Like many Islanders, Liane FitzGerald has spent some quality time in a swimsuit. She was a lifeguard at Lucy Vincent Beach for 10 years; it’s probably safe to say she’s spent the majority of her time in a swimsuit.
“At the end of the day, I was always dying to rip my bikini off after 10 and a half hours,” Ms. FitzGerald of Chilmark said in an interview with The Times. “It just made sense to try and make something more comfortable.”
Five years ago, Ms. FitzGerald started a handmade, seamless, reversible swimwear line called Roy Swim. The suits (some now with seams…)are unique, one of a kind, comfortable, and trending.
“It got started after I graduated college and had no idea what I wanted to do,” Ms. FitzGerald said. “I went on a trip to Costa Rica and met a lady with a swimwear business up in Playa Negra. I thought, ‘If she can do this in this primitive environment with just a couple of sewing machines, why can’t I?’”
Ms. FitzGerald did some research, ordered the materials, and by the time she returned to the Island, the pieces of her business were here waiting for her. She works out of her bedroom in her parents’ home in Chilmark. Her technique and style came over time.
“It was hard to find information online,” she said. “It took a lot of trial and error, and talking to people. I don’t know how they do it in the industry, but I’m pretty sure my way is at least a little different.”
She started selling them at the Chilmark Flea Market, where she’d have five or six suits displayed on a rack. Now, she’s cranking out a couple hundred per summer, and sells them online, at the flea market, and at Island Copper Gallery in Vineyard Haven. Styles are comfort-inspired and adjustable, made from 80 percent polyester and 20 percent spandex. She sells a variety of one-piece and two-piece styles. Ms. FitzGerald wants to expand, but she’s not sure she’s ready.
“One part of me wants to collaborate, hire, and show people how I do things,” she said. “But another part of me wants it to be like my secret family recipe or something. It took me years to figure this out, and I’m pretty protective of that.”
The business as is keeps her busy enough. Ms. FitzGerald credits a lot of that to Instagram. “I feel like if Instagram didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have a job,” she said. “It’s a great way to promote businesses, and you can connect with people from far away.” There’s a spot on her website that asks where people heard about the suits when they’re placing an order. Most heard through Instagram.
Entrepreneurs have a lot of support these days. Ms. FitzGerald was psyched to have been able to create her own website without having to hire a web designer. “I feel like there’s so much out there supporting entrepreneurs right now,” she said. The Vineyard is part of that network.
“I love collaborating with the design community here,” she said. “There are a lot of young entrepreneurs: Noava at Island Copper, Bridget who does the henna, Althea with her prints. The Island has been a great way to start out, because everyone who buys my suits gets to meet me, and gets to know the story behind it, and I think that makes it more special.”
For more information, visit royswim.com.