We had the good fortune of connecting with Merel Petri and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Merel, other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
Positioning myself to learn things way outside of the job description. Because I always found myself taking on responsibilities outside of what I was hired to do, I was able to learn a lot of different aspects of a business and get experience from a lot of different industries, which is helping me build my business today. I also used this as a way to recognize when it was time to move on from something, if the learning stopped and I felt too comfortable, I knew that I needed to push myself into something new.

Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?

I launched universeel mooi to be a vessel of confidence. I’ve loved fashion for as long as I can remember but it also contributed to a lot of insecurity issues growing up. I was always trying to morph my body to fit into a size that culture deemed ideal and I measure my worth based on how those clothes fit. My first piece, the wrap, aims to counter that. I designed it to morph to your body, so one size fits 2-3 standard sizes, which allows for fluctuation and the ability to wear it whatever way you feel most comfortable. And, we range from size 00-22. Every time someone tries it on I’m driven to find ways to make it better so that my pieces make people with all body types feel confident

The story of the name universeel mooi is a good one. It’s Dutch for universally beautiful – I was born in Holland and split my time between Amsterdam currently. Mooi is such a happy word to me, whenever I say it I can imagine my dad, brothers, or nephews saying it and it makes me smile. The literal translation is “beautiful” but it also kind of serves as a catchall for anything you find to be lovely. And that’s a perfect representation of how I want my brand to affect people. Anytime I say it, it helps me ground back to the idea that there is so much beauty in the world, and I hope it can serve as the same reminder for others, especially during the valleys.

It hasn’t been easy to start a company but the timing does feel right. I’ve thought about launching a brand since I was 22 and I’m really happy I waited until now. For me, it’s taken many years of personal self-work to grow into a person who can handle the highs, lows, challenges, and critique that come with putting out something so personal into the world. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to not let perfection stunt progress. It pains me to not put something out that I think it absolutely perfect, which is why it’s taken me much longer than I thought it would to create a business. For years I was trapped in a cycle of great ideas that never came to fruition because I had unrealistic standards of how it needed to look. There’s a lot of power in imperfection, because that means there’s always room for growth. So, I would tell anyone with an idea to just try it, setbacks and failures are great teachers.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We would start the day with coffee and zucchini bread at Valerie’s in Echo Park. Go for a hike(ish) at Elysian or Franklin Canyon followed by tacos at Tacos Villa Corona to refuel & some vintage shopping in Atwater Village. Then we’ll head to LACMA or Getty if we’re feeling ambitious. For dinner we’re heading to Jitlada or All Time in Los Feliz. Day two we’re starting at Silverback for coffee & pastries then heading to The Last Bookstore which is built into an old bank. After that we’ll go to Vista Hermosa Park, head back to Los Feliz and do a little more vintage shopping down Vermont Ave. We’ll stop by Bar Bandini for a glass of wine then head to dinner at Salazar which positions us perfectly to catch a comedy show at the new Elysian theater.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people! When it comes creating my brand, the first person that comes to mind is my design professor at Indiana University, Deb Christiansen. She was the first person to make me believe I could really be both a designer and entrepreneur. When it comes to actually launching, it would have never happened without two of my closest friends, Trent Cooper and Q Choi. Not only did they help me with process because they have so much experience in launching brands from scratch, but they serve as much needed emotional support when I get too in my head about things. And speaking of emotional support, my partner Momodou N’jie is crucial to my growth both personally and professionally. He’s created a space for me to feel like I can go out in the world and do anything.

Website: https://www.universeelmooi.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/universeel.mooi/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/universeel-mooi?trk=public_profile_experience-item_profile-section-card_subtitle-click

Other: Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@universeel.mooi?

Image Credits
Lilac, royal ,teal = Felton Kizer Merel in red shirt = Pooja Shah Merel in red shirt with tops = Alexis Beauford All others = Merel Petri

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.