"We always had a dream to one day have a little store and sell bikinis," says Alessandra Ambrosio about launching her new swimwear and lifestyle line GAL Floripa with her two fellow Brazilian "soul sisters." "We grew up by the beach there and we were always wearing swimsuits — it was like a second skin for us."
Ambrosio and her partners, best friend Gisele Cória and Aline Ambrosio (her actual sister), appreciated the supportive, female friendship aspect of swim culture growing up in Brazil. The joy and process of helping each other choose the ideal style that helps make them feel the best about themselves became the basis of the new sexy, beach-y and functional (sun protective fabric!) line.
A year ago, the three enjoyed a bonding day — on a beach, of course — and decided to turn their dream into a reality, but on a global scale via e-commerce. "We're like, 'we should just start a brand — a meaningful brand for women,'" Ambrosio explains. "We wanted to start with swimsuits because that's what we know the best."
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The name, GAL Floripa, pays homage to the founders' friendship and heritage, GAL being a mashup of their first names and Floripa derived from Florianópolis, known as "the magic island" off of southern Brazil. "It's really gorgeous and surrounded by nature, waterfalls and dunes," Ambrosio says. For the debut collection, christened Galactic Sun, the supermodel took inspiration from the lush natural beauty of the Brazilian islands (and song lyrics from the soundtrack of her favorite movie "Stealing Beauty," starring Liv Tyler.)
"We have gorgeous colors inspired by the galaxy: a beautiful pearl, dark browns, gold, which is the sun, a beautiful red that reminds me of Mars and this grey purple, which is like the sky when you look up at night," she says.
The one- and two-piece suits, priced from $88 to $228, feature '70s-referential beach-y touches, like an iridescent metallic sheen, ombré dyeing, rope ties, seashell ornaments and delicate ruffling. "Comfort and quality" are of utmost importance to Ambrosio and her partners, so the suits are made of "a super soft, quality Lycra," with select styles comprised of UV 50+ sun protection. The two-pieces feature triangle tops, strapless bandeaus — one of which she just wore to Coachella — and one-shoulder styles and bottoms come in modest high-waist styles or teeny string bikini "Brazilian butt" options. The one-pieces offer strapless or strappy shoulder details with keyhole, deep-plunge necklines.
"We tried to create shapes that will show your body in the best way so you will feel good and comfortable," says Ambrosio about the iridescent fabrics, contouring, cut and detailing on the pieces. She also wanted to incorporate functionality — something she also learned from her 12 year tenure as a Victoria's Secret Angel.
"I used to be on the cover of their catalogs and in their campaigns for swim," she says. "My favorite part of my job was always when we were doing the swim season." The experience taught her the importance of an ideal fit, but with a specific combination.
"Now I'm a mom and when I go to the beach, I'm running around with my kids. So I definitely want something that will stay in place and give me mobility," she continues. "Obviously with Victoria's Secret, they are a beautiful, sexy brand. [So our line] needs to have that sexy element and I love that because, to me, we can always use that in our favor."
Ambrosio applied her experience from her licensed and now-shuttered Ále by Alessandra line of ready-to-wear, swim and accessories to the design and business operations of GAL Floripa. Plus, keeping the manufacturing local was also important. "Everything is made in the south of Brazil, from the fabric to where we make the swimsuits," she says. Since Ambrosio is based in Los Angeles with her two children, her partners in Florianópolis maintain the on-the-ground relationships with manufacturers and vendors, who were sourced through word-of-mouth and friend referrals.
"We love our culture, we love who we are. We're just embracing all that," she adds.
Ambrosio and team are focusing on a direct-to-consumer model for now, starting from home. "We wanted to do [a line that] Brazilians can wear and buy and it's not too expensive for them," she explains. GAL Floripa also launched with U.S.-based e-commerce and will ship product globally. The direct-to-consumer approach also allows the brand to stray from the traditional calendar to drop new collections at leisure, which helps since Brazil is on opposite seasons of the U.S. and Europe.
"We have that freedom of selling when we want," says Ambrosio. "When we have swim ready, we'll put it on the website and sell and promote and that's what we're doing for now."
She says that a second collection is in the works and for now, they're focusing on the launch. Of course, there's also the old adage about never going into business with family or friends. But the double-up seems to be working well for Ambrosio. The three excel in different parts of the business — be it the numbers, manufacturing or marketing — and, while they all "speak the same language," both literally and figuratively, they complement each other with their varying work styles.
"It's a big collaboration," says Ambrosio. "That's what the brand is. It's a big collaboration. Women embracing each other, doing things and inspiring other women."
While GAL Floripa's mission is to inspire and celebrate all women, the line's sizing is limited: small (0 to 2), medium (4 to 6) and large (8 to 10). The range feels especially narrow considering 68 percent of women in the U.S. wear size 14 or up and more brands are offering size-inclusive swim options, including fellow VS vet Joan Smalls's affordable Smart & Sexy line. But that will change, hopefully.
"We're a small brand, so we want to test everything [first]," explains Ambrosio. "We want to make sure everything is in a perfect state and, for sure, the plans are to expand on the sizes and on the shapes. Hopefully everything will go the way we want and we're working hard to make that happen."