Francesca Aiello spends almost every weekend in the water. But the pool party doesn’t end come Monday morning. In fact, even in her Venice, Calif., office, the designer’s street style is still heavily influenced by swimwear.
“I’m always trying to relate my personal style to all the bathing suits that I make,” the founder of Frankies Bikinis told WWD. “I love dresses, but I also pair them with sneakers. That’s the essence of my brand: girlie-girl-meets-tomboy.”
Her latest collection — a seven-piece collaboration with streetwear and footwear brand Kith — is no exception. The limited-edition design collaboration, which lands exclusively on kith.com, starting Wednesday, blurs the lines between swimwear and streetwear with things like bikini-style tops and bottoms, a skirt, bike shorts and a dress that can be worn in or out of the water.
The collaboration with New York City-based Kith (Frankies Bikinis’ second) was fitting, Aiello said.
“It’s also more bang for your buck,” Aiello added, regarding the fusion of streetwear and swimwear. “You get a really cool piece — say it’s a one-piece — and you can wear it as a bodysuit and you can also wear it to the beach. It also has a sexier feel to it, based on the idea that it’s a bathing suit and you are wearing it with your jeans and your shoes. I do it all the time. I see all my girlfriends doing that as well. I definitely think you’ll see a lot more of that this year, even in styling.”
The mix-and-match nature of the pieces has long been an element of the brand Aiello started six years ago while still in high school. At the time, the Malibu, Calif., native was posting pictures of herself in the swimsuits of her own design on Instagram.
“Because it was so fun,” she said. This was before Instagram was recognized as a marketing or business tool.
“But then people started reaching out about how they could get the bikinis,” Aiello explained. “And it really took off from there.”
Today, Frankies Bikinis has 879,000 followers on Instagram, double-digit sales growth since the first year and counts the likes of Hailey Bieber, Kylie Jenner and Victoria’s Secret model Candice Swanepoel as loyal fans. The designer also branched out into a ready-to-wear collection dubbed “Aiello” in 2018.
As for the swimsuits, in addition to the successful e-commerce business, Frankies Bikinis are available at places like Revolve, Free People, Urban Outfitters, Selfridges London, Asos, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret and Kith, among others.
But her design aesthetic has remained the same, incorporating fashion elements into her bathing suits. The Frankies Bikinis x Kith collection, which ranges in price from $85 to $175, includes pieces made from crushed velvet in neon colors.
“I wanted to find special fabric that wasn’t normally found in swimwear,” Aiello said. “And it just felt a little bit more elevated than your normal, basic swimwear. It’s pieces that you can wear with shorts or jeans, or styled with sneakers. It just made it feel a little bit more like streetwear.”
Meanwhile, as fashion becomes increasingly versatile, a number of intimates brands are introducing pieces that can be worn to the beach or for exercise.
Victoria’s Secret’s Pink has a Gym-to-Swim collection. Foundational brand Commando has a lingerie-to-swim collection coming spring-summer 2020. Sports bra start-up SheFit has a swim collection in the works for 2021.
That’s good news for brands wanting to tap into the growing swimwear industry. Around the world, the swimwear industry, which includes both men and women’s swimwear, was worth $21.7 billion in 2018, up from $17.8 billion only five years earlier, according to Euromonitor International.
As for Aiello, she said she’s always been a big fan of Kith, which is owned and operated by Ronnie Fieg.
“Even if I wasn’t collaborating with them, I would be shopping at Kith,” Aiello said. “The Frankies Bikinis x Kith collection is a different take on swimwear, which is why it’s so fun. That’s my goal when I’m making new collections, to just always change it up. And I see Kith doing the same thing with their collections. So, I feel like it’s just a perfect union of two brands.”