One local woman proves that when the weather in Newfoundland and Labrador is at its worst, you can still look your very best
The brand is recognizable for its colour and style and the name itself is unforgettably adorable: Mernini.
It has to be asked, where did the name come from? Mernini’s owner, Maria Halfyard, explains it was a name put upon her by her siblings growing up.
“It was my name as a kid. Maria, it’s hard to say, and there are six of us siblings. So they just said ‘Mernini’ and the family still call me that, or ‘Nini,” she began with a reflective chuckle.
So, when it was time to name her raincoat business, the choice was simple.
“When I was trying to figure out a name for the raincoat brand, it was two years in and I had six different logos. My friends were sick of drafting up slogans and my sister was like, ‘just pick a name.’ But it had to have longevity. It had to be something that people would remember.” One night she said, ‘Mernini. That’s me,’ and she went for it, she explained. “It kind of sounds fashion like, so I just stuck with it. And my nieces and nephews, they fell in love with it because that’s what they call me.”
‘Make one myself’
Besides the name, how was the ‘Mernini’ born? The answer, again, is simple: It was her response to the unpredictable NL weather. “Newfoundland weather inspired me. I work in the maritime sector and I manage research and development and business development. And so it was my job to help people bring their ideas to life, to solve a problem or expand an idea in the maritime world.”
She would dress up for meetings and struggle with what to put on over her fancy attire, she said.
“I would go to meetings, and I like to dress up. I like Canadian fashion or local fashion, and you dress up and by the time you get into the office or go to a meeting half your outfit would be drenched. As my sister says, the Newfoundland word is satched.”
She knew what she needed, and what she wanted, but it wasn’t available. “I was six month looking online, looking and looking across Europe. And I said ‘I can’t find one.’ So I said ‘I’m going to make one for myself.’”
She hired a designer to help with the pieces she struggled with and the idea began to take shape.
a passion project
“I sketched out something that I wanted. I wanted something that was obviously fashionable that I could wear with business clothes, but that was also kind of maritime. So it brought out our maritime culture and history. You look at a Mernini and say ‘oh, that looks like an old maritime slicker, but fashionable.’”
Halfyard wanted to make sure the product was “unique to Newfoundland,” wanting it to look different, but making sure it could be “worn everywhere too.”
There were a few bumps in the road as she moved her “passion project” along. There were four – maybe five – prototypes, she shared, before settling on the right fit.
As to her audience? Women around 35 and older, but anyone can wear a Mernini. “It’s for working women, it’s for mothers who stay home. I wouldn’t say it’s a hiking coat, but if you’re going to watch your kid play soccer, it’s great for that.”
Halfyard still treats this as a passion project (as she juggles a full-time job), but it has certainly added joy to her life, she shared.
“In the beginning I was pretty much up until 3A.M, but now it’s a little bit more manageable because I’ve got my rhythm going and the marketing is catching on.”
From Dildo to Whitbourne, to Corner Brook and online, the Mernini is available. It’s also available in some big outlets across Canada, currently selling in eight provinces. The Mernini has also been featured on The Shopping Channel and in Chatelaine, as well as on The Social, Halfyard added.
“Business is pretty darn good and I’m proud to be a brand coming out of the East Coast,” she shared proudly.
The weather here gives the Mernini the truest test of all, she added. “The wind and rain and fog here just tests the product and I’ve had people from all across Canada write me and say ‘You know how long I’ve been looking for a coat like this?” So now my biggest markets are here, Ontario and B.C..”
‘a great compliment’
Her styles are “classic”, as are her colours, but she’s possibly looking at designing something a little shorter as well. But as for her main focus?
“I don’t want to be like everyone else. I want the Mernini to be unique.”
The best thing about this venture? “For me it’s bringing my ideas to life and seeing the reactions from people going, ‘oh yeah. I really wanted this,’ but also taking their feedback and making improvements.”
The compliments are many, but certain ones stand out more than others.
“One lady said ‘I was at Costco pumping gas and the guy beside me was cringing because he was getting soaked and I was just standing there taking my time and I was just smiling and I loved it.’ That was a great compliment.”
There’s some fun news coming up, with the brand soon be featured on a television series, but the best part is seeing her Mernini clients happy, she said proudly.
following a dream
“I’m so proud how people have embraced it. It makes me feel like all this hard work is worth it and I feel that anybody can follow their dream with a lot of hard work, a lot of research, and a plan.”
Part of the honour goes to her mom, she added.
“My mom is my biggest supporter and she’s a businesswoman herself. So I think I got my grit and determination from her. She had six kids. She was a teacher. We didn’t have everything we wanted, obviously, but she worked hard and we had a great upbringing.”
Her mother worked hard for the family, and she’s been a fantastic grandmother as well, she added. Now looking back, from her business name to her positive outlook and determination to drive the Mernini brand, it all came from family.
“It’s been a great experience and I’m equally humbled and proud.”
For more visit mernini.com