LOS ANGELES — Next to a meter maid, a swimwear designer may be one of the more thankless jobs out there.

No woman looks forward to standing in a dressing room only to discover that she spent too much time in front of the computer and not enough time at the gym during the winter months.

So one tends to pay attention when Andrea Rizzo, the Argentinian-cum-Angeleno designer with 13 years of swimwear retail experience under her belt, talks about the number one concern among women when it comes to picking a swimsuit.

"Construction," said the willowy thirtysomething, who continues to run a store in Buenos Aires called Studio A, despite relocating in January to Los Angeles with her husband.

"Each woman needs something different, they need a lift, but it’s nice not to look orthopedic," Rizzo said. "People must be tired of the Wonderbra. There are things that are old and you are still seeing it."

Rizzo constructs swimsuits that are high in fashion, yet functional. Her racy silhouettes recall the Seventies reminiscence of "Swept Away," the 1974 Italian film set on a deserted island in the Mediterranean Sea. The key to the eponymous collection’s look is hidden construction, double-facing inside tops and bottoms that reinforce and hold, but don’t cut.

"I compare designing swimwear to shoes or accessories," she said. "It’s very difficult. When you work with bathing suits, the space you have to design is so limited."

Rizzo’s interest is in the details. Bikinis are either triangle tops or halters — that’s what is most requested from her customers — paired with low-rise briefs. Details include plastic bands on the sides that look like leather, but are strong enough to withstand any water sport.

One show-stopper is a black one-piece that plunges two inches below the breast with a backless back, punctuated with a two-inch plastic strap. A tie-dyed hippie number can be folded down and twisted to achieve the degree of bareness desired.

Rizzo’s line sells for $60 to $90 wholesale, while an as-yet-unnamed secondary line launching for Cruise 2003 will sell for $40 to $60. The company had a wholesale volume of about $1 million last year.Delia Seaman, co-owner of Curve, a high-end contemporary boutique in Los Angeles, and one of Rizzo’s specialty clients, said she bought the line in February and sold out in a month.

"Her best chance as a swimwear designer is to stay true to her Argentinean roots," she said. "What’s charming about the line is that it has a very distinct flavor. It doesn’t look like anything else."

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