[media-credit name=”Amanda Lewark” align=”alignright” width=”200″][/media-credit][media-credit name=”Amanda Lewark” align=”alignright” width=”200″][/media-credit]When Emily Sanders is done with graduate school, she may go on to teach fourth grade. Or maybe she’ll move to New York City. Or she might even stay in Utah and continue running her swimsuit line.
Sanders, a Weber State University graduate student, recently started her own high-end women’s swimwear company called Persona Swimwear.
While working with the Utah Symphony and Opera, she was surrounded by the costume designs of the opera participants. She said the loud and quirky styles inspired her.
“I think that kind of planted the seed for the whole swimwear line,” Sanders said.
Before working with the Utah Symphony and Opera, Sanders was a gallery director at the Terzian Gallery in Park City. She said she credits the encouragement and mentorship of the artists at this gallery for helping her discover her artistic voice.
Sanders said her art used to be more conservative, but thanks to the artists at the Terzian Gallery, it is now exuberant and whimsical. She said she is not afraid to make a statement.
“I think it’s fun to get dressed up and go out on the weekends, just either wear like a mohawk or something crazy,” Sanders said. “Just, you know, just something. It makes life interesting and enjoyable just by not playing it safe.”
Persona Swimwear’s styles are inspired by Sanders’ travel, memories and self- expression. One suit, The Paris, was greatly influenced both in color and shape by the designer’s time in the City of Light.
A fashion-meets-art show led Sanders to start sketching. She created swimsuit designs she really liked and talked to one of her contacts who designed jeans. He was able to get her connected to the right people.
The process of going from a 2-D sketch to wearable fashion doesn’t happen overnight. Before an idea is made physical, there are sketches, pattern making and slopers (pre-prototypes). After trying out the sloper, the designer must decide what changes need to be made. This is repeated several times before a solid prototype is created.
Once the prototype is done, the designer selects patterns and materials. Then the prototype goes full-color and the designer does sampling through manufacturers. This is when the designer dictates quality.
“You have to kind of make that decision on every little thing like the clips you’re going to use on the swimwear, are they going to be plastic or are they going to be metal? How much sewing do you want? Do you want just one stitch on the strap? I mean, there’s all these choices with how high of quality. So I felt, with my vision, I just wanted it to be the best quality. Because if I wanted to do something I wanted to make it good. I wanted to make it right,” Sanders said.
Sanders said she wants to keep her swimwear at the highest quality possible.
London Musgrave, one of the Persona Swimwear models, said the swimsuits are more comfortable than others she has worn.
“They’re form-fitting, but they’re comfy at the same time,” Musgrave said.
Sanders said seeing others wearing her designs was surreal at first. She compared it to having a favorite cartoon character that is suddenly alive and standing right in front of you.
“I think they’re really cute. And they’re different enough that nobody else will really have them. They’re unique and really fun,” Musgrave said. She also said the suits are very classy.
Each style is a limited edition. They won’t be available in shopping malls.
“They have all these pool parties at Vegas and different places, and you see kind of the typical beautiful women. You know, great bodies and these tiny string bikinis,” Sanders said. “But then if you see someone that’s not doing that, that looks good, looks sexy. It’s gonna catch your eye.”
Sanders said Persona Swimwear’s demographic is made up of fashionable professionals, moms and college students. She said they have to value quality, style and something different.
“The people who wear my swimwear live life to the fullest,” Sanders said. “They want expression. They want individuality. They want to make a statement.”
Sanders does personal fitting appointments and said the suits are also available through select Utah boutiques or http://www.personaswimwear.com.
Sanders’ said her motivation isn’t money, but rather a lifestyle. She said she would rather have a creative space to express herself than a house on the hill.
Sanders currently has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and is working on her Masters of Education. Once she receives her teaching certification, she said she would like to either teach fourth grade or at a university.
“The stuff that you enjoy often becomes like a job, and so I would rather teach and enjoy teaching, but I would rather keep the art stuff more on the side,” Sanders said.
To maintain grades and run her swimwear business, she has to schedule her nights accordingly. One night will be dedicated to school, and the next will be focused on creative ventures such as painting, writing or designing.
“To be honest, I think school has a tendency to kill creativity. It just kills it. I get a little frustrated,” Sanders said. “‘Cause I’m like, ‘Huh, I could be creating something, painting, self- expression, you know, just something different.’ But I am writing another paper in the same format.”
Sanders said she has always wanted to teach, but she doesn’t want to be tied down to just teaching. She doesn’t want to be tied down by fashion or art, either.
“I don’t want anything holding me back,” Sanders said. “I don’t want lack of education, connections, networking. I kind of want that all in place. And you work really hard for that. You try to make all the right choices. You try to do all the right things so you have a lifestyle where you have choices. You have options. And that’s a really powerful thing.”