From runways to beach days, Mi Ola swimwear has you covered

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trading her fashion plated high heels in NYC for flip flops on the beaches of Costa Rica, designer Helena Fogarty is creating luxury swimwear for chic, active women. 

 Photo cred:Dusty Hale

After graduating college, Fogarty moved to NYC to pursue a career in fashion. She worked for companies including Bloomingdale's, Avon, the Vanity Fair Corp, Hearst, Zac Posen, Ferragamo, "and finally - the pinnacle - Chanel." On a visit to Costa Rica, Fogarty learned to surf. She couldn't get the sandy, salt water out of her head. Becoming completely obsessed with surfing, she left her NYC Fashion Executive background, and moved to the beaches of Costa Rica. 

"I visited first to surf. And then I came back and came back and came back. Finally in 2009, I left my fancy job in NYC and sold a bunch of my Chanel shoes and moved down to surf every day," Fogarty said. As she got acclimated to her new surroundings, Helena struggled to find better swimwear. That's when Mi Ola was born.....

"When I moved to Costa Rica, I was surfing 4 hours a day, every day, and I went through probably 200 bikinis - without finding what I needed. Expensive bikinis, cheap bikinis... it didn't matter, they all fell off when I was active, and they all fell apart pretty quickly," she said. Fogarty's designs are for happy, healthy and active women who have trouble finding suits that stay put. "She wants to look great and feel great. To be present and enjoy her day at the beach, without adjusting her suit every few minutes."

Creating sexy, wearable swimwear with durability and comfort, the collection offers tops and bottoms as well as rash guards, in a variety of colors and patterns. 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Fogarty and dive into the idea behind Mi Ola

Jody Marich: What does Mi Ola mean? More importantly what does it mean to you and why did you choose the name?

Helena Fogarty: Mi Ola means 'My Wave' in Spanish. I chose this name for a few reasons:

- Every wave is unique, and like life, only you can surf the wave the way you do.  I left a career in high fashion in NYC and a life of glamour, high consumption and excitement, for a more simple life.  That choice made sense to me and it's "my wave."  But everyone's got to find their own.  

- It's a nod to the genesis of the brand being in Costa Rica

- It's doesn't sound like a cheap SURFING BRAND... because that's far from what we are.   Mi Ola is a premium brand of chic swimwear, with added functionality. It's designed to sell at high end department stores, boutiques and well-curated surf shops. What woman doesn't need a great bikini that stays on?

- Lastly, surfing can get a little macho and competitive ... and sometimes men will drop in on you or snake you (surfing terms!), because they don't believe you can surf. So this is my inner way of saying "hey buddy, get off my wave!" You can imagine me saying that while I'm shaking my fist like an angry old man.

JM: How are the suits different?

HF: Every style is engineered to stay on, built to last and still make you look great.

We use a variety of tools do this on each style, using drawstrings, tension, silicon elastic, and different types of construction. Our suits are made of a substantial swim material - which we've tested in salt water and chlorine to make sure it doesn't fade or stretch out.  And we line them with the same fabric, which makes for a very sturdy garment.  You can feel the difference in our suits when you touch them. They are built to last.

JM: What process do you go through to test the suits for wearing?

HF: We go out and play! We surf in them. We do yoga in them. We do stand up paddling. We play with our kids in them.  

And if any of the seams are chafing, or the straps are not working, or the suits are not staying on, we go back to the drawing board. We do the same if the suit is not flattering, as well.

JM: Does the fabric matter when designing suits?

HF: Absolutely! I once got a suit from a surf brand. SUPER CUTE. I loved the fabric. It was a serape knit fabric. Best bikini ever. UNTIL I WORE IT.

The fabric did not stretch or support. When it got wet, it sagged AND the super cute fabric chafed my cheeks when I walked.  Seriously. It was like sand paper. That's a crime. Bikinis should be a force of good, not evil!

So, these are the things that I think someone obsessed with bikinis. We use soft, and yet sturdy fabrics that hold up. No chafed hineys here!

JM: What is your favorite suit and why?

HF: My favorite combo is our Pin-up Top and the Doublestring Bottom - for me. I surf in this combo and never have to adjust while I'm in the water. I like the way it looks.  And the bottom is adjustable, so I can tighten it when I'm being active in the water and loosen it a bit when I'm out.

JM: What inspires you?

HF: When I'm in Costa Rica, I'm constantly inspired by nature...whether it's Sting Rays in the ocean, little crab babies that are rustling around, or the flowers and palm trees.  I was out doing yoga today surrounded by butterflies.  And when I walked home, I saw the family of monkeys that lives across from our house. This season, we have a print called Medusa (inspired by jellyfish),  another called Plumas (inspired by birds in the area) and an amazing Palm print, all inspired by my "backyard."

I'm also still obsessed with high fashion and city life style and that inspires me. 1 of our new metallic rash guards is inspired by all the sequin tanks that I don't have occasion to wear in Costa Rica.  It's my little way of bringing the city to the beach.

Helena on the beach with her daughter.

Fogarty took a leap of faith leaving almost everything she knew behind. Little did she know, her knowledge from working in fashion for over 15 years would lead her to her true passion, designing high quality swimwear.

 "I found my calling: Making the beach better for women, one bikini at a time"
-Helena Fogarty

For more information on the sexy bikinis that stay on, check out Mi Ola


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