We know that some of our readers may be battling the remnants of snow, while others have enjoyed amazing weather. No matter where you're based, we're thinking one thing - swimwear. Pretty soon, all of us will be able to rock our favorite suits and with so many days of summer coming on the horizon - we had to talk with Monica Hansen of Monica Hansen Beachwear. This swimwear model, Miss Norway 1997, reality show star and host launched a line that has been a cult favorite and opened FUNKSHION's Miami Swim show last year. We talked with her about her passion for swimwear, how she goes about creating her collection, her upcoming show for Miami Swim and where we can find her hanging in Las Vegas where she is based!
ATHLEISURE MAG: Prior to creating your swim line, tell us about what you are up to previously as we know you modeled and were Miss Norway 1997!
MONICA HANSEN: I started modeling when I was 14, so it was a long time. I started out as a model and I used to do a lot of swimwear modeling, everything from runway to then getting into TV, hosting, some reality shows. Some people when they want to become models, they want to do it so that they can become famous or to become an actress – for me I was really into fashion photography and things behind the camera as opposed to being in front of the camera haha! Believe it or not, I am actually camera shy! I can’t take selfies unless I’m really drunk. I’m fine when it is a professional camera or it’s in my mind that I am going to be on TV to host, I’m fine and I’m on it. But when a friend or someone close to me wants to take a family or a group picture, I become shy and I just can’t do it – but I made a living doing it this way! It’s always been out of my comfort zone. When I’m modeling, I’m thinking that I creating art – professional work and so I know that it makes sense that I will be a part of this art. It’s really strange, I don’t know why I am like that, but it’s just the way that it has always been for me!
My passion is that I really do love photography and I do love art! I love creating and I have always been a business woman – even when I was modeling, in order to get work, you have to manage yourself like a business as there is a lot of marketing. Many people think that just because you have an agent, you’re set – but you really have to take charge to put yourself out there. Since I have always been an artist at heart, creating bathing suits was a natural transition for me from a design standpoint as well as other parts of this business. I really do enjoy doing this even more then modeling!
AM: What was the moment that you told yourself that you were going to create your own swim line?
MH: I guess that I always wanted to – it was just a matter of time. The timing was right because I was starting to get some recognition in my home country because I did a lot of TV and I thought, I should probably get some product out there. Previously, I had done a lot of swimwear and had worked for a line that is very well known now and one time the owner told me that she didn’t have a sales rep, but that she knew that I had worked with her for so long that I knew the line by heart. She had an emergency as she had buyers coming and didn’t have the sales rep so I ended up being the sales rep and I got to see all of the numbers and I was like, “I’m in the wrong business!”
I started with swimwear not because it’s the easiest – it’s actually complicated. You have to understand the bodies, the fit and the stretch and how it changes with different cuts of fabric with your patterns. I never went to design school, but I make all of the paper patterns myself.
MH: Yeah because I can draw and I had a mentor that would help me and a designer girlfriend of mine. She taught me how to do the paper patterns, I was able to pick it up and now I am able to do them myself. I do the whole collection myself, I run the business myself as well! We’re a small business so I’m the CEO, but I still manage everyone as well as doing the designing. It’s a lot, but with swimwear, it’s cheaper production in general although all of my fabrics are 100% Italian and I wanted to create something that I could produce and not have to worry about a larger production where I would have to worry about investors. Hopefully we will expand into more beachwear, but right now we’re focused on swimwear.
AM: Who would you say is the Monica Hansen Beachwear girl?
