Whoever said “summertime and the living’s easy” has obviously never gone swimsuit shopping.
This season, though, our search ended almost as soon as it began, once we laid eyes on the sporty swimwear collection of former ELLE market editor-turned-designer Lisa Marie Fernandez. Lisa’s figure-flattering suits showcase a modern twist to the color-blocked swim styles of the ’80s, with strong, sexy silhouettes and a sleek, clean design. In other words, these are styles everyone and their mothers can warm up to.
Another thing we love? Lisa names all her suits after her friends. On a recent afternoon at The Standard Hotel in New York, three of these ladies—Genevieve Jones, Natalie Joos and Poppy Delevigne—modeled their namesake suits along with Lisa herself. Below, get to know the designer behind this one-of-a-kind collection and meet her muses along the way…
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How did you get into designing swimwear?
When I was a market editor at ELLE Magazine, I covered the swim market, so I would go out and research trends. I couldn’t believe that no one in that world was doing neoprene. There was a neoprene type of bikini in the ’80s and ’90s, but in terms of modern day, there wasn’t. I had discussed it with Kevin Carrigan at Calvin Klein, and he said it’s such a fabulous idea and you should do it on your own. That’s how it started. I made seven bikinis as a side hobby, and when I went to the shows in Paris and said, “I made some bikinis, do you want to come see them?” Everybody came and bought it. Barneys carried it from the very beginning—they were one of the first.
What do you tend to look for in a fabric?
I was looking for a fabric that wasn’t being utilized. In swimwear, it’s such a small piece of apparel that the only way to do something new is really through fabric.
Who or what inspires you?
I don’t have an outside inspiration. I travel a lot all over the world. Travel is a really big part of my life. I guess it’s my own lifestyle and my own travel. People have this style icon and I don’t have that. I name the clothes after real girls with real jobs.
Tell us about some of the girls.
I chose all the girls because they have their own character and personality. They’re all confident women and they’re quite different. They all have their own original style—I really like women who have their own thing going on. And that’s what really attracted me to them. I would ask some of them, “What bathing suit silhouette do you wear or want to wear?” but sometimes I would just look at a style and know that so-and-so bikini really looks like them. When you’re an editor, you’re creating your character, so it’s the same idea, like casting.
What about the suits you picked for each girl?
Natalie Joos has the bandeau bikini—the suit has a really good structure. She likes to wear bandeau bikinis, and it turned out to be one of the best sellers in the collection. For Genevieve Jones, it’s sort of retro; it’s really a seamed bra and panty. Poppy Delevigne’s is a brand new style for 2012 and is made from a ’60s striped seersucker—it’s a fabrication that existed at one point in the ‘60s and we remade it. Poppy has the style a little bit of a ’60s sex kitten—she has a femininity, without being girly.
What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when designing a suit?
I think the number one thing to keep in mind when designing swimwear, and for these girls as well, is fit. A bathing suit has to fit, and it has to fit well. There’s no disguising a swimsuit.
Would you say there’s a certain Lisa Marie Fernandez girl?
I’m attracted to original women who have their own character and personality; women who have their own story. I’m not attracted to followers—I like people who have a very unique personality, and there are not many of them like that. We’re all different but with some people it’s just more apparent that they may be super quirky or really funny or really neurotic. I like women who are confident and strong, but not overbearing or pushy, who accept themselves for who they are. There are many beautiful women in the world and all girls are beautiful in their own way, but it’s about character.
You own more than 380 bathing suits—any favorites from the lot?
I have this one Chanel bathing suit that’s one of my favorites. It’s from a really long time ago. It’s a black lycra triangle top, tied in the front and has the gold balls at the end of the strings. It has a black base with the white Chanel writing—it’s very classic; just quintessential Chanel.
What are some of your favorite pieces from Barneys?
I love the Garance in red. I think the red is beautiful on the beach and really stands out. It’s really sexy, especially when you’re just getting a tan. I also like the Lisa Marie suit—that’s the quintessential James Bond suit and it looks really good even not at the beach with jeans. The Genevieve bikini in rubber is also one of my favorites—I wear it all the time. It gives you really good cleavage; I wear the Natalie and the Genevieve in rubber most often. I’ve also definitely been wearing the new one-pieces in the gloss.