When you think of January, what comes to mind? Maybe body-bashing New Year's resolutions, "bomb cyclone," or just frigid temps in general. Chances are your immediate word association wasn't "swimwear," but blogger Gabi Gregg wants to change all that and melt away those frosty thoughts with her latest swimwear line for Swimsuits for All.
Promoted with a campaign shot in the jungles of Belize, the 10-piece line features four bikinis, four one-pieces and two cover ups, all available in sizes 10-24 (with select styles up to size 26). Unlike the matronly loud floral skirted swimsuits many believe plus-size women want to wear, Gregg's line is seriously sexy, with designs like a high-cut leopard print monokini and a sheer crop-top white string bikini. "I feel like this collection is more sophisticated than my previous ones — I definitely think I grow as a designer each year and it shows," Gregg exclusively tells Fashionista. "I also like to push myself into trying new styles; this is my first collection featuring a string bikini top. We also expanded our size range to include size 10 and select styles up to size 26. It's something I consistently get feedback on, so I'm really glad we were able to do that this year."
Although the collection feels very cohesive, it still provides 10 vastly different designs, offering something for every personal aesthetic and comfort level. "I start designing first just based on trends I'm loving and what I wish existed in my size," Gregg explains. "Swimsuits for All and I have been working together for years, so I'm aware year round that I should be collecting inspiration — I'm constantly saving things that I'd love to translate into swimwear. After a few rounds of sketches, things start to become more cohesive — it was clear that this season I was very drawn to solid deep-toned colors and metallic sheens."
As for Gregg's personal favorite? "It's really hard to choose, but I think the Oasis bikini. I wanted to replicate the vibe of a wet T-shirt, and I really think the mesh white crop top over the white bikini came out perfectly. It's clean, sleek and simple but still really impactful. It looks even better wet!"
It's no surprise that Swimsuits for All has continued to tap Gregg for these boundary-breaking collaborations, considering that Gregg created an industry-altering dialogue around her original "fatkini" back in 2012. "I think generally I'm much more adventurous with not only what I design, but what I wear," said Gregg. "The plus size swim industry was impacted so much that first year, and since then has just exploded. At this point, there's nothing I won't try out of fear or body shame. I'm really proud of the progress we've made, and I'm just constantly trying to keep moving things forward and thinking of ways we can push the envelope even more."
Though many celebrity and influencer collaborations are little more than a name slapped onto a product, Gregg makes sure to be active in every aspect of the design process. "I start by giving them mood boards and inspiration photos, and some (not great) sketches with notes, and the Swimsuits for All team is able to turn those into professional sketches," says Gregg. "From there we work together to make sure my vision is accurately represented. I describe the color, print or fabric I want, and they present me with options and I choose my favorite for each suit. I see photos from each fitting and make notes, as well as go into the offices periodically to try the suits on, give the fit team feedback and tell them what changes I want made. We start almost a year ahead of time — right now I'm already designing for 2019, so it's a really long process."
Every Swimsuits for All collaboration launch not only brings stunning swimwear, but also provides eye-catching editorial imagery that looks ripped from the pages of our favorite fashion magazines. This time, Gregg shared the stage with plus model and philanthropist Philomena Kwao and activist and sexuality educator Ericka Hart. "We were inspired by Destiny's Child 'Survivor' for our shoot concept, and both Philomena and Ericka are not only beautiful, but they also have really inspirational stories around surviving and overcoming obstacles," explained Gregg. "Philomena is outspoken about colorism in fashion, and Ericka is an activist as well as a breast cancer survivor."
Hart may be best known for her topless photos that showcase her breast cancer scars, but she sees no disconnect between her message and that of the collection. "Although Swimsuits for All is a commercial brand, this shoot was not at odds with the activist work that I do," Hart exclusively told Fashionista. "Three black femmes of unconventional size modeling bathing suits, suits designed by a black woman that works for herself and made it her mission to center black models in her shoot, is unfortunately uncommon. So, when I took this on, I knew I would be wearing more clothes than usual, and this would be out of my comfort zone, but it was still in line with the work that I do: centering Black femmes and inserting us into a narrative where we are often times intentionally excluded."
Although this may have been Hart's first time modeling for Swimsuits for All, Kwao is a veteran, having participated in the groundbreaking Swimsuits for All advertisement in Sport Illustrated's 2016 Swimsuit Issue. "Since the Sports Illustrated campaign so much has changed, but there is still so much to change," mused Kwao. "Most notably intersectionality in 'diverse' campaigns. It's not enough to have one white and one black model; diversity is so much more than simply ticking off quotas. This was such an empowering campaign because not only did it feel like a reunion, I was fortunate enough to meet Ericka Hart. She's a phenomenal woman enlightened in so many areas, and spending time with her and her partner was honestly the most educational trip I've had. She really embodies activism and it was truly awesome getting to know her. Voices and bodies like Ericka's are a huge step towards inclusivity."
Swimsuits for All clearly wants to continue supporting diversity and inclusivity, as its upcoming open casting call proves. The brand is searching for nine women sizes 10-26 to feature in Gregg's next campaign, giving an opportunity to those who may not have the traditional "model" body.
"Gabi's collection is always a social media favorite," explained Swimsuits for All's VP of Creative & Branding, Sara Mitzner. "We always see so many women posting in her collection that look amazing, so we thought why not include them in the campaign? Swimsuits for All has a history of including 'real women' in our marketing campaigns, on our website, and social media. We strongly believe in putting images out there that reinforce body positivity and there is no better way to do that than including real women."
This time of year is filled with body-shaming language, as the media encourages a whole "new-year, new-you" mentality. We know that for many people, the last thing they'd want to do in January is strip down to their swimsuit and strut, but Gregg encourages you to do exactly that as a body-acceptance resolution. "I think it's great that my collection comes out in January because it directly opposes all of those negative messages and images that we're seeing about getting your body 'ready for the beach'," says Gregg. "My message has always been that all bodies are good bodies, and we all deserve to feel great in our clothes, including swimwear."
Click through to see all of the sizzling styles.
Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.