Swimwear veterans Divya and Lindsay share their story in launching Seventy One Swim, a luxury collection of classic swim silhouettes with their signature embroidery detail.
Many of our designers know from an early age that fashion is exactly what they want to do. Was that the case for you?
L: I grew up in New York and always wanted to go to fashion school but was worried that my parents wouldn't approve. Luckily for me, they were very understanding and supportive. I went to Pratt and got an early start in swim with an internship at a swimwear company. I went back after graduation. Eventually after a few years, I made a career switch to social media and marketing.
D: I'm from all over. I was born in New York, then lived in West Africa for 7 years, and then it was Russia for 4, and finally settled in Hong Kong for my teen years. All the travel and seeing different cultures was a big influence in driving me towards art and fashion. I went to art school first in London and then got my undergraduate degree in textile design which I thought was so fascinating. It's all about surface manipulation and bringing a 2D design to life. After that, I went to Parsons here in New York.
Why did you make the decision to go into swim?
L: It was a big part of my childhood. We had a pool and I loved swimming and camping growing up.
D: I thought the challenge of swim was really interesting. You have such a small amount of square footage to work with.
When did the seed that became Seventy One Swim get planted?
D: We met on the job and worked closely together on the same team. We both had 5-7 years of experience at that point and we started brainstorming ideas together and played around with the idea of building something. We just felt that there was such a repetitiveness on the job in terms of design and the actual job itself. We wanted to innovate, to experiment.
L: Mass market swimwear is tough. It's all about maximizing commerciality and sales, which of course is important but as creative people, it felt very limiting.
D: Lindsay is great with her hands and knows how to crochet. I had a few ideas given my Indian heritage. We started spending time together to stitch some samples together. The big challenge with swimwear is that they're almost always made of nylon with stretch and you typically cannot embroider more than 30% of the surface area because the stitching inhibits stretch. We spent hours with a needle and thread trying to see what we thought could work. It took us about 2 years and then we came up with this stitch that is completely reversible while enabling stretch. It was like holy god, we figured it out! The amazing thing about this stitch is that it's not just about being pretty - it actually tucks and sucks you in like a miracle suit.
We took a lot of inspiration from kantha which is a heritage stitch that's used in parts of India. Women would take old saris (which are handwoven and very valuable), layer them together, and then create a running stitch to make quilts. It's beautiful and a lot of our inspiration came from this stitch. One side is like kantha and the other side is like morse code.
D: We produce in China and each piece is produced by hand. Initially we wanted to keep production in the US for quality purposes but the pricing was too challenging, especially in small batches. We looked around in South America and spent 6 months with a factory. We ended up giving on that because they just couldn't get the stitching done properly.
Then, by coincidence, I was going to be in Hong Kong to see family and decided to head over the border to China just to check it out and we found this amazing woman. A number of her clients were companies that we knew well so it checked out from a reference perspective. She was incredibly enthusiastic about our project and willing to experiment. She was also very particular about limiting as much wastage as possible which was also super important for us.
In terms of fabrics, it's all deadstock - we use leftover fabrics from the factory. We do use some custom dyeing of the fabrics for several colors but the base fabric itself is all recycled.
Why Seventy One?
D: 71% of the globe is covered in water. We love the concept of having name that reflects our team's global heritage while also being all-encompassing and inclusive.