If you've followed style trends over time, or you have an older sibling who talks a mean fashion game, then you're no stranger to the edgy, high-end celeb-favorite denim line Rock & Republic, which boomed in the mid-late '00s and has since relaunched at Kohl's under different ownership with more affordable price points.
Presently, with R&R part of her past, the original brand's cofounder Andréa Bernholtz is diving into retail all over again, but in a totally different direction. The entrepreneur just launched Swiminista, her own line of swimwear made from luxury recycled fabrics, featuring adjustable, personalized fits in sizes A-DDD.
Andréa—who describes her ideal customer as someone "stylish" and "confident," wanting to show some skin—chatted with Sweety High all about the line, launching a business at the height of coronavirus and the challenges of swimwear design. Keep reading for what she had to say!
Sweety High: How did you make the transition into designing swimwear?
Andréa Bernholtz: I was with some friends in Mexico and we were complaining about how we can never find swimwear that fits well, so it planted a seed in my head to start a new collection and to apply some of the detailing and slimming tricks we used when I co-founded Rock & Republic.
SH: What has been the most difficult part of launching a swimwear line, especially in such a saturated industry?
AB: I don't see it as difficult rather, I see it as the new way the world shops. The smaller pool of retailers make it more challenging for consumers to find us and see and feel the amazing quality as well as the feel of our ultra-soft, eco-friendly fabrics.
SH: What's been the most seamless part of the process?
AB: Going into a new brand with knowledge and contacts has been the only seamless process so far.
SH: What impact (for better or worse) has COVID-19 had on your business?
AB: The impact of COVID has been very challenging in some ways, as our biggest retailers are high-end resorts. Thankfully, our online business has been doing amazing, so we're able to thrive at this time. Many people's activities have been canceled except for the beach and pool time, which has thankfully worked in our favor.
SH: How do Swiminista's suits differ from other comparable lines on the market?
AB: All of Swiminista's suits are made out of materials derived from recycled plastic bottles, we are sized up to A-DDD and our suits are adjustable to achieve a customizable fit—nothing pulls or binds on the neck, and we have built-in hidden support. We fit test our pieces to ensure long-wearing comfort and support without anything "popping out."
SH: Having cofounded Rock & Republic at the height of the designer denim craze, do you miss that level of exposure? Do you envision Swiminista reaching that same peak?
AB: I had amazing experiences, traveled and learned so much starting and eventually selling Rock & Republic, but my life is different now. I have a family and balance my life differently these days. Swiminista is growing fast and you never know where or how high we'll land.
SH: What's something people would be surprised to know about the swimwear industry, or about your journey getting here?
AB: Finding the highest of quality factories was more challenging than I had expected. I was also surprised how challenging it was to create custom components. People don't want to work as hard as I do.