Rumi Neely is getting into the swimwear game.
Her two-and-a-half-year-old label, Are You Am I — a play on R-U-M-I, for the uninitiated — has expanded its reach with a collection of five swim styles, including four mix-and-match bikinis and a one piece. Made from a ribbed nylon/Lycra blend and offered in a neutral palette of white and blush, the silhouettes are at once minimalist, sporty — and skimpy. The collection ranges from $100 to $250 and is available exclusively on areyouami.com for now.
“Our main focus as a brand is developing a really special online shopping experience for our customers,” Neely said. “We have a few interesting wholesale discussions at the moment, but this is definitely not the priority.”
Since launching in December 2014, Are You Am I has expanded to include lingerie and accessories — including popular leather and gold-filled chokers favored by Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Chiara Ferragni — in addition to its signature silk camisoles, dresses, separates and tees. The label had a built-in following thanks to Neely’s cult blog, Fashion Toast, and its digital presence, particularly on Instagram, continues to drive sales.
“The A.Y.A.I. Instagram is a large part of our brand identity and an invaluable way for us to launch styles and share news,” Neely said.
Her own Instagram account, @rumineely, has a following of 694,000. The @areyouami account has 127,000 followers with a bio that reads “FOR GIRLS THAT GET IT.” On it, Neely posts photos of various PYTs — herself included — wearing the brand’s latest clothing and jewelry designs.
Below, some highlights from WWD’s chat with Neely on her latest project.
WWD: What inspired you to launch swimwear?
Rumi Neely: The same idea that launched the entire A.Y.A.I. collection: envisioning my ideal swim options and wanting to bring them to life. Perfecting the fit beyond what I’ve found before and creating simple pieces that make just enough of a statement were my goals. The pieces are at once futuristic and nostalgic, sweet and aggressive. They just overstep that boundary of what’s safe, what people expect to see, and they couldn’t be more reflective of the spirit of Los Angeles.
WWD: What was the most important thing to you in terms of design?
R.N.: I wanted to find a balance of playful, sexy and jarring. The proportion play is what sets them apart most powerfully.
WWD: Walk me through the styles.
R.N.: There are options for every mood. Kaimi is a one-piece that is super playful and striking. Its high-cut, cuffed leg and thick elastic straps make it really special and specific. Our Nuri top echoes the feeling of an athletic triangle silhouette and is paired with the Nima high-waisted brief for a clean, strong look. Neta is more sweet — super bare but in highly textured waffle fabric with thin, puffy tie straps. Neus is a bib-style top cut away at the sides with a narrow neckline and cross straps.
WWD: How’s business going in general?
R.N.: Really well. Sales have been growing at a rate of over 20 percent a month this year, which is incredible.
WWD: What’s been the biggest challenge for you? The most rewarding part?
R.N.: I always know exactly how I want a piece to feel and look, but learning the logistics of how to get something from an idea to a finished product has been an intense journey. Sometimes it seems as if a new type of challenge is created daily. But the combination of how undiluted and uncompromised I’ve made sure A.Y.A.I. is — and the intensity of the positive response to it — gives me goosebumps to think about. Girls tell me that A.Y.A.I. is addictive, that it’s progressive but wearable, simple but different. The idea of maintaining that degree of specificity and expanding it is endlessly inspiring.
WWD: Your label has earned the support of several “It” girls, the Hadids and Jenners included.
R.N.: The support for A.Y.A.I. has been greater than I could ever have expected. I love seeing how anyone takes the pieces and makes them their own.