crisscrossing 150-miles of beautiful Caribbean waters with a flotilla of chartered catamarans for accommodation, swashbuckling pirate parties and beach barbecues and even a finishers’ luncheon on Necker Island with the chance to float in the pool at Richard Branson’s exclusive resort home. Says Morrell: “Racing windsurfers helped me appreciate action and risk. Whether it’s racing boats or building a business, I like the thrill and possibility of some uncertainty.”
Francis Stokes once said, “The sea finds out everything you did wrong,” and from the get-go, Morrell applied the lessons gleaned from his years competing, treating business as a great adventure. “You get out what you put in,” he avows. “I wanted to build something. Racing, I learned to be patient, focused and organised; to create goals and form plans, then execute them with a view to success.” Ironically, it would be a spin-off from his HIHO regatta that would cause him to change tack to the seemingly incongruous world of fashion.
Designing shirts, primarily as marketing collateral, he unassumingly sold his first collection out of baskets from his mother’s store. Noticing that his shirts quickly became considered ‘collectibles,’ he decided to monopolise this trait and create a brand to embody the quintessential Caribbean dream. “We live our brand,” Morrell expounds. “We are active in sailing and watersports. We make clothes for how we live. Living the life powers the brand.”
Whereas some wear their hearts on their sleeve, Tortola’s watersports acionado encourages those in the HIHO-know to wear theirs emblazoned across their chests, extolling the virtues of Caribbean life. Featuring durable, quick drying fabrics, tough enough to withstand the intense tropical elements, yet light and stylish enough to suit an easy, breezy beach-to-bar lifestyle, each authentically Caribbean item, gives wearers a charmed pass to a locals-only inner circle.
Adding tops and tees to knots and breezes, his formative vision has grown from soft, Peruvian cotton T-shirts to elegant beachwear for the whole family, including exotic V-necked kurtas in evocative tropical hues; light weight beach dresses and classic linen shirts. Chafe-free sunteks and lycras offer not only bold nautical graphics and UV protection, but maxims like ‘Keep Calm and Sail On’ and ‘100% Caribbean’ along with the chance to try on the HIHO-life for size. “Our heritage and our roots are really important to how we do business,” explains Morrell. “We’re selling an authentic lifestyle.”
As captain of his own destiny, Andy Morrell joins the ranks of illustrious Caribbean mavericks who have marketed the Caribbean dream to a public eager to don a life of sun-kissed beaches, sprawling horizons and picture-perfect skies. So, hook-in and hold-on because HIHO fever is coming… Are you ready?
Visit HIHO's official site at: www.go-hiho.com
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