Allie Ayers made her SI Swimsuit debut in the 2018 issue as a Top 6 Swim Search finalist. Since then, Ayers launched her own size-inclusive swim line, Bissy Swim; the line was featured in both the 2019 and 2020 issues. We caught up with Ayers to talk all things swimwear, inclusivity, sustainability and of course, Swim Search:
SI: When we first met you in Brooklyn back in May of 2017, you chatted about launching your own swim line and now it’s a huge success. What was your motivation in creating Bissy Swim?
AA: This is so fun to remember! At the time, I was trying to adjust to modeling in New York as a “midi-model” and I was learning very quickly that there was little space in our industry for women between a size 4 and a size 14. That struggle led to a heightened awareness of the lack of representation for a slew of other so-called “outliers” in fashion, be that because of color, size, gender identity or background. I knew I wanted to create a brand that would provide a platform for women who wanted to see people like them represented in modeling, fashion and advertising. I had been interested in creating swimwear specifically because I know what a vulnerable thing swimsuits can be for so many women. If you can feel sexy in a swimsuit, that can translate to anything else you put on your body. I thought, “If I can create truly beautifully fitting swimwear for women of all sizes and help redefine the beauty standard through our advertising, this can be a pivotal point for women and the way they view themselves.”
SI: Where did you come up with the idea for your brand name?
AA: As a little girl, I couldn’t pronounce my middle name, Elizabeth. Instead, it came out sounding like “Bissy.” So “Allie Elizabeth” became “Allie Bissy” and that’s been my nickname ever since.
SI: Who is the Bissy Swim client?
AA: Our clients are so diverse. We have regular clients throughout our size range, from 0 – 26. We have women of various races, women with big boobs, women with little boobs, apple-shaped bodies, pregnant mamas, older women and teenagers. We knew we wanted to be able to better serve our wide array of clientele. That’s why we just launched “The Edit.” This collection takes our most popular swimsuits and provides customizable options to provide an even better fit. Options include things like push-up padding, adjustable straps, options for pear and apple-shaped bodies, modest alternatives, and more support for our big-busted gals.
SI: Bissy Swim is one of the most size-inclusive brands out there and for that we love it! What was your motivation behind this?
AA: The concept behind Bissy was synonymous with the intent to be size-inclusive. Just like I knew in-between sizes and minorities needed better representation, I knew I wanted to see better options for women in the “plus” category. That’s why I decided to create every design we put into production in all of our sizes. This means our size 26 gets the same sexy, on-trend options as our size 0.
SI: What was it like seeing your design “The Hunter” on Hunter McGrady for SI Swimsuit?
AA: Um, incredible! I was wrapping up on the set of our holiday campaign when you posted a behind-the-scenes photo of Hunter in that suit. I remember letting out an involuntary, excited squeal and then needing to sit down. I was so grateful. I get to be a model in the magazine and then I get to see one of my designs featured?? Are you kidding me??
SI: You’ve partnered with The Mermaid Project to make Bissy sustainable. What inspired you to do this and what changes have you had to make to your production process?
AA: We have wanted to do everything in our control to inspire needed change within the fashion industry – to lead by example. Knowing that this industry is the number two pollutant for our earth highlights just how desperately fashion needs to take a look at how it chooses to manufacture things. That’s why we decided to cut single-use plastic in production in every possible case, use recyclable shipping boxes, source high-quality fabrics to create suits that won’t need to replaced by next year, and then, take any fabric remaining after production and repurpose it. We want to fight the fast-fashion that is damaging our world by following a “fewer, better things” philosophy.
SI: What do you see for the future of your brand?
AA: Bissy won’t stop at swimwear and merchandise.The sizing chart we have developed and the ability to cater to multiple body shapes need to be utilized in other areas of fashion. A few on my list are lingerie, activewear and a denim line.
SI: You just launched a search for the newest Bissy Swim model. What are you looking for?
AA: We want someone who has the same spunky, cool vibe as our brand and has something powerful to say. As I mentioned, we are a platform to let others be the representation they were missing as little kids… or as teenagers… or as grown women. We just want to find voices that need highlighting and who are prepared to represent that message well.
SI: Speaking of model search, would you ever give #SISwimSearch another go?
AA: Absolutely! My experience with the Swim Search and with the SI Swim team was nothing short of extraordinary. It truly did change my life and I’ve fallen so in love with inspiring others through the platform I was able to create during that journey. I’d love nothing more than to have another go at it! To take what I created with my first opportunity and grow that even more. Why not be the first SI Swim Search winner to go a second time?
SI: What advice would you give to the girls currently participating in #SISwimSearch? What did you learn from your experience?
AA: Know what you want to share with this world and be ready to do that! Enjoy every single second. Be ready to ignore the trolls. This magazine is making waves in how people see and define “sexy.” When big moves like that are being made, haters are inevitable. Document this process. You’ll want to remember it. Make and keep the incredible relationships surrounding you. And mostly, know whatever your outcome, this can be used to create a new path for yourself. Use it well.