Name：Eileen Gianna Carls
Where do you live now?
Describe yourself in 3 sentences.
I love to move, I love to learn and I want to experience everything through body and soul. I can’t live without the ocean, nature, creative work, friends and family. I am a driven person and hope to live every day to the fullest. If I had to describe in one word what I pursue in life, it would probably be personal growth :)
I am really active every day, I can’t waist a minute of my life! I love to exercise, surf and work, therefore I challenge myself daily.
I get up early mornings and exercise first (biking, yoga, or body workouts), have some coffee and then start working in the office, at home or at whatever project is going on. I normally work until very late in the evening and then walk my dog, meet friends or read before I go to sleep. On weekends or whenever I can, I go surfing and traveling. Because there is a lot of variety in the work I do, I can often combine work with traveling and surfing! It’s tiring, but I love it :)
Which quote do you like the most?
Run to your fears, hug your monsters.
Turn a setback into a COMEBACK!
Introduce yourself. What’s your background?
I grew up in Zurich, Switzerland, in a little town called Pfaffhausen. My mom is Taiwanese and my dad is German, and they moved to Switzerland before my big brother and me where born. They divorced when I was young, and I lived with my mom and my brother. We grew up like most swiss kids.
At the age of 17 after graduating from high-school, I decided to go Taiwan, to learn Chinese (sadly I didn't learn Chinese while growing up) and therefore moved to Kaohsiung. I hadn’t planned to stay longer than 6 months, but after coming here I started surfing and enjoying the tropical life style! I didn’t want to go back to Switzerland and therefor started to work on different part time jobs and continued my language study, until I successfully applied for a university scholarship!
I studied my bachelor in Business management using chinese language. In the third year, I also started the project of SurfAce Bikinis! I was so passionate about it, that it eventually became my bachelor work, and after graduating in 2016, it was my real work!
During the time I had a home office and a sewing studio, which I was moving around to various small locations, and in January 2018 we opened the official SurfAce Apparel store in Kaohsiung close to the beach. It’s been 8 years in Taiwan now for me, and I still love to live here!
Is there a special experience that you would like to share?
I never thought that the decision of going abroad would have such an impact on my path of life.
If I didn’t come to Taiwan and open my heart to a new place and culture,
I would have never start surfing and learn so much new things about myself.
I would probably still be in Switzerland now,
working in a boring bank job or studying medicine like my father expected me to.
But by going with the flow and trusting that things will turn out right, when I do what makes me happy,
I have been able to discover a new life that gets me excited to learn every day!
Which part of Taiwan is most attractive to you, and what do you think needs the improvement?
I love Taiwan’s weather, the people, the culture and the food. I am vegan, and the variety of fresh vegetable and fruit is amazing.
The people are kind, and Taiwan is a safe place.
The downside In Taiwan is maybe the education in some parts.
I hope the basic education can be more open and flexible.
The people are raised in a very tight system since they are kids, learning by heart only what the teachers and the books say from morning to evening. There is no time for play, creativity, reflection and development or personal interests, therefore I find that many people face the problem of “thinking inside the box”.
TV here is also pretty bad, most of the news channels are more entertainment than facts, and thus a waist of time.
What would you think is the most attractive thing about SurfAce from a third person’s view?
As a Taiwanese girl, I’d probably like the fact that we’re a local brand, producing everything in Taiwan! And as a surfer I’d love the skimpy, functional and eco-friendly designs. As a foreigner, the most important aspect of SurfAce would be the drive for authenticity and sustainability.
What is your personal favorite design until now?
I love our bikini thong and the surf-yoga bikini top! You don’t have to tie the straps, it’s braided on the back and it’s just soooo comfortable and safe for surfing, running, practicing yoga and as a bra!
I started surfing when I came to Taiwan, my brother recommended it to me and told me I’d love the feeling on the wave and after the surf.
Surfing to me is my medicine. It’s the outlet of my stress, my energy plug, the place where I can restart myself, and where I disconnect from city life and reconnect to nature and friends. Surfing is a very challenging activity but also so fun and rewarding. Waves are different everywhere and every day, and thus every wave I catch gives me a kick of happiness!
Surfing is the best I have every tried because it includes nature, friends, exercise, ocean, sun and traveling all together. I can talk about surfing for hours haha!
What is the thing most people don't know about you?
People don’t know that I don’t like fashion at all haha!
I like designing and creating things that are beautiful and functional, and I love sport. But I am not a fan of fast fashion at all, because it pollutes our beautiful earth!
I like a minimalistic lifestyle and prefer to only own the things that I use often!
