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The “itsy bitsy teenie weenie” alternative: Q&A with swimsuit designer, Jessica Rey
Summer is here. And in Orange County that means sun, sand and lots of skin. But we found one girl who definitely won’t be donning a bikini. Jessica Rey, of television’s Power Rangers and General Hospital fame, brings her own style to the OC beaches. Spearheading a line of modern-vintage bathing suits, the Anaheim native and actress-turned-designer is out to prove that you don’t have to wear something itsy bitsy to be sizzling on the sand.
The story is simple. While attending grad school at Loyola Marymount, Jessica just wanted a suit she could feel comfortable wearing around the pool. Unable to find a happy medium between a bikini and a muumuu, she decided that designing her own was the only option. And thus, Rey Swimwear was born. Opening up stores in Belgium, Milan, Canada, and one in our very own Old Towne Orange, Jessica finds herself an inspiration to girls the world over who share the idea that less is not always more.
LOCALE MAGAZINE:You design modest swimwear. How are you going about changing the connotation of that concept?
JESSICA REY: “It’s true that modesty is often considered unattractive and dorky, but I think our swimsuits prove just the opposite! We draw inspiration from Audrey Hepburn, a fashion icon whose style happens to be modest. Most girls wear bikinis because they’re in style, but also because they feel they don’t have any other options. We are providing another option: swimsuits that are in style and also happen to be modest.”
LM: What was the final straw that spurred this idea into a reality? Was it something someone said to you? Were you in the midst of swimsuit shopping and suddenly lost all faith in the swimsuit fashion world?
JR: “I was shopping for a cute swimsuit that covered more than a string bikini, but all I could find were swimsuits designed for older women. Just because I wanted to be more covered-up didn’t mean I wanted to dress like my grandma. I designed one for myself and after wearing it, people asked me where they could get one because they’d never seen anything like it. Being that my background is in business, I put two and two together and started my own company.”
I believe each and every person is unique and we shouldn’t be killing ourselves to fit into the same mold.
LM: Audrey Hepburn famously said, “Sex appeal is something you feel deep down inside. It’s suggested rather than shown.” How does that apply to your ideas about women and modern swimwear?
JR: “I agree with Audrey. It seems some women nowadays feel they have to bare it all on the beach to show they are sexy. People may have this idea that you only wear a one piece because you are ashamed of your body, (yes, it can help if you want to cover up flaws), but OC women are very fashion forward – the whole package – and I think that’s why they have been buying our suits.”
LM: Orange County is sort of bikini central. You were raised in Anaheim. How has that affected your ideas about fashion and body image?
JR: “I actually didn’t go to the beach very often growing up. In college I gave a speech about the effects of the media on women’s body image, but It wasn’t until I moved to LA and was working in television that I saw the research and statistics from my speech come to life. At one point, I lived in a house with girls who either struggled with eating disorders or had had cosmetic surgery. They wanted to make it in the industry so badly that they were willing to do anything. I didn’t live there very long because it was depressing. I believe each and every person is unique and we shouldn’t be killing ourselves to fit into the same mold.”
LM: What’s in the cards for Rey Swimwear?
JR: “We’re experiencing rapid growth, especially with the explosion of Pinterest. Our customer base used to consist mostly of girls who wanted to cover-up at the beach, but now it’s any kind of girl–girls who love Audrey, girls who love vintage fashion, girls who just want something different. We’re also experiencing growth internationally with stores in Belgium, Milan, and all over Canada. We ship to customers in Israel, Korea, Finland, and all over the world. Our tagline says it all: Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?”
To see the full summer 2012 line of Rey Swimwear, visit reyswimwear.com