Former Kate Spade designer Jamie Banks was looking for a change of scenery when she left the ready-to-wear brand and dove into the swimwear market.
What she came up with was an assortment of sexy-yet-still-practical swimsuits.
“None of my friends could find swimwear that is a little bit sexy and cool, but is tasteful and appropriate for the mom pool and all of our kids hanging off of us,” Banks, founder and chief executive officer of New York-based swimwear brand Change of Scenery, told WWD. “All of the apparel categories are very saturated. There are hundreds of brands now for every category. But in swimwear, the 30- to 55-year-old woman, she’s been completely ignored. The swim is either this super oversexualized swim that’s probably targeted toward Gen Z. Or, there’s the complicated, overdesigned swim that you see from a lot of the designer brands. And then it sort of skips over a big chunk of normal people who are just trying to be a mom — but who still cares about how they look — and goes straight to modesty swimwear. There’s not a lot in the middle. That’s who I love designing for.”
Banks, a mom of three herself, has even more knowledge about her target customer: she’s busy. She might work, or might stay home with kids, but either way has her own money. She appreciates high quality and brands that incorporate social impact into their companies. “And she will spend a little bit more on product that’s designed for her needs,” Bank said.
It helps that Banks has an impressive résumé to back-up her knowledge. It includes more than 10 years at Kate Spade — where her roles included senior designer of women’s rtw, as well as apparel adjacent categories, like swimwear and sleepwear — in addition to stints at Shoshanna and Milly.
But Banks emphasized that she “grew up at Kate Spade,” so much so that it continues to influence her designs today. In fact, Banks was one of former Kate Spade creative director Deborah Lloyd’s first hires after Kate and Andy Spade sold the company to Liz Claiborne. After joining, Banks helped launch the Kate Spade rtw collection in 2007.
“When you grow up in a brand like Kate Spade, it’s sort of hard to work anywhere else that doesn’t quite have the same power of brand and storytelling,” Banks said. “Everything about Kate during [the Deborah Lloyd] years was very, very magical. It was magical in-house; it was magical out of house. The entire customer experience was always so thought through — from the logo, the color palette, the social media experience, the way we discussed our products in the stores. It was never just about the product. We all drank the proverbial Kool-Aid. Every single one of us that worked there loved our jobs so much, believed in the brand so much. When I decided to start my own brand, it could never be just about product. And when I have employees one day, I want them to also feel that connection to the brand.”
Interestingly, Banks said she never actually wanted to launch her own company. “I had pictured myself going to that [Kate Spade] office until I was 65 or older,” she said.
After COVID-19 hit, however, parent company Tapestry Inc. made the decision to shut down Bank’s division at Kate Spade. Like many, Banks struggled with what to do next. It was a consulting job for a swimwear brand in Florida that brought her back to life.
“And I said, I’m not going to start a brand if I’m not solving a problem, or bringing something to the customer that [customers] don’t already have,” she said. “And one day, a friend said to me, ‘We can’t find anything where the designer is thinking about us [moms]. Once she said that, I knew that’s what the brand had to be. I think the best brands really come from the founder solving a problem for themselves. I know what it feels like when I’m at a barbecue, or the beach, or the pool and have three kids hanging off you. And if one of them is not hanging on me, then they’re calling for me. Or, if you’re trying to host something in your backyard, then everyone is calling your name. You’re trying to do all of these things and the worst thing is if you’re wearing something and it’s distracting you, or you have to keep hiking it up or fixing it or whatever. But when you’re in those situations and you’re wearing something that makes you feel really great — even something as simple as feeling pretty or confident — that’s just the best feeling in the world.”
Banks’ inaugural collection includes 12 pieces, a mix of one-pieces and separates in bright colors, as well as basics like black. There’s also a selection of cover-ups. All pieces come in sizes XS to XL and range in price from $74 to $178 each. Consumers can purchase pieces the brand’s e-commerce, or on Instagram.
In the future, Bank said she’d like to continue focusing on swim and resortwear. “I’d rather be the expert in that world, expanding into D-cups or extended sizing, or add things that can help her with her resortwear life, or weekend life, like the perfect tote bag,” Banks said. “That makes more sense to me than trying to be everything to everybody.”
Working with wholesale partners, or even opening her own Change of Scenery stores, are also part of the vision.
“My dream for our first store would be in Royal Poinciana in Palm Beach,” said Banks, referring to the outdoor luxury shopping area in Florida. “It’s my favorite, favorite place to shop, or to take time for myself. I just think it’s incredible there. It’s the loveliest experience. It feels very European almost. And there’s a beautiful garden and you can have tea and sit outside and there’s kids running around. It’s just awesome.”