Every strong woman deserves a strong raincoat

Posted on May 09, 2024 | Sponsored Content | 0 Comments

When it rains it pours opportunity for mernini’s world-class outerwear

Maria Halfyard, founder of St. John’s-based outerwear design and manufacturing company mernini, doesn’t attribute her inspiration for her world-beating venture to a moment of creative insight. “I was walking to my car in an absolute downpour about nine years ago and I said to myself, ‘I wish I had a decent raincoat’,” she says.

“I had this really great outfit on, which got soaked. And wearing a skirt or pair of pants at work that’s completely drenched is not fun. But all the raincoats I had were short and sporty looking, so I thought there had to be something out there that I could buy to suit my style and meet my needs. But, to my surprise, there really wasn’t. I took a year to do some research and understand the science of rainwear, and about the manufacturing and supply chain process. Finally, I said, ‘Ok…I’m going to go for it’.”

Sounds simple right? Well, not quite. First, the second youngest of six (she also has a twin sister) is whip smart. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Memorial University. Secondly, she has trouble suffering fools. When Canadian manufacturers proved too costly or obstreperous to handle her business—which she started in her basement in 2020—she went overseas. Thirdly, she’s fiercely loyal—especially to her customers, whom she says have been “a real important piece of our growth.”

“But all the raincoats I had were short and sporty looking, so I thought there had to be something out there that I could buy to suit my style and meet my needs.”

And the “mernini” brand name? “For some reason, ‘Maria’ was always hard for my other siblings to say when we were growing up … so my name just kind of morphed into ‘mernini’,” she says. “Now, it kind of has that Italian designer sound to it … like high fashion … so that doesn’t hurt.”

No, it does not. In under four years, Halfyard and her small, but dedicated band of designers, manufacturers, marketers and retailers in Newfoundland and elsewhere have turned mernini from a literal underground operation into a boutique phenomenon. Its line of full-length and light-weight women’s raincoats (100 per cent polyurethane exterior and cotton interior; seven sizes; eight colours) are carried in over 20 high-end shops across six provinces, with more expected this year. Thanks, also, to its online business, it’s been discovered and covered by the likes of British Vogue, Tatler, Vanity Fair UK, and Châtelaine.

The keystone of the brand, affixed to every garment, is a piece of black granite rock (engraved with the company’s logo) symbolizing the durably rugged and natural beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Says Halfyard: “We have some of the harshest weather in the world so, if anyone, we would understand the requirements of good rainwear.”

“Being a businesswoman who identified a need because of our location and building it into a brand that has now been recognized internationally is really indicative of the Canadian entrepreneurial spirit. The feedback has been positive and constructive. Canadians from coast to coast to coast are really embracing this story and are just happy that someone finally made a full-length raincoat that withstands Canadian weather.”

In fact, she says, “They have been with me every step of the way, from helping me modify sizing to choosing the colours. I feel like they are just as much a part of the brand as I am. And they will be a part of our growth as well.”

That may come soon. Global markets beckon. There’s Scotland, Ireland, the UK, Sweden, and, of course, the United States. “We definitely plan to go international soon,” she says. “It’s exciting to see more and more people embracing the products and really loving the Newfoundland connection.”

 

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