Summer may be coming to a close, but the heat won't be letting up anytime soon. Though our vacation plans were thwarted due to the pandemic, at least we can still travel safely to our local beaches. Enter Los Angeles-based swim label Bromelia, which is bringing the beauty of Brazil to Venice at its weekend pop-up shop.
Every Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 27, the brand is transforming the veranda of Venice boutique Coutula into a chic outdoor pop-up shop inspired by the South American coast. Expect best-selling women's and men's swimwear made of UPF 50 fabric, such as bikini separates ($72 to $76), one-pieces ($148 to $169), and swim trunks ($72) featuring prints that mix Brazilian soul with California's beach lifestyle.
Founded in 2018 by Lauren Quinn, Bromelia began when she took a daring solo trip to Rio de Janeiro. She originally owned a bed & breakfast on Ipanema Beach, but after observing the culture and meeting many of the locals, she decided to create a brand as a vehicle to share the story of local Brazilians with the rest of the world.
"The celebration of them is supposed to bring moments of joy to those who wear the final product," Quinn says. "I like participating in something that symbolizes what life is all about. Because in all honesty, sad moments don't usually happen in a swimsuit!"
Despite the outbreak, the ethical swimwear brand is still pushing through. Leading a creative and diverse team of Latina and Black women and LGBTQ+ members, Quinn is also dedicated to supporting underrepresented local artists like the ones back in Brazil.
We recently caught up with Quinn to learn more about what she gathered from her solo trip to Brazil, what it means to run an ethical fashion brand, and how her company has shifted gears during the pandemic. Read on below, then scroll down to see the pop-up's address or shop online.
When did you discover that you wanted to create your own swimwear brand?
I am a California native who used to lived to Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian women have an effortless confidence when it comes to wearing swimwear that I found magnetic. I wanted to materialize this attitude and share it via a product. So, I spent a year in Rio's fashion district soaking up the swimwear creation process, working alongside seasoned creatives but just as importantly, alongside local non-corporate women artists who had a story to tell through patterns and design.
What are your cultural ties to the country Brazil? What drew you to create a brand inspired by the area?
I am not Brazilian, but on a solo trip around the country in 2014, I found a deep connection with culture's optimism, human compassion, and connection, and living in the moment mentality; not to mention Rio's beach way of life. Fast-forward to today and I continue to embrace Brazil today, even living back in California, as my husband is from there and we speak Portuguese at home with our daughter.
What parts of Brazil can we find within your designs?
All of our 2020 collections have been an homage to Brazilian nature. There are elements peppered throughout the seasons that may not be so obvious, like spring's top Monkeys + Cashew print. [It reminds me of] walking the streets of Rio to get fresh juice in the morning. Rio is the largest urban forest in the world, so it's no surprise that monkeys play a part of your natural backdrop.
I was also enamored with the cashew fruit, which grows under the cashew nut, which becomes an everyday Brazilian juice. Other [Brazil-inspired touches] include the papaya and indigenous art.
At this time where cultural representation is so important, why was it important to be a fashion company that's run by a strong diverse team?
My intention was never to seek out members from underserved communities, but I never chose typical channels that avoid them. I also did not start the brand to be ethical. My intention was to start a brand and I assumed that included treating people with dignity and paying fair wages was what you did.
In fact, the first collection never once mentioned ethics or diversity, because it truly didn't dawn on me that our roots were marketable. But after telling our story, I realized what caught people's attention and continued to share. Diversity is not the cheapest nor the fastest, but we aren't in a race. We are here for the long haul.
Can you tell me more about what the term "ethical fashion" means to you and how it ties back to your brand?
To me, ethical fashion means sustainability on a human level. When I began Bromelia, I was tired of fast fashion that profited from paying unfair wages and not treating those who made their products with dignity. Swimwear is a unique piece of clothing, in that it is used in your favorite moments of every year and I felt it should have an element of soul and humanity sewn into its bones. I also wanted to show respect for the craft of those local artists for whom swimwear was a way of life.
So to do this, I showed up. I spent day after day drinking coffee with this community around their sewing machines as they let me into their creative worlds. I appreciated their history and in return, they didn't just make our collections to turn a profit, they gave it life. This blend of fashion with humanity is Bromelia's seed.
How has your brand shifted gears during the pandemic?
We are focusing on the bigger picture and being present, instead of getting caught up in the previous pressure of timelines and format. The pandemic has been a beautiful exercise in flexibility. Given that it hit at the beginning the northern hemisphere's sunshine season, everyone had to redefine their strategies, be okay with it, and execute accordingly.
As brands, we build collections over 18 months in advance and at launch time the excitement to share is palpable! But this year all that changed. I feel the true survivors of this season, won't necessarily be the biggest nor the smallest players, but those who can adapt and let go of prior expectations. Fashion is alive and demands fluidity, which is why we adore it and dedicate our lives to it.
Lastly, what creative opportunities are you planning to take at this unpredictable time?
The pandemic has been the moment to deep dive into things you never made time for. Simultaneously, there is a blank slate for creativity as the world still remains unpredictable. So I'll continue to blend this gift of time with the unknown, to allow Bromelia to showcase its personality, both in new collections, through patterns and cuts and in magnifying how we share our story online.