Calabasas fashion designer Andréa Bernholtz combines a love of fashion with a love of the ocean to create a swimwear line out of recycled plastic
Fashion designer Andréa Bernholtz is drawn to the call of the coast. She’s always lived near the ocean, so it’s only fitting that Andréa, who co-founded Rock & Republic jeans in 2002, has found a new passion in designer luxury swimwear that promotes sustainable lifestyle choices.
The 20-year fashion veteran grew up in Calabasas and hightailed it to Hawai‘i after graduating high school. Since then, she’s lived in different areas of Hawai‘i, Malibu, Venice Beach and Laguna Beach. She returned to Calabasas about a decade ago after the birth of her daughter, Barrett, and now splits time between California and Hawai‘i.
Andréa was raised in a family that made conscious choices to protect the planet—it’s ingrained into the fabric of her life, in business and in raising her daughter. At 10 years old, Barrett is already an active eco-warrior. She advocates for recycling, donates a portion of any money she earns or receives to wildlife and sea life organizations, and brings trash grabbers along with her on family walks.
Reducing her carbon footprint in the fashion world was also important to Andréa. She came up with the idea to start Swiminista after a vacation with friends in Mexico, where she realized there was a need not being met: sustainable swimwear for women that fit well and gave them confidence. Launched in 2019, Swiminista brings high-end design into the eco-friendly fold by using fabric made from recycled plastic and partnering with renowned designers such as Christian Lacroix to develop luxury designs.
Beyond connected with Andréa to learn more about the story behind the swimwear.
Beyond: What was the inspiration behind the name Swiminista?
Andréa: I was trying to come up with a name that included my love of fashion as well as swimwear. When you’re a fashionista and need chic, eco-friendly swimwear, you go to Swiminista!
Beyond: How did you decide that fabric made from recycled plastic would be the perfect fabric for Swiminista?
Andréa: Even back in my Rock & Republic days we shredded jeans and used them for housing insulation. The ocean’s pollution and negative impact on sea life has become out of control. I wanted to bring awareness and give back a little and try to reduce some of fashion’s negative effects on our planet. I heard of many products being developed out of recycled materials, so I went in search of the best luxury recycled fabrics out of Italy.
Beyond: Did you always want to pursue fashion?
Andréa: I loved fashion. Even as a small kid I would shop vintage and go to the Army surplus stores to create my own clothes. I would hot-glue camo fabric onto shoes and clothing before you could buy it anywhere. I traveled to Southeast Asia and I bought lots and lots of clothing and accessories and sold them at boutiques in Hawai‘i. I have always been very entrepreneurial, and I slowly fell into the business.
Beyond: You’ve said that you started recycling “before it was cool.” How have recycling and sustainability been a part of your life from a young age?
Andréa: My mother was a bit of a hippie and we would save newspapers, cans and bottles and then drive miles to the recycling center. My mother would tell us to turn off the lights to save electricity. We would use our own bags at the market, and my mother would say, “Save a tree.” We were never allowed to use straws unless they were paper. No one I knew recycled, and no one really talked about it, but over the years it has become a way of life for everyone. We were also involved with animal rescues and rehabilitations.
Beyond: How important is it for high-end designers to start incorporating sustainable materials in their designs?
Andréa: In my opinion it is very important. The more designers that use recycled and compostable products in a chic, luxurious way, the more technology will develop newer and better products for us to use.
Beyond: How has being a mom changed the way you approach fashion design and create consumer products?
Andréa: I buy things that are more practical. My life of constant travel, being bicoastal and attending the global fashion weeks has drastically changed. I purchase for my daughter more than I do for myself. I have more flats than high heels in my dressing room these days, which I never thought would happen. I look for products that are eco-friendly and clothing that is easy and versatile, such as items that go from day to night or can easily be dressed up or down.
Beyond: Swiminista has a Mommy and Me collection. What are your hopes for expanding that?
Andréa: Our plan is to increase our product assortment, with accessories and more caftans and designer collaborations as well as expanding into men and boys swimwear. . . . (Barrett) and her friends are eagerly awaiting the new longsleeve one-piece coming this summer from the Christian Lacroix collaboration as well.
Beyond: What are some of your and Barrett’s favorite pieces?
Andréa: I’m obsessed with our bestselling one-piece, the Cheerful suit. I have it in every color and print! My daughter loves the leopard kids’ version called the Cherish, with the matching ruffled rash guard. My favorite two-piece is definitely the Joy top, as it can be worn three different ways and substitutes as a bra at times. I pair that with our Smart side-adjusting bottoms, so I know it will always fit just right!
Shop Andréa’s sustainable swimwear line at swiminista.com.