Going eco with Hermosa Beach fashion brand HippyTree
With an environmental mindset, two Hermosa dudes rely on grass roots to launch a successful men’s clothing line.
After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 2000 with a degree in graphic design, Andrew Sarnecki landed a job as a designer at Body Glove—the renowned wetsuit company headquartered in the South Bay. An avid surfer who grew up in Los Angeles, Andrew knew he wanted to work in the surf industry.
During the next six years, he learned the ropes of the graphic and product design business at Body Glove and also pursued surf journalism, earning photo credits in major surf publications. “It was a pipe dream to one day run my own surfwear label,” shares Andrew. “But I went out on a limb and began selling South Bay-inspired T-shirts to the local surf shops.”
The T-shirt graphics were a hit among the retailers, and a small business materialized out of his Hermosa Beach bedroom. Andrew branded the tees under the name HippyTree, a play on his “Hippy” nickname.
In 2005 Andrew teamed up with his childhood surfing buddy Josh Sweeney, and between surfing and day jobs the duo drove up and down the coast selling HippyTree tees, sweatshirts and hats to any surf shop that would give them the time of day. Their Hermosa Beach rental house and garage served as a design studio and warehouse.
“I attribute much of our early success to the iconic South Bay surf shops: Spyder Surf, Becker, ET Surf, Dive N’ Surf and Surf Concepts,” says Andrew. “They gave the brand an early shot and stocked its merchandise next to the major industry players. Support from the local retailers validated the HippyTree brand and helped pave the way for future success.”
Indeed, HippyTree was inspired by the hard work South Bay predecessors put into pioneering the surf industry. The 8th Street Hermosa Beach rental house where HippyTree was born is adjacent to the surfboard factories on Cypress Street, where several prominent shapers also got their start.
“We could often smell the fumes from the surfboard glassing that was taking place on the other side of fence,” Andrew recalls. “The surf industry has largely migrated to Orange County, but HippyTree is stoked to have set up shop in the South Bay where it all began.”
On weekends Andrew and Josh often wake up, walk down the hill on 8th Street, catch a surf at the Hermosa Pier, grab a breakfast sandwich and lunch to-go at Ashley’s Deli, load up the truck with climbing equipment, head out to Malibu Creek or Stony Point and spend the afternoon climbing until the sun goes down. “The opportunity to surf and climb in the same day no doubt inspires our ‘surf and stone’ platform,” says Andrew.
The company has been environmentally focused since inception, printing tees on 100% organic cotton back in 2005—an uncommon practice at the time. As a nature-inspired brand with an environmentally-conscious mindset, there was a sense of obligation to source eco-friendly raw materials when possible.
HippyTree also started experimenting with printing using water-based and nontoxic inks and learned they were not only earth-friendly but also had an amazingly soft hand. Down the line, HippyTree began incorporating recycled polyester made in part from plastic bottles into its board short fabrics. Now every product category—from tops to bottoms to headwear—includes products made from sustainable materials.
“Using eco-friendly materials can be challenging; they are not as readily available and are more costly,” explains Andrew. “But HippyTree is committed to doing its part to soften its footprint and produce environmentally responsible products.”