Swimsuit Designer, Karla Medina, Encourages a Positive Body Image
As Karla Medina stood on a warm, glimmering beach of the Turks and Caicos during a vacation, she noticed a pattern of the same swimsuits speckled across the sand. It was in this moment that she realized she needed to design swimsuits that would be unique and flattering to the bodies that wore them. She then, without any formal design training, sat down one day and began drawing swimsuits for confident and bold women.
“Everything started when I was growing up,” Medina said, “I had big breasts and it was hard to get clothes to fit me so I would take them apart and put them together and get them to fit me perfectly.”
Medina’s ability to take apart and put together a more beautiful and formfitting design stems from watching her mother and grandmother sew old dresses and shirts into beautiful new garments during her childhood in Cuba. Medina, who moved to Boston from Cuba when she was 13, was encouraged by her friends’ many compliments on her original and curvy creations to explore fashion. However, she decided to pursue marketing in college because of its practical nature. Now, Medina works in the health care industry during the day and designs swimsuits for her company, KM Swimwear, when she comes home from the office at night.
“Professionally, [health care] was a smart move. It’s not fun but it’s a challenge and I like it.” Medina said, “But at the same time at 7 o’clock I ask, ‘now what?’ It’s funny; in the day I’m dealing with brokers and at night I’m dealing with swimsuits, boobs and butts. But it keeps me going. I need diversity, I can’t just go home and do one thing, it’s just not me.”
It may seem like a stark contrast—going from suits and boardrooms to swimsuits and catwalks, but for Medina it’s natural.
“For those who know me it is not a surprise that what I like to make is bathing suits,” Medina said, “[In Cuba] I loved swimming and enjoying the ocean but at times training became exhausting and on top of that I never liked the swimsuits we had to wear.”
Now Medina creates swimsuits for others who love the cool water and warm sand of a summer beach. She uses signature bright colors and emphasizes natural curves in order to create a bathing suit that will stand out against the backdrop of the other generic designs.
“When you go to a pool party you either have girls who have way too much going on or don’t have anything going on. I want it to stand out and not be like everyone else’s,” said Medina, “I like to design my bathing suits with a splash of ‘spice’. When I say ‘spice’ I mean colors, culture and fun.”
Not only are Medina’s swimsuits meant to stand out with ‘spice’, but they are also meant to be worn by a confident woman, or as Medina says, “a woman who likes her body no matter what her size.”
“If you go around the world, women who are size 12 will still wear bikinis,” said Medina, “In this country, people are ashamed of their bodies and I want to change that. I am Hispanic and I love curves and ideally I want women who love their bodies and aren’t afraid to show it.”
Medina entered the swimsuit market with her brand, KM Swimwear, a year and three months ago. She began designing swimsuits for a small boutique in Miami before returning to her hometown of Boston. She wishes to focus on expanding her brand in the Boston area, a dream she has begun to tackle with her debut at Boston’s Fashion Week’s En Vogue show last month.
“It was a huge overturning. I didn’t think I could get into [Boston’s Fashion Week] and everybody loved it and I got really good reviews,” said Medina, “I can’t wait to do it again. It was an honor to be a part of it and it was a good shock.”
Medina’s quick and rising success can be attributed to her persistence and passion. Her love for design and the thrill of seeing her designs appreciated and admired as they glide down the runway are what inspire her to continue designing.
“I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I really like doing it,” Medina said, “My advice [to aspiring designers] is do it because you love it and not because of the money. It takes a lot of work and passion to do it the right way. If you do it for the money you can get lost in translation.”