MH: It’s interesting because our target market is that we are trendy so we focus on a younger girl, but believe it or not, we have a 95 year old woman wearing our line and sending me pictures! It used to be that you could say that a number of swimwear designers were focused on younger generations, but now I feel like more people are wearing it and it’s more acceptable to wear it out even outside of the beach. I mean we had Christie Brinkley just wear it in Sports Illustrated and she was just in my bathing suit and she looked amazing! I would say that any confident woman that is all ages. What I did with my swimwear is that we have a lot of mix and match so I have like 7 bottoms that can go with a top. So the good thing about that is that you can buy 2 tops with 2 or 3 bottoms and every time you pair them together, it looks like a different suit. Also, everybody’s body is different. I purposely did it like that because sometimes you will go somewhere and say I love the top, but I don’t love the bottom with it – and that happens with every woman! Were all so different and we cater to everyone. I have suits for everybody in every shape. Some of our suits are a little more sexy and more revealing, but I feel that every woman in any shape wants to feel sexy and hot no matter what you are. Regardless of your shape, you’re not saying, “I want to wear this big diaper.”
AM: That is what has drawn us to your line the versatility, recognizing that that there are a number of shapes out there and the quality construction and fabrication!
MH: When I first started, I began with small, medium and large. Now, we have XS and XL and actually, the grading is a lot tighter. I made them as opposed to a whole size up – doing a half size up.! Because when you do 3 sizes, you’re missing the in-between and the grading becomes a bigger gap. So when you add the XS and XL, you’re bridging the gap where someone would say that it is a little too small or a little too big. Because of the fabrics that have stretch, you’re even luckier due to the 4 way stretch which makes it fit just right.
I used to have 100s of bathing suits and yet I would only wear 2 that were my favorite. They were the most comfortable, they didn’t have metals on them, etc. So when I design, I think of something that’s classic, great style and colors that go well with the skin tone. It’s also about having fabrics that feel good because you don’t want something that feels tight sitting on top of you and that makes marks. I’m trying to focus on fabrics that give you that hold and stretch but when you wear it, it doesn’t feel like you have anything on. My focus was keeping it fashionable and also being inspired by the 90s as I love that time period because it’s kind of my generation also! These suits are a higher cut because it gives women a longer look and it compliments every woman’s body. It’s more of a minimalist approach.
AM: We couldn’t agree more. When we looked through your Instagram, we know you have a number of the 90s supermodels on your page. But even when you don’t see them, the suits do give off the 90s “It Girl” vibe which is so classic and timeless juxtaposed against the Bardot elements of the line. It’s fun and has core pieces that you can truly wear over and over.
MH: Absolutely, I mean think about leopard that is a classic print that someone can wear as it will always come back and never fade. All of my colors are custom made and I’m very particular. When I first got into this because I didn’t go to fashion school or anything, I would look at these suits that just came with these stock colors and I would look at this bright orange and say, “Oh my God how do you wear this?” As it’s something that my grandmother would wear.” What sets us a part is that even though everyone can copy and try to do the same thing, people will copy you and that is part of what happens when something becomes part of the trend they make similar items. There is no copyright unless you make a print. It’s a compliment when I have seen some of the big brands copy us – it means that you’re in fashion and it will become trendy and there is a market for what you make.
What I have noticed is that when you have custom colors it makes it harder to do that as you’re mixing colors. It’s about the tones of the suit. We try to get colors that work on every skin tone as well.
AM: We can appreciate this because you have a gold tone on your website and it’s not brassy or more of an ancient, tone it’s just a great gold hue that we can see whether you’re fair, caramel complexion or olive in tone – it will work for you.
MH: I’m particular, I custom make every color except for black and white. Everything is made in Italy and I am proud of the fact that everything is Italian made! We have that stamp that says that we are 100% Italian made because from start to finish that is what we did. It wasn’t initially the plan to go that way, but when I started sourcing I consistently kept picking Italian fabrics. Our prices are in keeping with our competitors pricing but the difference is that when you buy their suits it’s not these quality fabrics manufactured in Italy, but our pricing is the same. I wanted to have quality.
AM: When you’re creating each season, what is this process like for you when you’re seeking inspiration and what is this process like for you when you’re deciding on your styles and cuts?
