ST. THOMAS — Fianna Fluess practically lives in a bathing suit. There always one in her car or at the bottom of her bag. You might say she rarely leaves home without it. But getting the comfort, fit and durability she needed was always a problem. That’s what inspired her to create her own Fianna Swim bathing suit line, which is now in stores on St. Thomas and St. John.
Born and raised on St. Thomas, Fluess, 30, is a “local through and through.” A graduate of Antilles School, she was always doodling and drawing, and “it was always just known to me that I would go to art school.”
At Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., Fluess studied graphic design. She then headed to Los Angeles, Calif. as well as New York City to hone her design skills. However, the call of the island lured her home four years ago.
“I went out there to broaden my design aspects, but home is where I always wanted to be,” she said.
Fluess formed her own Fianna Fluess Design company, and works as a freelance graphic designer and photographer. Fashion seemed to be a natural progression.
After hurricanes Irma and Maria, business was slow, and she decided it was the perfect time to start pursuing her personal dream since before high school of designing her own swimwear line.
“When you have something in your head and obsess about it for 10 years, you are doing yourself a disservice not to do it,” she said.
Fluess took sewing lessons, thinking she could do it herself, but she quickly realized the project was bigger than just her and a sewing machine. She needed to find a factory to interpret her drawings into actual swimsuits and she started researching the major bathing suit manufacturing spots around the globe.
Already booked for a vacation in Asia, Fluess took a side trip to Bali to meet with several manufacturers to show them her drawings and found one she felt was a perfect fit for her. On her return home, she got busy choosing her color palette and creating her “tech pack,” printing pieces on cardstock with specifications for the manufacturer to start the long process toward actually creating the garments. It took a year and a half of sending samples back and forth, tweaking the designs to get the fit just right.
One noteworthy design feature of Fianna Swim is the eco-friendly fabric, Econyl, made from 20 percent lycra and 80 percent recycled nylon gathered from nets and other plastic wastes found in landfills and in the ocean.
“They pull it out of the ocean and the reefs and spin it into fabric that dries quickly and is very soft and luxurious,” Fluess explained.
The well thought out designs use only cloth, containing no metal or plastic hardware to corrode. To continue with the eco-friendly mindset, the packaging and even the mailing envelopes contain no plastics.
The clean and basic looks are what Fluess calls “Caribbean minimal, designed on St. Thomas, the jeans and white t-shirt of bathing suits. They are designed for women ages 20 to 35, and they want fit, not fast fashion. They want it to last. They to wear it again and again.”
The mix and match tops and bottoms are sold separately and come in five different neutral and neon colors. The solid color tops pair well with a colorful sarong, and some are reversible or can be used as a bra or a top.
In keeping with the “designed on St. Thomas” theme, each style and color has its own island-inspired name. The five colors are red roof, bougainvillea, night, stormy and scotch bonnet. Tops are named frangipani, bamboula, Magens Bay and Amalie, while the three bikini bottom choices are names for St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
As the line grows, new styles will be added, but they will always be interchangeable with the rest of the mix and match collection.
The first actual shipment of the Fianna Swim line arrived in July and is being sold at all three Caribbean Surf locations and at Magens Bay Boutique on St. Thomas and at Lulee in Mongoose Junction on St. John. She hopes to start selling on St. Croix soon.
Visit Fianna Swim on Instagram @fiannaswim, on Facebook or shop online at www.fiannaswim.com.