By  on August 11, 2009

NEW YORK — Molly Grad, the new head of design at Gottex, knows a thing or two about swimwear and the iconic Israeli brand for which she now designs.

The London-based designer, who started at Gottex on June 14, grew up in Herzliya, an upscale Tel Aviv suburb on the Mediterranean. During those years, she learned much about the swim and beachwear lifestyle, and the role Gottex, Israel’s most famous swimwear company, played within it. For Grad, who succeeded Gideon Oberson, the new job is something of a homecoming.

“I grew up by the sea,” the 31-year-old designer recalled. “I always remember Gottex for having this incredible catalogue and swimwear.”

Grad came to Gottex with an impressive résumé, which took her from London to Paris and, most recently, Milan. Before joining the swimwear brand, Grad was a senior designer at Gianfranco Ferré, where she initially worked with Lars Nilsson, and then Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi. Prior to that, she honed her fashion skills designing for Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent, and, before that, working with Stella McCartney at her label. Grad, who received undergraduate and graduate degrees in fashion design from London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, credited those designers with shaping her fashion vision, and she hopes to elevate the swim and beachwear category with the same kind of fashion relevance of her mentors.

“To me, Gottex is one of the only swim and beachwear brands that is very fashion-forward, so it’s exciting for me to create something new with that level of fashion awareness,” Grad said. “It has this amazing heritage. I can take the DNA of the brand and give it a fresh direction [without forsaking] the incredible background.”

Designing from her home base in London and the design studio in Israel, Grad said she will rely on the expertise and “technical know-how” of the firm to translate her fashion skills into the swim category. “I want to think about what the modern woman wants to buy, and keep it on the same level of fashion as her wardrobe,” Grad noted.

Gottex, which was founded by Lea Gottlieb in 1956, is known for its vivid prints, embroideries and embellishments. Grad’s artistic illustrations for her first collection, which will be unveiled on Sept. 14 in a runway show at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week, already underscore the increased fashion aesthetic, from pleated, transparent dresses that can be thrown over a swimsuit to cool caftans and pareos.

Grad wants her version of Gottex to be “very chic, very fashion conscious, but at the same time not overly sexy, but subtly sexy,” she said. “It’s sensuous.”

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