Olympic-Chic Swimwear by Lisa Marie Fernandez
by danine alati
Writers often abide by the adage, “Write what you know.” And it seems the same maxim holds true in other creative fields as well. Lisa Marie Fernandez follows this philosophy, as she gleans inspiration for her swimwear styles from her life and her relationships. “I live that lifestyle—sun, sea, and travel. It’s such a cliché…. I am my customer, so it comes easy to me,” she says. “When designing collections, I name all the silhouettes after friends who have an interesting story: Elisa Sednaoui, Dree Hemingway, Lauren Santo Domingo, Garance Doré. These unique individuals inspire me with their character or the creative work that they do.”
Strongly influenced by summering on the East End, Fernandez says of her approach, “My process is simple: I fill my life with things that interest me; I draw from my own experiences. I have spent a large part of my life in the Hamptons. And the Hamptons—and [specifically] Montauk—is the perfect environment for my swimwear.”
Fernandez’s designs emerge out of her own personal style. “I find unique items through my travels,” she adds. “I prefer not to wear clothing I see on everyone else.”
Formerly an international stylist, Fernandez consulted with Jill Stuart and Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein, and found that she enjoyed the process from inception to predicting trends; her greatest strength was connecting with the customer. Unexpectedly, in 2009, Fernandez realized that no one was crafting swimsuits from neoprene, a synthetic rubber material used in wet suits. Mixing the material with spandex affords greater flexibility and comfort. “I did three years of extensive research, and I was surprised that there was not one brand in the world using neoprene in swimwear,” Fernandez recalls. “At that time, all the surf brands were making floral triangle bikinis from Lycra.” Fernandez jumped at the chance to make her mark on the industry by creating signature swimsuits crafted from a high-end-version neoprene with heavy-duty zippers and bold color-block styles.
This unique aesthetic, as well as the high functionality of the long-lasting material—it won’t stretch out or lose shape—differentiates her brand from others on the market. Her athletic swimwear with a couture aesthetic perfectly suits the Hamptons set. Now, sold in high-end boutiques in the Hamptons, as well as in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Miami, and the Bahamas, the Lisa Marie Fernandez line has expanded to include Italian fabrications and more than 40 silhouettes.
Her latest offering emerged from a trip to Tuscany, Italy, last summer, during which Fernandez visited Il Pellicano Hotel in Porto Ercole. “Inspired by the romantic history of the hotel,” Fernandez was captivated by a book about the property, which linked its past with its current life, and she felt compelled to design her Spring 2012 collection. “Lifestyle has had a dramatic shift due to global expansion,” Fernandez explains. “It’s so fantastic discovering hidden gems in far-flung places.” All of these experiences inform her designs. In addition to her Il Pellicano-inspired Spring 2012 collection, Fernandez partnered with Peter Pilotto, a British womenswear fashion label from Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos. Known for their exceptional pattern-work, the design duo worked with Fernandez to print patterns on the fabric she calls “luxe neoprene” for their collaborative line. With pops of enriched hues and psychedelic prints, the Lisa Marie Fernandez for Peter Pilotto collection made a splash at its London Fashion Week debut. Now reaching a global audience, Fernandez plans to expand her line to a full lifestyle brand.
“I love chic, well-made clothing,” Fernandez admits, adding that the stores in the Hamptons that carry her collections (Scoop Beach, Surf Bazaar, and Turpan) are boutiques she herself frequents. “This is my benchmark.” Scoop Beach, 51 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, 329-8080; Surf Bazaar, The Surf Lodge, 183 Edgemere St., Montauk, 668-8131; Turpan, 55 Main St., East Hampton, 324-2444
photography by zev starr-tambor