If you have never heard of Karla Colletto and their swimwear line, this is something you might want to read. Since both of us majored in Fashion Design and Merchandising, you can imagine how excited we were when we found out we were given the opportunity to come tour their factory and witness firsthand where the magic happens. They entire operation is done locally in Vienna, Va which gave us all the more reason to support a local designer who is already well known throughout the world and the community.
We felt the creative energy as soon as we stepped foot into their facility–from the intricate detail of pattern placement and die cut, to the sewing assembly line and final product. We were already huge fans of Karla Colleto’s designs, but, after speaking with Karla and the team to hear their inspiration and the thought-put behind each individual garment, we grew an even larger appreciation for them. Karla truly makes the one-piece swimsuit sexy in a very flattering way that compliments every shape and size. Definitely a must have in our wardrobe this Summer! Take a peak at our tour of the factory and our interview with the talented designer and team behind Karla Colletto.
We were honored and so excited to have the chance to sit down and chat with Karla and the team and to get a better understanding of who they are and the direction they are headed. If you ever had a desire to chase after your own dreams in the fashion world, you will be very interested in reading our Q&A with Karl Colletto and all the inspiring information she filled us in with!
52 Thursdays: We love that you are a local designer with your corporate office located here in Vienna, VA. What kept you grounded to the DC area?
Karla Colletto: I started my business with my partner, Lisa Rovan, in 1981 after I moved to the area. We were doing custom work from bridal to swimwear and everything in between. We were intrigued by working with stretch-wear but we knew we needed to learn more, so Lisa worked with a contractor in Baltimore for years learning manufacturing and production. We were able to grow at a slower pace here. It doesn’t matter where you are, just as long as you have representation in NY.
52: How would you define your personal style?
KC: My style is similar to the swimwear I design; it’s modern, tailored, well made, timeless and has clean lines.
52: What matters to you most about being a fashion designer?
KC: The details. Selecting bold and beautiful fabrics and producing fashion forward designs are most important to me. We have never settled for status quo. We have always pushed the boundaries, and, in the end, we are really proud of what we have created. I always say the best part of the process is when it is all finished and accepted.
52: Where did you get your inspiration for your newest collection?
KC: This collection is an extension of what we showed in Cruise 2014. It’s about a journey of a girl that is on the run. She is the Wanderlust It Girl that we all aspire to be. We photographed and shot our fashion film in Palm Springs, CA for this collection.
52: Who is the quintessential Karla Colletto customer?
KC: She is sophisticated and modern, a world traveler and has fashion forward style. Our average customer age ranges from 30-60 but we really have a suit for every woman.
52: What are some of your goals for the future?
KC: Our goal is to work more with resort-wear, which we have been doing but we would like to do more of this. We have been working more and more with packable materials that can travel with the customer. We aren’t looking to just produce a cover-up but also a piece that can be worn as a sportswear item as well. Our customer travels a lot, so we want to produce things that are easy to pack and don’t wrinkle. We have gotten a great response, it is retailing well, and we want to focus more on that side of the business. We are also looking to add more contemporary body styles back into the collection. We started the collection as a contemporary swimwear line. As we continued over the years, our customers have matured, and, as a result, the swimwear has matured with them. But our passion is doing contemporary things like we used to do and we are hoping to do more of this in the future.
52: We both majored in Fashion and truly appreciate and look up to what you have achieved and conquered. What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers?
KC: We both came from similar backgrounds as well. Our advice is to learn as much as you can about all aspects of the business–how to sew, how to make a pattern, how to make a marker, any and every aspect that you can. That way as you are working your way up in the industry you will have more options for jobs. Trying to set out to be a fashion designer from the get-go is a hard thing to achieve so it is nice to have skills to fall back on and help you earn your way to the position of your dreams. There are so many technical aspects that you need to learn and you have to do what you can to get your foot in the door. Having a well-rounded knowledge of the business is really important and will help you wherever you end up. Be sure to develop a niche and stand strong about your product; believe in your designs and never give up.
52: In the apparel industry, we know profit margin is king. How have you and your team been able to stay true to manufacturing your product in the U.S. when others are so quick to go overseas?
KC: Being able to oversee the quality and the turnaround time is really important to us, so we have always made it a priority to keep everything in the United States. There is a short window in the swimwear industry and having everything in house is really nice to make sure we stay on task and on deadline. The swimwear business is based on the weather and we have to react to the weather patterns, so we manufacture everything to order. The turnaround is faster and more efficient and we seem to have less waste this way. We have always done the entire design/manufacturing process locally; we did whatever it took to get it done because we knew that this was something that is important to us.
52: Where do you see the swimwear industry heading in the next 5 years?
KC: People are more aware of the damage that the sun can do to their skin and they want to be protected. We think that rash guards will become more and more popular, giving people the shield from the sun. We also see more and more e-commerce occurring and it will continue to change the industry. Swimwear used to be seasonal but now its year-round. People are buying swimwear across the globe and people are also traveling a lot more too. The internet will continue to change things for our industry as new technologies come out.
52: How do you set yourself apart from other brands in such a competitive industry?
KC: We distinguish our brand through innovative techniques with cutouts and whimsical details. The fit is huge for us and the silent underwire in our suits has been a fan favorite. We try to design flattering suits that help shape a woman’s body.