Gina Esposito, Designer, Nu Swim
Gina Esposito has managed to do what many of us only dream of. Discontented by her work-a-day routine in mass market fashion, she made the bold decision to dive into running her own business. The result is Nu Swim, a San Francisco-based line of innovatively simple swimwear. Gina has advice that just might change your life if you, like many of us, are on the brink of something great. Today Lisa Says Gah brings you a look inside the mind of this design pioneer. Enjoy!
LSG: Hi Gina! Let's get right down to it! Tell us your story, what inspired you to pioneer Nu Swim?
I studied women's fashion design at FIT in New York and started my career just before graduation in 2006. I worked as a designer for a few companies before uprooting that life and taking a leap. I moved to California in 2008 and started designing and working with a few companies out here - Old Navy, Gymboree, then Levi's for 4 1/2 years. At the end of 2013, I started freaking out - I was going to be 30 and wasn't doing what I wanted to be doing. I was (and am) very grateful for my professional path, but I always knew I wanted to work on my own and do something powerful. I never intended to work in mass market fashion, it's just what I landed in. I thought a lot about working on my own line, but nothing ever came to fruition. I was having fun, working hard, but I didn't quite know who I was yet - which is great because it brought me to where I am now.
So, anyway, I am a swimmer, have been all my life - my father was a professional swimmer, and even though we are not close, it was ingrained in me at a young age. I’m sure that the first day I was allowed out of the hospital, after being born, I got a nice dunk in the ocean. I grew up on Long Island, spending every possible moment at the beach and swimming in all forms of water. Years of swim team, 6 years of ocean lifeguarding, cutting class (sorry mom!) to go on dark winter ocean drives, you name it. I always wanted a swim line along with my own clothing line, but when I finally realized I should start with the swim line, I had a lightbulb moment. I was sitting on my couch, grumbling about turning 30 and I realized everything all at once and took charge - look what came from that! It's all happening. All of the festering became productive and my ideas finally became reality!
LSG: Wow! That's fabulous. So, what's behind the name of your company?
Nu means nude in a few languages. I wanted it to speak for the brand in a way that means no extras - no padding, no crazy strings or inauthentic looking details - nude in that way.
LSG: How does your environment / community influence your process? Can you describe the lifestyle of your brand?
I'm from New York but have lived in California for almost 7 1/2 years. I have always been a California girl at heart, but I still have strong New York values. I feel a weird sense of happiness when I land in JFK and see everyone yelling at each other and gabbing away, it really inspires me. I feel oddly happy and even shed a few tears when I get there. There's absolutely nothing in the world like it, and it's so important for me that I'm from there. I have to feel that combination of feelings every few months - those crazy personalities really work me. On the other side (literally): I also love California, everyone is so positive - I feel people are genuinely trying to live a simple, blissful life. I am extremely inspired by the nature and strange architecture out West. There's nothing classic about it. The colors of the houses, the bizarre square shapes with no insulation and old glass (sometimes plastic) windows - Mediterranean and mid-century homes are showcased here in a great way. The landscape is green all year round and I can pick plants and fruits from my neighbors yards, go for long drives through the mountains, find places to swim, take trips to the desert. The lifestyle of Nu Swim is connected to California's eternal sense of adventure combined with the straightforward, no-nonsense of New York.
LSG: How do you want people to feel in one of your suits?
Comfort, maybe a little power, different, inspired - like they made a good, new choice.
LSG: What's it like to design a collection?!
Well! There are so many parts, I don't know where to begin. I collect a lot of images, so it's about editing and looking at color to get a feel for what I want to develop. So many ideas pop in and out of my head. When I've narrowed down a story, I continue to edit my designs and ideas. Then I start working out the function of the garment I'm creating. Then comes pattern making and sample making. Then more editing. When things are solid, I head to my factory to make samples, then I do fittings, look at the numbers, figure out what I need to take out or add, then more sample making, etc, etc.
Then it’s time for production which is a lot of waiting - but in the meantime, you're still going, creating marketing plans and budgets and, my gosh, what else? I guess at some point you're done and you launch and sell - all while doing everything else over again, and trying to stay organized. It's pretty crazy, but fun, and is always completely different from where you began. As much as I'd love to be, I'm not a strict conceptual artist, so it's hard for me to embody one theme. I usually start from a place, and the next piece of information that comes into my brain will inform the last. Nothing ever goes away, so it is usually a mash-up of all of my brain parts, which I think is also called A.D.D.
LSG: As an independent business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a fashion company?
Running your own business can be psychologically daunting. I would suggest starting every single day by making your bed and going for a nice walk. Try not to bring your phone with you - let your list flow in your head without any distractions. Starting your day off with these two organized accomplishments will really inform the rest of your day. Also: patience, confidence, organization, being yourself.
LSG: What skills would you recommend mastering before becoming your own boss?
Well, #1 is patience. If things aren't coming to fruition, don't rush to try and make it work, let it run its course in the right direction, you will be glad you waited because the end result will feel correct and inspire your next move. Organization. Practice. Take your time. I would say that working for a few different types companies in your field is extremely beneficial. Don't be overly confident - you need the experience in whatever form that may be. Let your feelings be natural but don't get too discouraged, it's all worth it. Respect and take in the criticism you receive. It will be beneficial to you in the moment and down the line.
LSG: Can you give us a brief overview of your bucket list? What are some “musts”?
Bolivia, New Zealand, China, Japan. Build a house. Learn to surf again. Get the courage to swim with whales. This year I mastered swimming and dunking in extremely cold water, absolutely life changing!
Interview by Olivia La Roche