Southern California native, Amahlia Stevens, owner and designer of Vitamin A Swimwear, is an entrepreneur we aspire to emulate. Her success and bikini lifestyle are well earned through a formal education in the arts, design experience with top international brands and through her own design trial and error, never giving up when her passion ignites an idea. Amahlia is also a lovely person, a mother of twins, a philanthropist and she leads her business with an environmentally conscious growth model. What’s not to love!? She’s the real deal and it’s no wonder her work is loved by celebrities for great style, and also quality and sensibility.
Read the inspirational interview on Amahlia and check out the A Bikini A Day EXCLUSIVE photoshoot for Vitamin A, shot in St. Barth’s!
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Designer, Amahlia Stevens interview:
What is your favorite part of being a swimwear designer?
My favorite part of being a swim designer is traveling and being inspired by the ocean … and making a living from my passion!
When did you begin designing swimwear and what was your inspiration for doing so?
I began designing swimwear when I was a child… casually drawing things I wanted to wear. Then when I was in college I modeled for various swimsuit and wetsuit companies, which resulted in boxes of free swimsuits for me to choose from. That was fun, but still not exactly what I was looking for. Growing up in California, I have always been obsessed with bikinis, and after years of designing lines for other brands, I decided to make my own, and make exactly what I wanted to wear to fit my body like it should. So I went to an old school custom swimwear shop in Laguna Beach and had them help draft the patterns for my perfect fit, which later became known as, “The California Cut.” I was a size smaller on top than on bottom, and at that time there were no options to buy nice bikinis as separates. So I started designing my own bikinis and from there I had friends and clients asking for my suits, then a few boutiques, and then it started taking off with press and celebrities.
Where are you based?
I live and work in Laguna Beach, California.
What is your all time favorite Vitamin A swimsuit design and do you have an all time favorite collection?
My all time Favorite VITAMIN A swimsuit design is the SERRA WRAP top and NEUTRA BIKINI bottom from the 2014 collection, and my all time favorite collection is always the newest collection because I get closer each year to my true vision. Historically my favorite collection may be from Spring 2002 because it still feels simple and fresh.
What sets Vitamin A apart from the rest?
Quality and Sensibility
Vitamin A is a favorite of many celebrities, which celebrity were you most excited to see wearing your designs and what did she wear?
This is an interesting question, because I believe bloggers like yourself and Devin are the new “celebrities,” or “style icons,” of our era. Many women look to you for your style inspiration. I have to say I lit up with a smile ear to ear when I saw the image of you rocking our “Tash Tote” in Ibiza… Another “starstruck moment” for me was seeing images of Chiara Ferragni wearing my favorite VITAMIN A “Amahlia Hat” and high waisted bottoms on her trip to Maui.I am always excited when I see Jessica Alba in VITAMIN A. She has so much character, and I admire her beauty as well as her ability to create change and empower women. She is also one really polite and lovely celebrity… She once sent me a giant “globe” filled with fresh flowers, and a personal note as a thank you for answering her request.
Which celebrity that has not yet worn your designs would you love to see wearing them?
Kate Moss. The one and only.
Have you tried to make a difference in the world through your designs/ business?
Yes I have– I had many wonderful mentors who showed me the importance of giving back. I was inspired in a new way when I met and worked for Yvon Chionard at Patagonia.I designed a line for him years ago, and was immersed and educated by Patagonia development practices. My world was expanded at that time when I learned how he imagined and created microfleece fiber from fibers of melted down plastic bottles, and forced an entire industry to follow him. I imagined if he could create these fibers for outerwear knits, then surely we could adapt something to create a similar fiber suitable for swimwear, but all I could find felt heavy and scratchy. It would never work for VITAMIN A. I was told there was no market for the kind of yarns I wanted, so I decided to make it myself. For 3 years I worked with mills in Italy, Canada, and finally California to create a fabric that answers the requirements of beauty and quality – the touch, the sheen, the stretch and recovery, and more…
We admire you not only for your talent as a designer but for being a wife, mother of two and a business woman, has it been difficult to simultaneously maintain focus on your personal life and business life at times?
Thank you for such a nice compliment.I feel lucky and blessed to have a wonderful balance of creative work time and family time. I can focus on my personal life and business life, because I have the best of both worlds and one inspires the other. I am always excited to get to my studio, as I am passionate about my work and so excited about all the new doors opening each day… And then I’m beyond thrilled when it’s time to shift gears and go home to my family. I am grateful for times which are both work and personal life, i.e. beach time. I get even more beach time now with my new little family. So much fun and always inspiring.
We have both personally been wearing Vitamin A for years and are definitely fans of your classic and feminine designs over the last few years but we have noticed a new edgy feel in your designs for this particular collection, is there a reason for this?
Thank you again for such a nice compliment. I like classic and feminine. And edgy, I suppose, or innovative, when it comes to trying new fabrics or fabric combinations… I get really excited about new fabric innovations. Like NEOLUX – a stretchier lighter incarnation of neoprene, made from RECYCLED NYLON fiber and LYCRA XTRALIFE
Having two young daughters who will be exposure to new age media which regularly promotes unhealthy images/ ideas of “beauty”, what do you feel is the most important message to young girls about how they should feel on the beach/ in a their bikini?
Confidence, independence, graciousness can’t help but radiate beauty. They already feel really happy and carefree at the beach, since they have been going since they were just 3 months old and loving it. They are so carefree and Ruby loves to swim in the ocean, Gemma loves to play in the sand… When they are old enough to wear bikinis, I will teach my daughters to enjoy the feelings of being HEALTHY and HAPPY on or off the beach through exercise and sports, breathing, good food, and following the golden rule. Great posture and taking care of our skin makes all the difference.
What was the inspiration for your latest collection?
The 2016 collection is inspired by modern architecture, glam getaways, and the warm breezes of the Riviera Maya, where I spent time with my family and shot the 2016 collection with Diego Uchitel. Clean lines, bold stripes, graphic cutouts, and sporty chic silhouettes mix it up with the sun-kissed, laid-back sexiness that’s in our DNA.
Is the beach a big part of your life?
Yes. Every day.
Do you wear other swimwear lines personally or only Vitamin A?
Normally I only wear vitamin A bikinis because I always have new ones that I love
. However, when in northern Brazil, I love to buy the tiny colorful bikinis they sell for $10 on the beach and they are really comfortable, so I use the bottoms there where I usually don’t know anyone.
What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when designing swimwear?
Less is more
There are only so many things you can do with a bikini, has it ever been hard to come up with new and interesting designs that haven’t been done before?
It’s always easy to imagine new ideas for bikinis. They are the ultimate canvas. I like to try new things with custom fabrics and clean fit.
What type of woman embodies the spirit of “Vitamin A”?
Free Spirited traveler with clean elegant taste with a sense of humor
If you had to give one word of advice to young swimwear designers looking to break into the industry what would it be?
Look #4 // Natasha Back Zip Maillot One Piece