Sporty sailing-inspired striped bikini from Vitamin A. #want
Image courtesy of George Pimentel Photography
It hasn’t exactly been a summer that inspires one to put on a bikini. I think we’re all still suffering from post-polar-vortex syndrome, so we naturally gravitate toward wool sweaters and cashmere sweats when the temperature dips below the seasonable norm. But in a fantasy world, where it’s actually 30+ºC, sunny and deliciously humid, I know what we’d all want to wear: either a chic caftan or sporty-chic two-piece from Vitamin A. I had a chance to meet Amahlia Stevens, the brand’s designer, when she was in Toronto recently for the debut of her latest collection at the Shangri-La Hotel. The pieces are sporty, modern and chic.
Caftan-cool. Perfect for cocktail hour. Image courtesy of George Pimentel Photography
“I was inspired by the glam shots that Slim Aarons took of socialites lounging around pools in the ’60s,” explained Stevens. “I wanted to capture this idea of the jet set being on vacation feeling relaxed and happy. It’s not Parisian glamour–it’s more laid-back California style.” It’s a mood that comes naturally to Stevens, who is based in Laguna, California. When I inquired as to whether she remembered her first bikini, it was like asking a woman to recall her first crush. “I have been obsessed with them since I was a little kid,” she says, smiling. “But the real obsession started when I was a teenager. I remember buying my first swimsuit with my own money. It was the teeniest little bandeau top and Brazilian-cut bottoms in a tie-dye ombré print. It was a hot red, pink and orange. I would love to have it now.”
Spot-on. Leopard-print two piece. Image courtesy of George Pimentel Photography
Joseph Campbell once wrote that if you follow your bliss, “the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls.” Stevens is a compelling example of how that approach to life can eventually pay off. For years she ran her own design company, creating sportswear for other companies. As a former bathing-suit model, she wanted to design bikinis, but no one would hire her because she didn’t have experience in that field. So, she started designing suits for herself. “I was a smaller top than bottoms, and separates didn’t really exist in those days,” she recalled. “The only choices were giant American cuts, which I would never wear, or teeny-tiny Brazilians—I didn’t mind that they were tiny, but they were set too high on the waist. I wanted something to sit across my hips. That’s why I created what I call the ‘California cut.’”
Putting the sporty in chic.
Image courtesy of George Pimentel PhotographyS
Stevens said that friends started asking her to make pieces for them and then clients soon followed. She credits ELLE U.S. with kick-starting her career. “My big break came when the magazine’s stylist, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele, started using my pieces in her editorials,” recalled Stevens. “She would pair one of my bottoms with designer looks, like a Prada top or an item from Missoni. Carlyne really launched my career. I’ve never met her—one day it would be nice to thank her in person.”
Stevens reveals the real secret to wearing a bikini—regardless of your body type—as well as her three favourite beaches in the world.