Oct 6, 2014


Ari Serrano-Embree

For Ari Serrano-Embree, 2011 was filled with milestones. She married her longtime boyfriend, Max, became pregnant with her daughter and started planning a brick-and-mortar shop based in her hometown of Oakland, California. The following year, Oakland Surf Club, a retail-gallery hybrid filled with laidback fashion lines, surfboards and rotating art shows featuring the local creative scene, was open for customers. Now, two years later, Serrano-Embree juggles her busy schedule of being a mother, a wife and managing OSC. Luckily, she was able to take a moment to speak with us about her favorite fall pieces from the store, what makes surfer hair so appealing all year round and advice for the aspiring shop owner.

How would you describe the scene in Oakland?

I love Oakland. It has so much history with things like the Black Power Movement and its history of being known as a diverse city. I love how there are so many different people doing creative things, and it has been very motivating to see a lot more young people opening businesses over the last few years. Fellow creative folks are always so inspiring. 

What are some of your favorite spots in the city?

I always spend a lot of time by Lake Merritt. When the sun is out, which is often, it is so nice to just relax with some fresh air. One of my favorite restaurants, Grand Lake Kitchen, has outdoor seating and is right on the lake. It’s a good spot to have an iced coffee and people watch.

What were you doing before opening Oakland Surf Club?

I was working a lot of different retail jobs and was also doing some styling. In the span of one year, I got married, pregnant and opened the shop. It was a very busy year! 

How did you get the idea to open a surfing 
lifestyle store with its own gallery/music space?

I had wanted to open a shop for a long time. I started bouncing ideas off Max (then a first-grade teacher), and we decided it was something we wanted to do together. Max is from Manhattan Beach and had grown up surfing, so the idea of combining a clothing store with a surf shop instantly connected with us both. We knew we wanted our space to be more than one dimensional, and when we finally found our shop location, we knew right away that we wanted the upstairs to function as a gallery space. 

How do you and your husband pick and choose what to offer at the store?

We pick items and brands that we really love and that we would wear or use ourselves. It is so much more genuine when we stand behind all the products. The shop is a curated mix of some of our most favorite things. 

How do you curate the art for your gallery space?

We pick art the same way we pick brands. We reach out to people whose art we love and to people we want to perform at events. So far, everyone we have asked has said yes. We love having a place that hosts parties and has a gallery because it brings people into the shop that might not necessarily know what we are doing. And parties are always fun! 

What are some of your favorite fall pieces that are now available at
 Oakland Surf Club?

My favorite pieces right now are from Objects without Meaning. The Boy Zip Jean has a perfect lighter wash and casual fit. I feel like I can’t take them off! I also love their Sophia Sweater, which comes in a bright poppy color. You just feel happy when you put it on. 

How would you describe surfer hair? Who do you think has the best surf 

I love surfer hair because it looks so effortless. Real surfer hair is so effortless and is harder to achieve! That feeling when you first come back out of the ocean is awesome—adrenaline is rushing, and I always feel so beautiful. Although that feeling can’t exactly be bottled, I think beach sprays are so fun and they smell amazing. My favorite surfer hair would have to be Erin Wasson’s. She always looks so natural and easy. 

If you had your own hair salon, how would you design the space? What kind 
of art would you put on the walls?

I would have a space with lots of natural light and plants. I feel like that combination never gets old. White walls and lightwood make a space look fresh and bright. I love so many different types of art, but I would probably decorate with something simple and not too distracting. The focus should always be on the hair, right?

How would you describe your beauty routine? Your haircare routine?

I love products but I also try to keep my beauty and hair routine relatively simple. I wash my face; use an elixir spray and then a moisturizer with sunscreen. I have also been using a lot of natural and organic serum concentrates. I love this acai-and-rose serum the best. I also love to finish with an organic illuminator cream. It makes me look dewy and fresh.

I usually don’t have much time in the morning, so I will shower the night before and put in Supershine Moisturizing Cream. This is the first product that I can say really works on my hair. I am mixed and have very thick, course hair. The first time I tried Oribe, people were asking what I had done differently and I knew I had found my product. 

You once mentioned that being confident and happy with your hair has been 
a journey, can you tell us more about it?

I guess it’s a “grass is always greener” thing. I always wanted straight hair because I thought it was so easy to style. Now I am more comfortable with my curly hair and love that it looks different than a lot of other people’s hairstyles. I think that having confidence, mixed with good products, has really helped. I’ve learned to let go a little more. 

When you're not at the shop, what else do you like doing?

I love spending time outdoors. I like the beach and always feel so relaxed just being at the beach. Our daughter started preschool, and Max and I have been talking about how much we are going to go surfing now that we have some free mornings!

Favorite surf movie?

It’s a strong tie between North Shore and Blue Crush. (Is that corny?)

What are some exciting plans and events coming up at Oakland Surf Club this

We screened the surf film Strange Rumblings in September. The film features the Globe Surf Team riders and we also have a Globe pop-up shop in our gallery space featuring clothing from the film.
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