Very Well Suited

Swimsuit designer Karla Colletto dives into the season’s swim trends. 

From monokinis to high-leg maillots, swim trends come and go, quite literally with the seasons. However, Karla Colletto has remained a constant for more than a quarter century. With a pioneering use of innovative fabrics and a keen ability to anticipate what’s on the horizon, the Vienna-based designer is a leading name in the swimwear industry; her sophisticated suits are carried at retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. We asked her about suiting up in the past, the present, and of course, the future.

What inspired you to go into swimwear design, specifically?

I didn’t set out to design and manufacture swimwear at the start of my career. I wanted to create fashion that was innovative and forward thinking, with the fine dressmaker detail that I learned from my grandparents and in my apprenticeship after fashion school. While I was designing custom pieces for clients, I became intrigued by stretch fabrics and realized that swimwear was overlooked in the world of high fashion. 

Looking back, I must have been intrigued by swimsuit design when I was younger because I distinctly recall making a white and brown print bikini with tiny brown buttons on my home sewing machine. Even though working with knit fabrics proved to be challenging for my small, inexperienced hands and the suit sagged when it got wet, I was proud of my beginner bikini.

You’ve been in the business for more than 25 years. Over that time, what were the most seismic shifts in swimwear?

Swimwear has become an important part of our wardrobe; it’s intertwined with ready to wear. Fiber and textile technology has transformed swimwear fabrics; they are technical, functional, and fashionable, making the design possibilities endless. Although my designs have changed over the years, there are some distinctive Karla Colletto details that make our suits recognizable. Sometimes we look to the archives for added inspiration, bringing our vintage pieces back in a new and updated way.

Marketing and advertising have changed incalculably over the years, especially with the advent of social media. Our social platforms give us a firsthand connection with our admirers. It is a gift to be able to communicate with them on such a transparent level.

What are the most notable swimwear trends for 2020?

The most notable swimwear trends of 2020 are kaleidoscopic color, spellbinding hues, contrasts, fringe, pleating, and innovative shapes. 

Where do you see swimwear trends heading in this decade?

I see swimwear trends heading toward sustainability: swimwear that is adaptable and versatile, use of recycled fabrics, interesting textures and surfaces, inspired by technology.

Your company is based in Vienna. What makes Virginia a great place to design and manufacture?

I’m inspired by so much in the Northern Virginia/D.C. area—strong women that embody who I design for, the multicultural environment—and we have been able to stay true to ourselves and grow our business at a more manageable pace being in this area.

This article originally appeared in our April 2020 issue.

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