There are a handful of swimwear brands the SI Swim team never leaves for a location shoot without. Gigi C is at the top of that list. With styles that are sporty, supportive, chic, bold and sexy, designer Gigi Caruso has essentially created a new category of swimwear. Better yet, she realized the gap in the market at age 16 and decided to do something about it, launching her first collection three years ago. We caught up with Caruso to discuss what those early years were like, how she is transitioning her business during COVID-19 and more.
SI: You started your business at 16 years old. Looking back now, what do you think gave you the courage to do that?
GC: Starting a business as a teenager and a newcomer to the swim industry was really intimidating. My family really gave me the courage to start a business. Knowing that they thought I was capable gave me the push I needed. I’m so lucky to have my mom as a business partner. She is encouraging and she surprises me every day with how savvy and creative she can be. It’s been amazing to get to know my mom in this new way.
SI: The swimwear industry is a competitive market that you continue to thrive in. What sets your swimwear apart?
GC: I launched GIGI C because I couldn’t find a swimsuit that could do it all -- look fashionable as well as being functional. We have kept that need for fashion and function in mind as we have developed each collection and I think that helps to define our brand. Adding our signature laser cutting and our silky scuba swim fabric has also given GIGI C a clear visual identity. When you see one of our suits, there’s no doubt that it’s GIGI C.
SI: Tell us a little bit about your first time showing at Miami Swim Week.
GC: Presenting our runway show in Miami back in 2017 was a dream come true. I never imagined how much hard work would go into a fashion presentation, but it was all worth it. Standing on the runway at the end of the show with the models was such an incredible feeling. I was so grateful to our team and everyone who helped make it happen.
SI: Do you have any plans on showing your collection this year without having a physical show?
GC: This year we are showing our new collections to buyers on a few virtual platforms. Missing Miami Swim Week is such a disappointment, but I’m happy that we can safely showcase the new seasons, even if it’s not as much fun as a real life fashion show.
SI: Your suits are no stranger to the pages of SI Swimsuit. This year you had multiple suits featured in the issue. What is it like seeing your suits in SI Swim?
GC: When we launched the brand one of our biggest goals was to get our suits in Sports Illustrated, so for me being featured in SI is a really big deal. It is so exciting for me to feel as if my brand is in the company of so many labels that I have looked up to for so long.
SI: Many brands don’t know how to break into the editorial world. What would your advice be and how did you do it?
GC: I knew that social and PR were going to be a cornerstone of my brand, but when we launched I didn’t have any prior PR experience. I found that when I asked people for advice, I was pleasantly surprised at how generous they were. It’s nice to feel like you're not alone and know you can rely on a community of successful mentors to help you along the way.
SI: What made you take the leap into activewear, with Gigi C Sport?
GC: We had just launched our second season of swim when Carbon38 approached us with the idea to collaborate on some activewear styles that incorporated our signature laser cuts. They are true experts in that category so having their input was so helpful and with their guidance we were able to create some really special styles. Since that first season we have kept making activewear and now I can honestly say that I love my activewear just as much as I love my swim. It’s rewarding to be able to wear my own brand every day, not just when I’m in the water.
SI: Where do you see your designs headed in future?
GC: I think next GIGI C will expand into creating more resortwear. I have a hard time finding coverups that I love so I would really enjoy designing pieces that can help dress our customer for her whole vacation.
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