Posted on February 17th, by HeatherZeller in BLOG, INTERVIEWS.


Landing the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition can do wonders for a model’s career, catapulting them to greater fame. The same is true for swimwear designers. Often dubbed the “Bikini Oscars,” designers eagerly await the magazine’s release to see if their suits have made the cut. Having their fashions featured within the pages of the publication means big business for swimsuit companies. Designers receive a great response as soon as the issue hits newsstands and it can immediately help to put them on the map. Kate Upton’s teeny-tiny red bikini featured on this year’s cover has received plenty of fashion buzz. The 19-year old model is wearing a suit made by 23-year old designer, Kathleen Bruening, founder and owner of Suit Yourself Bikinis by Kathleen Bruening.

Bruening first saw the cover online and discovered that her suit had scored prime real estate in the Swimsuit issue. The magazine is so secretive, even the featured suits are kept under raps from the designers themselves. Almost one-third of the issue’s readers are women, who are often eager to snag the suits and accessories within the pages of the magazine. This year’s cover suit sold out in just about 20 minutes. For the full style guide of swimsuits featured in the 2012 issue, check here. You can also pick up a copy of the magazine on newsstands today. To learn more about Suit Yourself Bikinis by Kathleen Bruening, visit here.

A Glam Slam spoke with Bruening about her swimwear line, the process of submitting suits, and what it was like to see her design on the cover. Check it out:

Can you talk about your company and the custom suits you create. How long have you been a swimwear designer?

I’ve been doing this ever since I was little. I started the company when I was 17, which was 2007. I started off very small, just with friends and family making little things here or there and we ended up starting a custom swimwear company. I did a lot of pageant work and lots of work with ladies who needed help finding the perfect fit. I’m still offering all of my suits custom, which will cost a little more than retail of course, but the SI Swimsuits that were in the 2012 issue, those will be availble both retail and custom.

Other than the cover, how many of your suits are featured in this year’s issue?

We had eight suits on the inside, plus the cover.

How many swimsuits did you design/send for consideration in the issue?

This year I sent 157 suits. Each one was hand-made. The cover suit actually has an amazing story. My mom was flying out when this deadline was coming up for all the red suits, so I ended up staying up almost two days straight sewing. I was so tired by the time she came in, she had to take a two and half hour taxi ride to my place from the airport. The one on the cover was made by me at 2 a.m., so it was pretty interesting to say the least.

How did you find out your suit made the cover? As the designer, did you receive any advance notice?

No, I had no idea whatsoever. I actually found out, I think it was about 8:30, and Letterman was exposing the cover. My mom kept calling and calling and saying it’s 11:30 on the east coast so we should check online. The only thing we could find was the Top 10 list. I back-clicked onto the homepage which I completely didn’t even take a look at, and there was the big picture of Kate Upton standing in front of the billboard. And I stared, I can’t even tell you how long, I have no idea. I just stared, and then I cried a little bit and then I was so overwhelmed with joy. I grabbed my dog and was jumping up and down on the phone with my mother. The entire time I kept thinking this can’t be the right cover, this is an April Fool’s trick. It was completely exhilarating and I could never ask for more in my entire lifetime.

There was a lot of buzz prior to the release of the issue, indicating that Kate Upton would be the cover model. Were you familiar with Kate before she landed this cover?

She actually wore one of my bathing suits last year, for the 2011 edition. It wasn’t in the magazine but it was posted online. It was a white, sea-glass piece. I was so thrilled because in one of her videos they asked her what her favorite bathing suit was and that was the one that she chose. On top of that, one of the directors of the SI Swimsuit Edition had mentioned in one of the interviews that as soon as Kate had put it [cover suit] on, she just lit up and she knew that it was going to be one of the shots. I’ve never met her but my bathing suits have been on her before.

When you’re developing the suits to send for consideration, do you design with specific models in mind?

A lot of times you don’t know which rookies are going to be in or which girls they are going to have in general. So I like to design a lot of things that I like, but texture is a really big thing for me. I kind of sit in the middle of a big pile of fabrics of all things that fit into the theme for that specific shoot, and I just start putting things together, really playing with color and texture and this trim will go on here. It really just grows organically. I try not to do only what I like or what someone else would like but just what the bathing suit comes to be. If it wants to be really skimpy, than it’s going to be really skimpy. If it wants to be really elegant, I want to do something elegant for it.

For swimwear designers, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition has been referred to as the “Bikini Oscars.” You had some suits included last year and now you’ve made this year’s cover. What has this meant for your business?

Unfortunately when the two-page spread that we did last year came out, I was in the process of moving, so I wasn’t able to capitalize on it as much as I really preferred. But I just felt so blessed to be chosen for what I had received. And then this year, to have even more is amazing. This year especially, with the cover but even with all the suits on the inside, I have sold out of those as well. The cover sold out in 20 minutes I believe.

With retail we are sold out of everything, I’d say we were completely sold out by 6 a.m. the following morning, Tuesday morning. Right now everyone’s on a backorder. I haven’t even put anything up online yet. Right now, I’m having people email me with their contact information, their size and so on and that way I can put them on the waitlist. I’m really hoping within the next month I can start sending the retail orders out. Custom orders I’m already working on myself, I make every piece by hand myself. So those I’m hoping to start getting out within the next two to three weeks.

When will you begin designing swiwear for the 2013 issue?

I design constantly, whether it’s going to be for my 2013 bikini line or whether it’s for something they email me. Normally we get an email regarding what themes they might be looking for. This year was reds and blues and things of that nature. Next year it could be something completely different. For Sports Illustrated in particular, around June is when I’ll start swatching fabric, I’ll start sourcing trims and then I’ll start sewing up bathing suits.

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  1. […] and accessory brands. Last year’s cover suit from Suit Yourself Bikinis by Kathleen Bruening sold out in just about 20 minutes. In this year’s “Bikini Oscars” as they’re often dubbed, Letarte […]

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