…This is a reason why I insist on choosing quality over quantity for our brand. I hope people can wear our stuff for a long time and rather buy only what they need. Use the bikinis and clothing like a tool for their favorite activities, rather than throwing cloth in to the trash every year!
「Don’t live to shop, shop to live!」
What was the worst you encountered in the process of starting a business?
The worst was probably being let down by my first two partners. In the beginning I was working on SurfAce Bikinis as a project with a group of students. this group fell apart after the semester had ended and I was left alone with a lot of responsibility, no one of them actually giving a sh** about our customers and the orders we had to fulfill.
Later on I was working with a lady from mainland china, we were making the bikinis by hand in my home-studio, and I treated her like a family member. But one day she just left me, saying she had a family problem, but I know it was because she was afraid we wouldn't be successful.
People have let me down and have lied to me a couple of times, but it’s ok because every time someone left, I met better people.
I love my team now. And the bad experiences have taught me well: I tell every new SurfAce employee that the one thing I expect is not perfect work, but honesty, trust, communication and transparency!
What is the driving force behind your entrepreneurship, and what kind of philosophy makes you keep moving forward?
I need a deeper meaning in everything I do, I want to create value for the society and the environment. SurfAce gives me and the team the opportunity to be creative, to grow and evolve. We all have dreams and hate boring lives, therefor we rather struggle by giving ourselves new goals and planning new projects, then just working within a stable routine.
I work with a lot of passion and persistence, and even though it’s very tiring sometimes, I feel it’s all worth it when I see happy customers, happy team members or when I see that we could make a change in someones life. It might be simple as a good bikini to surf and dive in, or body positive and motivation for a healthy natural lifestyle, or it can be inspiration for the young people to come join beach clean ups, or things like caring about local production, quality and sustainability.
I want to make more than clothing, I want to share passion for health, sport and mother nature!
What is the craziest thing you have done in your life?
I started dating a Taiwanese guy when I just came to Taiwan, I was 18 and he 26. He couldn’t speak english, and I couldn’t speak Chinese, but we knew each-other from the surf club. He liked me a lot and once day came to hold my hand, and then he just claimed me as his girlfriend in front of the whole surf club! I didn’t know how to get out of that situation and thought he was cute anyway, so I just gave it a try! We ended up being together for 1.5 years and my chinese skills went through the roof haha…
He was a cook and a hard worker, and after being together for a year, we tried to open up a restaurant for him with money that I borrowed from my mom. It all went bad really quickly because we were basically to young, stupid and unexperienced. We lost all the money in two months and broke up in misery. He married a rich girl 6 months later and she solved his problems. I felt betrayed and used, and I had to pay my mom back. I only achieved that after two years of creating my new business, SurfAce Bikinis…
What is the most touching thing you have ever encountered?
I have met people in my life that have helped and supported me for now reason. My university professor who motivated me to start SurfAce as a project in university is one of them, and there is my new partner and factory manager Annis, her dad, and now our shop manager Monsan, as well as the other team members. Also other friends from all over the world who have lent me a helping hand when I needed.
I feel these people somehow give me so much trust and energy, they support me through their time and effort - even though they don’t know what will happen in future. I am not a family member or so, I am actually just a foreigner here, and I could be gone one day. But they don’t doubt about me. They are here when I need them, and I just feel endlessly
You are quite fit, can you share with us how you train your abs?
Hahaha… My abs are made through my lifestyle! Daily exercise and healthy food are key!
I would say that yoga has shaped my core a lot, but surfing and body weight exercise definitely also shred fat! Abs show when the muscles are strong and your body fat is low enough.
I generally exercise at least 45min to 2 hours every day and stay away from processed food. Fried food are also not good for you, nor is too much sugar. I am a vegan since two years, therefor I eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, beans and tofu etc.
Besides surfing, what other sports on land do you like?
I practice a lot of yoga since 2 years, and I train with free weights or body weights at home or in the gym when I feel like it!
I used to love to run, but I hurt my knees when I was young ( I trained martial arts in Switerland). Now I don’t run anymore, I prefer biking and use it as a vehicle instead of riding scooter!
I also like to skate sometimes or go out and dance with friends!
What exciting things are coming up in 2019? Do you have any goals that you really want to reach?
I have many goals and projects! Let me mention only a few..
Personally I want to do my first yoga teacher certificate, start to share my practice with my friends and employees, and learn to hold my hand stand!
Business wise I want the SurfAce Team to grow and hope that we can launch an awesome yoga collection, as well as a men’s surf board-shorts collection!
Besides all those things, I am really excited that my big brother will be coming to Taiwan to live with me for some time!