Swimsuits are year-round wear for Southern Californians blessed by an expansive stretch of coastline, temperate climate and ubiquitous pools and beach clubs.
This prime environment contributes to the $4.4-billion U.S. swimwear industry and has produced pioneering swimwear designers including Rudi Gernreich, creator of the topless monokini that shook the world 1962, and Robin Piccone, whose rubber suits revolutionized swimwear in the 1980s.
Los Angeles is still a hotbed for new designers who are modernizing the way we shop for swimwear, tapping the coastal lifestyle, high-end fashion and even humor to inform their collections. Here are some L.A.-based brands that are breaking the mold of traditional swimwear.
The Background Bikyni was launched in May by founder and Chief Executive Jude Al-Khalil; bikyni.com
The Look Understated swimwear basics that buck trends, heavy hardware and embellishments. Each style comes in a palette of solids (black, white, navy and nectarine among them) and one print, a black-and-white gingham check.
The Hook Al-Khalil started Bikyni in an effort to simplify and streamline the swimsuit buying process so many women dread. She offers an edited collection of classic shapes and colors available with free shipping and returns through e-commerce only.
Shoppers can find the right size and shape through an advanced fit guide that gives options for how much support, coverage, adjustability and padding is desired. Also, tops and bottoms can be purchased as separates in different sizes to fit women’s varying proportions.
“It’s much more challenging than one would think to find a basic swimsuit with a reasonable price tag but at a designer level,” says Al-Khalil, who plans to implement a live chat function on the site in the near future, so women can ask specific questions about fit in real time before making a purchase.
The Goods Bikyni launched with 10 swimwear styles, which includes triangle, bandeau and halter-top shapes, four styles of bottoms and a one-piece suit. All styles are made in Los Angeles and cost $95 for a one-piece or for a top and bottom set ($50 each if purchased separately).
The Background Frankie’s Bikinis was founded in 2013 by Malibu-based designer Francesca Aiello when she was just 17 years old; store.frankiesbikinis.com.
The Look An aesthetic that Aiello describes as capturing “Malibu’s beachy lifestyle,” mixed with elements of Hawaii’s surroundings and culture. It translates to a boho vibe, plenty of skin-baring cutouts and a youthful feeling in the bikinis that Aiello has designed to work for an active surf lifestyle.
The Hook “I grew up in Malibu, so I basically lived in bikinis,” says Aiello, “I love to surf and felt there weren’t enough suits that were both cute and functional for active girls.”
With her mom’s encouragement, the teenager began researching swimwear fabrics and construction while still in high school and soon launched the collection of bikinis that now sells in the U.S. and internationally.
The Kardashian sisters and some Victoria’s Secret Angels are fans of Aiello’s creations, posting photos of themselves wearing Frankie’s Bikinis on their social media feeds.
The Goods Aiello has about 15 styles in her current collection, which includes $88 tops, $84 bottoms and $181 one-piece suits. The line is manufactured in Malibu and sells on her website as well as https://www.shopbop.com and several local swimwear retail shops.
The Background Velvet Sphynx was founded by Bettina Ivanovich in 2014; https://www.velvetsphynx.com
The Look Plenty of whimsical and downright wacky prints. Think sportier cuts such as sports bra style tops and deep v-neck one-piece suits emblazoned with colorful pizza, dog, snake and toucan prints.
“I wanted to bring something different to the market, something bold that would have people doing double takes,” says Ivanovich, who is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. “The prints, styles and names are all derived from elements of my everyday life and from my childhood growing up in the ‘80s.”
The Hook Ivanovich’s bold take on bathing suits recently caught the eye of pop star Rihanna, who wore the pizza print Spicoli bikini during a Hawaiian vacation. The designer says she will be sending the singer additional statement-making styles in hopes she might be seen in more of Velvet Sphynx’s splashy suits.
The Goods Ivanovich creates five to eight styles each season, and each comes in three to seven prints and colors. All styles are manufactured in Los Angeles and range from $58 for a top to $88 for a bottom and $180 for a one-piece suit.
The Line LeSwim was founded in 2014 by Adriana Caras, previously known for her high-end shoe and handbag designs; leswim.it
The Look A collection of glamorous and sophisticated swimsuits, caftans, rash guards and cover-ups.
“I’m really inspired by the fashion plates from the late 1960s and early 1970s, like Jacqueline Onassis and those iconic shots of her aboard the Christina O, cruising the Mediterranean,” Caras says. A similar sense of glamour is infused into her suits and seen as ‘70s-style asymmetrical straps on a one-piece or a lace front closure a la Yves Saint Laurent snaking up a black maillot.
The Hook Caras and L.A.-based photographer Paul Robinson collaborated on exclusive swimwear prints created from Robinson’s photos. The capsule line bowed in May, blurring the lines between fashion and art.
The Goods LeSwim is made up of mix-and-match separates, many of them reversible. There are 12 tops ranging from $115 to $142 and 12 bottoms ranging from $103 to $115. One-piece suits range from $240 to $295. Caras’ caftans come in either cotton or silk and cost between $265 and $400.
Malia Jones Swimwear
The Line Malia Jones Swimwear, founded by professional surfer and model Malia Jones, launched in May; https://www.maliajones.com
The Look Understated swimwear and caftans that have a sleek, high fashion aesthetic. Think strapless one-piece suits with open backs, sheer black or taupe breezy caftans and simple red bandeau bikinis that are low on hardware or embellishments.
The Hook Jones, who is married to “Hawaii Five-0" star Alex O’Loughlin, has spent much of her life wearing a swimsuit as either a surfer or model.
“I grew up in Hawaii surfing and then traveled the world for my surfing and modeling. So I’ve worn a lot of swimsuits,” she says. “I’ve been an ambassador to brands, a consultant to companies for their swim lines and have done collaborations with brands for swimwear, but this is the first collection I’ve done on my own. I want to make someone’s favorite bikini — a bikini that they could feel like themselves and feel confident in.”
The Goods There are 11 styles of interchangeable tops and bottoms and one-piece suits that come in five different colors and four prints each season. Bikinis start at $215, and a one-piece suit costs $245.
The Line Marysia was founded by Marysia Dobrzanska Reeves, who relocated her business from New York to Los Angeles this year. https://www.marysiaswim.com
The Look Fashion-driven or vintage-inspired suits that are created in a European couture factory. Scalloped edges are cut by hand and several bikini bottoms have high waists for a modern pin-up feeling.
“I really saw a void in the market for a more elevated boutique swim brand driven by fashion,” Reeves says. The former ballerina and current surf enthusiast also creates rash guards and cover-ups to accompany the bikinis and maillots in her collection.
The Hook The line has been a celebrity favorite for several seasons and was most recently worn by Gwyneth Paltrow and Jaime King. This season, Reeves collaborated with designer Jonathan Cohen on a capsule collection of swimwear featuring a Leopard Stroke print that is a cross between leopard spots and polka dots and is available on the Marysia website.
The Goods The Marysia collection is made up of about 40 items with bikini tops and bottoms at $130 per piece and a one-piece suit at $315.