Fashionista first wrote about Abigail Lorick over a decade ago, when she was the ghost-designer behind Eleanor Waldorf's fictional line on "Gossip Girl." We meticulously covered her pencil skirts and Upper East Side accoutrements on the show, while also admiring her namesake label off the screen. Fast forward 13 years, and Lorick has swapped Blair Waldorf-approved bow headbands for minimalist wetsuits.
The move from ladylike frocks fit for Manhattan's elite to surf-ready wares made for laid back ocean dwellers didn't happen overnight. Lorick, a former Ford model and FIT graduate, had a few impressive gigs post "Gossip Girl" that led her to launch Ansea earlier this year. In fact, her resume reads like a well-seasoned designer and businesswoman, which likely has something to do with the massive media play she got from being featured on the hit show.
"People love to talk about 'Gossip Girl'," Lorick says over the phone. "It's a nostalgic point for a lot of people, so they love to mention it."
You could say Lorick was hanging out in the right crowd or was in the right place at the right time, because she was best friends with the assistant costume designer working on "Gossip Girl," who later brought her in to meet with writers and producers to show them the first collection for her eponymous label.
"I showed them the line, they loved it, and thought it was a great fit," she says of her initial meeting with the "Gossip Girl" team, who wanted a real designer behind Eleanor's faux line. "It was really synchronistic, because I was one of the inspirations for Blair Waldorf's style, so it was perfect that her mom's line would embody that point of view."
Lorick benefited greatly from launching her first-ever fashion line via a popular television program.
"We immediately had a customer base that was very specific and very Blair Waldorf," Lorick says. "It was the headbands, the bright colors and that was fun for me at the beginning of Lorick's existence."
The problem was, Lorick was still a young designer trying to find her voice. "Gossip Girl" put her in a Fifth Avenue purchased box very early on, and she didn't necessarily want to stay in that world. What's more, after working on her own line for four years, Lorick realized she was spending more time on the business side of things and less on the creative. So, Lorick took an opportunity working with & Other Stories in Sweden, which allowed her to expand her breadth of design knowledge by making ready-to-wear, bags, shoes, hats and lingerie.
"It was really eye opening for me, because it made me realize I'm ready to work with a team and focus more on creating product," Lorick says of her time at & Other Stories, which is what ultimately convinced her to close her namesake brand.
Lorick then ended up at Cynthia Rowley as the design director, where she got her hands wet, quite literally, by making her first wetsuits. Clearly, Lorick appreciated the sartorial sensibilities of the West Coast, because her next job moved her to California to work at a socks startup. But after four years as design director there, she was ready for a change again.
Enter Ansea, a New York-based, direct-to-consumer lifestyle brand that specializes in planet-friendly apparel for women who love the water. It all started with some phone calls with Solera Capital, a women-founded and women-run private equity firm last April.
"They had this idea to do a brand by women for women for surf," Lorick says of her first conversations with the firm. Having grown up on an island in Florida and done competitive surfing in high school, this project felt particularly special to Lorick.
"Being around the water is so much a part of who I am. This is the first time I get to marry my passion of the water and my entire career," she says. "We got the green light, and the brand officially launched in mid January. We're not just about surf though, we speak to all activities in the water, all skill levels in the water, all women, all ages, all sizes, all ethnicities and we are sustainable."
Lorick moved back to New York in November, where her team resides and where she produces most of her garments. The inaugural collection, which consists of swimsuits, wetsuits, coverups, hoodies and travel bags, is made with premium, eco-conscious textiles. The wetsuits are made from Yulex, which is a plant-based rubber that uses 80% less CO2 emissions than Neoprene when manufactured, while the swimsuits are done using Econyl, which is made from regenerated fishing lines and carpets. The ready-to-wear is produced in New York with water conscious practices.
"All of our materials take sustainability into account," Lorick notes. "Then, aside from the materials, all of our packaging either can be compostable or is recycled. Even our hygiene liners are compostable."
And while taking care of the planet is one of the brand's top values, sophisticated design is also a priority. Typically, the surf clothing industry boasts a more juvenile, boho-leaning aesthetic, but Lorick's line is rooted in clean lines, functionality and versatility. Instead of relying on beachy prints, Lorick experiments with sporty silhouettes and colorblocking. All of the pieces could be worn in the sand and then out to dinner in the city — or perhaps even on the steps of The Met on a yoga-doing, Goop-obsessed prep school teen.
Ansea has received a positive response since launching only two months ago, and it already has Lorick excited about what the future holds, especially the community building aspect. She hopes Ansea will continue to create opportunities for women to get in the water and get together.
"It doesn't matter what skill level you are, if you've ever surfed before, or if you're a pro, but just creating a women-led community around surf — which has historically been very male-dominated — is special."