Here at SWELL, we love bikinis. I mean, we LOVE bikinis. So naturally, we adore the woman behind one of the top bikini brands out there, L*Space. With six (6!) “Best Swim Brand of the Year” awards and iconic swim styles to spare, founder Monica Wise is the ultimate role model for aspiring designers and beach beach babes from coast to coast. We had a chance to stop by L*Space HQ and get a sneak peek into Monica’s success and next season’s bikinis. Sadly, there was no room filled floor the ceiling with bikinis to dive into a-la Scrooge McDuck, but we did find some pretty rad stuff searching for the mythical dream-room. Read on for a photo tour of L*Space and interview with the woman, the myth, the bikini legend…
SWELL: First off – tell us, how did you get here?
MONICA WISE: “She believed she could, so she did!” I’ve always been “big” on self belief… growing up in Florida I LIVED in my bikini from dusk ‘til dawn; swimwear quickly became my favorite style statement. Of course, I was also head-over-heels for the beach lifestyle. I loved the way I felt being near the ocean; it’s sexy, it’s fun, and it’s a way to stay active! As my obsession with bikinis grew, I started having them custom-made by a local girl. I had a true passion for bikinis. I began working with local seamstresses to whip up my own creations and started selling them to local boutiques. One of the greatest decisions of my life was making the move to California 13 years ago. I immediately learned that running a bikini business from the West coast would be less of a struggle due to the resources available here.
I was really able to take L*Space to the next level when I joined forces with my partners seven years ago. I no longer had to wear the many hats that small business owners are responsible for, so it freed up my time to focus on what I love most; solely designing and working on the creative side. I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve stayed local with our production even though the trend of the swim industry is to move overseas, L*Space has kept it local. Our bikinis are made right here in the OC, which we have found is absolutely critical to our success. We are able to touch, feel, and see the entire creative process from start to finish on a daily basis.
SWELL: Any advice for aspiring designers looking to break into the industry? Is there anything you’d do differently next time?
MW: Focus first on creating a quality product as this will translate into a stellar customer experience. Then of course there are the people you surround yourself with- teamwork makes the dream work! I am surrounded by a group of superstars who inspire me and push me to be better every day. But first and foremost you must have passion. If you do not have a fiery passion for what you do, it simply won’t last. The minute my passion wanes- I know it’s time to call it quits. Though I don’t see that happening anytime soon… My job creates this feeling that I am on a permanent vacation, designing bikinis and living this amazing life!
SWELL: What does L*Space Stand For?
MW: I realized years ago that a lot of my favorite things in life started with the letter L: living, loving, lounging, lux, laughing…so, this is my personal L*Space!
SWELL: You seem like such an iconic beach babe. Have you always had a connection with the ocean? How does that influence the suits you create?
MW: In my younger years I was in a bikini all day every day! Being near the ocean is almost a euphoric experience for me; it makes me feel so light and full of life. That’s how I hope women feel when they slip on their L*Space bikinis and apparel pieces.
SWELL: More on beach babes… If you could see any iconic, sandy muse wearing L*Space, past or present, who would it be?
MW: Raquel Welsh, hands down! I love designing for curvy women! She’s a great representation of a woman with curves and confidence who looks amazing in a bikini!
SWELL: What’s you’re favorite part of the business?
MW: The people! I love collaborating with my team, talking with customers, traveling to trunk shows and hosting events. Being on the road visiting with accounts makes me the happiest. I just can’t do it as much as I’d like.
SWELL: We hear the Summer ’14 collection will be your best yet…can you give us a sneak peek of what to expect?
MW: Lots of macramé, crochet details, color-blocking, cutouts, denim, mesh, reversible, and apparel you can wear on and off the beach.
SWELL: You’ve been named Women’s Swim Brand of the year for 6 years now (congrats!). What would you say separates you from the pack?!
MW: Of course, creating and putting out a quality product is a huge component, but I would also say it’s the relationships we’ve built with our buyers/and retailers. I can’t even call them customers because we truly see them more as “partners”, so to speak. I also love tapping into our consumers. They are truly a great source of inspiration.
SWELL: Bikinis are pulling this disappearing act lately, getting smaller and smaller. Do you think this trend will continue? Any new tiny ‘kinis from L*Space this year?
MW: These girls work hard to stay in shape, so we say if you’ve got it, flaunt it! We’ve recently come out with the itsy cut, our teeniest, tiniest bikini bottom yet! I don’t see this trend stopping anytime soon, long live the itty bitty bikini.
SWELL: If you had to pick on quote or saying that embodies the L*Space girl/brand or company culture, what would it be?
MW: L*Space…Keeping the Beaches Beautiful. (one bikini at a time ?)
MORE ABOUT MONICA…
* Favorite suit for all-around beach frolicking? For me, the strap back top. It’s great to be active in and is still super sexy.
* What’s always in your beach bag? My iPad and a deck of cards
* My novelty license plate holder would read: “I’d Rather Be Sunbathing”
* Favorite beach? Juan-Les-Pines in South of France. I get a lot of inspiration from the women and fashion there.
* Dream Vacation? I want to travel somewhere with a totally opposite climate, like Austria! Somewhere with snow covered mountains where I can hop into a jacuzzi and sip on hot toddies with my guy.
Check out Monica’s designs at SWELL: Shop L*Space Swimwear