Meet Curlew, the Island Shirt Brand Inspired by Nantucket Flora and Fauna

Summer isn’t over yet—just ask the creator of this new Nantucket-inspired clothing line.

The vibrant “Beach Rose” island shirt ($165) from Curlew. / Photo by Karin Dailey / Styling by Laura Nero

Schoolteacher Megan Ashforth always had a penchant for art—but it took the pandemic for her to actually find the time to pursue it. While the rest of us were baking banana bread during quarantine, the New England native began seriously experimenting with repeatable graphic design patterns, creating a library of Technicolor motifs depicting shorebirds, horseshoe crabs, and fish. It’s all inspired by the flora and fauna of Nantucket, where her grandparents built a home overlooking a tranquil salt marsh in the 1970s.

As 2020 progressed, Ashforth made it her goal to learn how to sew and use her vibrant designs to create a line of camp shirts—unisex, loose-fitting button-downs perfect for going from boat to beach to bar. It’s a look that is particularly on trend at the moment, especially among the beach-going set. “My fiancé and I wear a lot of this type of shirt in the summer,” says Ashforth, who knew she could put her own spin on the popular style. After she created several prototypes, the “island shirt” was born. “There was a lot of tweaking to get the unisex fit just right, to get the pocket just right, but we are really happy with the final result.”

Curlew’s founder, Megan Ashforth, models the signature “Surfcasting” island shirt on Nantucket. / Photo by Georgie Morley Photography

Like the patterns, the brand’s name also takes its inspiration from the Gray Lady: Curlew, after an elegant, exceedingly rare species of shorebird that passes through the island. Following a year of pandemic percolation, Curlew officially launched this summer with a limited run of three shirts, available for purchase online. And if you find yourself on Nantucket, be sure to stop by Bill Fisher Tackle to get your hands on the “Surfcasting” button-down.

The best part of buying one of these unabashedly cheerful shirts? Ten percent of profits is donated to the Trustees of Reservations, which manages the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge on Nantucket, where many of the plants and animals that inspire Ashforth’s designs are found. That’s a reason to turn up the fun on your summer wardrobe if we ever heard one.

The “Marsh Mallow” island shirt.