Bikinis Are Her Strong Suit

Sitting poolside at Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton, swimsuit designer Michaelin McCall surveys the scene with the intense gaze of someone who, at any moment, may need to save a drowning guest.

"Too much material," McCall says suddenly, as a woman nearby struggles to adjust her bikini bottom. "See how it bags? Sometimes a little less fabric--a more Brazilian bikini cut--is more flattering." She makes this assessment with a sympathy bordering on anguish. It's clear that McCall, a self-described swimwear freak, wants to change the world, one bikini at a time.

She just might get her wish. Already her 2-year-old San Diego-based design firm, Pisces Swimwear, has accomplished what most of us will never do: make the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue. "It launched us," McCall says simply of the little red-and-pink-polka-dot number that graced Tyra Banks on last year's special edition.

"I always had a hard time finding swimwear that I really loved," explains the 31-year-old Utah native, who studied fashion design in London before moving to Southern California. "A few years ago a friend traveled to Brazil and brought me back a couple of bikinis. From that time on, I always wanted Brazilian swimwear. That's where their fashion is--on the beach." And if you're envisioning "Blame It on Rio" thongs, think again. "Brazilian women really aren't into dental floss swimwear anymore," she says.

For McCall, a suit starts with the print--in fact, she won Glamour magazine's Print-of-the-Year award in last month's swimsuit issue. She prefers Lycra-heavy materials with patterns inspired by anything from magnolia-adorned 1950s living-room curtains to Parisian hot couture; McCall manufactures fabrics in Brazil, where she collaborates with two designers to create Pisces' swimwear line, available locally at both Canyon Beachwear and Fred Segal in Santa Monica, and Macy's.

And, yes, McCall gets to throw on a swimsuit more often than other small business owners. But she's quick to shrug off the notion that being a swimwear designer means endless hanging out at the beach. "I spend a lot of time in the swimwear to make sure the cut is comfortable," McCall clarifies, "but it's usually at the office answering phones and doing paperwork. I'm definitely a workaholic. I love it. And besides, now I have all the swimsuits I could ever want."


Model: Opal/Ford; hair and makeup: Barbara Martin

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