New York fashion insiders swear by this brand.
Friendship is what defines New York-based indie swimwear brand Dos Swim. Five years before launching the brand, founders Paula Hess, then a designer, and Shay Johnson, a Creative Producer at Opening Ceremony, met through their shared fashion circle. They both loved to travel, and soon after meeting were exploring places like India, Mexico, and Morocco together. But packing posed a problem: the duo struggled to find stylish swimwear to bring along. Instead, they’d buy vintage pieces that seemed more unique than what was on the market at the time. Finally, in 2019, they decided to create the swimwear they wanted but couldn’t find — inspired by the colors and fabrics spotted on their travels. That was how Dos Swim — the name, another homage to their travel and Hess’ Colombian heritage — was born.
“We never intended to start a brand or launch a collection,” Hess tells TZR. “We wanted to create something we could really see ourselves and friends in. Finding the right fit was always so hard for our respective body shapes. Bottoms, specifically, were always a point of contention, they were either too low on the leg or too high, exposing too much or too little. We wanted to fix that. It was a personal project that grew into something more.”
Their first collection drew inspiration from a wide range of places — the ‘90s, style icons like Rihanna and Aaliyah, as well as films like Wild Things and Swimming Pool. The pieces also incorporated bits and pieces from their respective childhoods; Hess’s favorite neon pink swimsuit and Johnson’s love for gold accessories. The neon and tropical bikinis, one-pieces, tankinis, and cover-ups soon garnered the attention of celebrities like Laura Harrier and Paloma Elsesser. Friends assisted with fittings, modeling, and even recommendations for suppliers, and the duo soon built an all-female team in New York’s garment district, keeping the production small and local.
During quarantine, the founders, who had coincidentally transitioned into freelancing from their full-time jobs, decided they wanted to really focus and build on the growth that Instagram and a supportive community had helped bring to their brand. It was at this time that they started talking with their friend Elsesser about launching a collaboration together keeping in line with the friendship ethos that’s at the root of their business.
“Choosing to work with Shay and Paula was a no-brainer,” Elsesser says. “While the swimwear industry has exploded in the last two years, it did feel like there was a decline in swimwear that was cool and passable and chunky-girl-friendly. Shay and Paula and I are friends, and because of our relationship, we were able to really walk through all the steps of what might feel good on a range of body types.”
Hess and Johnson echo Elsesser’s sentiment about the lack of options within the industry. “You know one of the moments I’ll never forget which was really gross and sad? Whilst researching and designing, we had this girl try on our tiny 3X top and she said ‘oh my God, finally someone gets me. Just because I'm thicker doesn’t mean I don’t want to be sexy,’” says Johnson. “Swimwear brands that are out there for curvier girls are just like all coverage and sometimes thicker girls want a skimpy moment! And you know Paloma works in the industry, so she’s seen what’s out there and knows what she wants”
This past Monday, the brand released the “Heat Wave” collaboration with Elsesser who was heavily involved in the production process from cut to color. The sizes range from XS to 3XL. The collection features original prints designed in conjunction with editorial Nail artist Madeline Poole in a range of colors from bright reds to green with shades of brown that promise to take you everywhere from a hike to the beach and more.
“We travel to Europe and all these other places but what’s it like to be in the city in the summer? What is New York summer?” Johnson says of the inspiration behind their latest collection. “A lot of times, on summer weekends, people go upstate and rent a house with friends and we wanted to show that through the collection which has a sporty vibe but is still sexy. For example, in some of the pieces in our latest collection, we use paracord trimming which is a reference to camping and being outdoors.”
While they’ve enjoyed the growth their brand has seen since launch, Hess and Johnson still want to focus on supporting their existing community. “We still want to remain relatable to the girls who have brought us this far,” says Hess. “We want our brand to evoke memories of good times. We’ve all gone through a lot this past year and it feels nice to create something that reminds people of travel, art, and more.” Below, shop current pieces from Dos Swim for your own upcoming getaways.
We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR’s editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.