MH: Well that is the difficult thing. You have to be almost two years ahead when you’re designing. Because I have been in the fashion industry for so long and I was so tuned into it by looking at the editorials, photography, models and more – you can’t really go to school for that. It’s all about going into cycles were certain things are trendy and the predictions are difficult because it can be a bit hit or miss. All year around I pay attention to all of these factors and I see where the trend is going. The process is constant. I take tearsheets, screenshots and more and I have them in a folder where I put them together and label what that inspiration is. Then I start sourcing the fabrics. Right about now, the vendors have their 2020 selections available, so I sit down to then design. The process is that I get the idea and I do the sketches, the flat drawings and the paper patterns. Of course, the paper patterns – when they come in, there is a lot of back and forth between Italy which means a lot of late nights. There are a lot of video calls and more. It goes back and forth and then we get the final product – some works and some doesn’t. It’s a lot easier now because I have my classics that I do season to season and I can change the fabrics/colors or the trend idea. I also do runway pieces as well to have a little difference and we build them around the core collection. It’s a long process and it’s a difficult one. Being creative is not logical – when you’re creative, you can’t just always do it on demand. Some days you’re more that way and other times you’re not. So when you are pressured by time and a deadline, it’s not easy. Creating for yourself is great because you know what you like, but there are more elements involved when it’s for a range of women so it’s like being locked in a box and still being creative!
AM: Will Monica Hansen Beachwear be heading to Miami Swim this year?
MH: YES! We opened their Fashion Week last year and that was the first year to do a big show with the FUNKSHION platform. It was a big show and we had 30 models along with a full house. It was amazing we has Sports Illustrated, Elle Magazine. It was overwhelming and a lot of pressure because we knew that some people didn’t know who we were as we’re still a growing brand. People had heard enough that they were curious. More then just opening Miami Swim it was also my first show to do. I wanted it to be a big brand and I learned a lot from last year and we will do it even bigger this year!
There are a lot of brands that don’t have to do the fashion shows but where we are, we’re in that phase where we need to do that. We do 3 big events there that include the stores, the influencers, and it’s becoming such a big deal with that show and it’s like the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and it cost a fortune too!
AM: How would you describe your line for 2019?
MH: Definitely 90s influenced, retro and the main piece of our line is called Bardot. The reason that we called it that is because we did that shoot in St Tropez and our model looked like her! That particular suit that she is wearing is actually from the 70s and so it’s a little like a spin off of that, but is inspired by that time. We have the animal print, there are colors that are more earthy tones and a bit of a safari/military aesthetic because we have the olive green. The summer/spring will still have the leopard which started last summer and trended into the winter so it will be there through the summer.
AM: So when you’re sitting poolside or at the beach, what are your 3 must hav3s that you love having?
MH: Obviously one of my bathing suits that I have made! There is a sunscreen that I like with a doctor friend of mine, Dr. Garth Fisher MD – Doc Block, that it’s the only medical sunscreen that you can actually wear makeup over and it’s healthy for the skin. It is clinically approved and I swear by it! I also bring a spray bottle with water and I like to bring virgin coconut oil for my hair. Coconut is also a natural sunscreen and is really good for you! I’m a huge fan of natural products and hydration.
AM: So you’re based in Vegas, we’d love to know where you enjoy going out for a meal/cocktail, where we could find you working out and of course where you like to shop!
MH: Oh boy! So I do Mega Pilates and it’s not like your grandma’s pilates. It’s called Mega Pilates and it has a reformer and it’s called Studio Remixx. It’s one of the toughest things that you can do and I have done everything because I’m a fitness fanatic. I do that 4 times a week. My favorite place to go out to for dining is Estiatorio Milos at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. I love the Apex Social Club at the Palms Casino Resort – which is more loungey. I love to shop at the Fashion Show Mall, but I also like the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace as they have the high end shops like La Perla! It’s always so packed with people but it’s one of the most beautiful malls.
PHOTOS COURTESY | Monica Hansen
Read the March Issue of Athleisure Mag and see Something You Should Know | Get Your Swimwear Ready in mag.