Swimwear Designer Kathleen Bruening

Talking custom bikinis with the woman behind Kate Swim

The founder and designer of Kate Swim, Kathleen Bruening has been in the bikini business since she was 16. Specializing in sophisticated and modern cuts, the Hawaii native’s designs have been featured in the holy grail of swimwear, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Kate Swim also offers custom swimsuits that allow clients to select everything from the shape, style, size and cut to the fabric, color and trims. Here, Rated takes a quick dip in Bruening’s world to find out the best way to make a splash at the pools this summer. 975 American Pacific Drive, Suite 203, 800.279.4633; kateswim.com

You started the brand in 2012 in Hawaii. Why bring it to Las Vegas?

It struck me one day and all I could think about was, “You need to be in Las Vegas.” And it was the strangest thought ever because I had never been to Las Vegas. I didn’t know anyone [here] at the time. Once I started doing the research, I saw the connection that I was close enough to L.A. to be able to get to the garment district, to get to all the resources that I need to grow the company. I have such a great foundation here with everything else.

How did the collaboration with Sports Illustrated begin?

The first year I started, I took a huge leap of faith and sent in a handful of bathing suits. When I looked through [the magazine’s] shots online, my first thought was, “That’s my design; someone used my design. What’s going on?” [Then I saw that] it had the credit for my company. I got three [designs] online that year and then they officially invited me back the following year. I’ve been with them ever since. 

Take us through your process of designing custom swimwear.

I normally suggest scheduling two hours for the first fitting. You’re going to try on a lot of suits that we call fit samples. We see what you like most and what you feel confident in. I’ll break out my sketchbook and really start playing, get five or six different sketches for the client to look over, and pull other colors from our fabric closet. [The whole process] takes about four to six weeks. By the time we’ve gone through all of the different fittings, I would have made between two to 18 suits for you, just to get the perfect fit.

What trends do you recommend for this season? I am in love with asymmetrical cut-outs and neon colors, but my go-to advice for bikinis is try everything because you never know what specific print, color, shape or design is going to be your next favorite.