Designer of the Month
Behind Birdie Jo Swimwear:
An insider’s exclusive!
Azura chats to Birdie Jo Swimwear designers Rebecca Fink and Kate Richter about what it takes to be one of the hottest up-and-coming designer swimwear labels around. Get inside and personal with Azura as we find out where the design duo get their inspiration from, and what makes them tick. From a background in furniture design to an eye-opening trip to Brazil, it’s one heck of a story…
Tell me more about the name ‘Birdie Jo’. Where did it come from?
Lecture break, the first day of class for my interior design program, I bummed a smoke from a girl. She handed the cigarette to me and said, “I’m quitting.” I said, “me too.” We sat on a ledge and smoked and talked. I had been in LA only two months and her, one. She was studying abroad, while living with her mother who was on scholarship with the Getty. The girl with the cigarette’s name was Roberta. We soon became close friends and over that year, almost inseparable. When she moved back to Brazil, I went to visit her for one month. It was during that trip, I became obsessed with the idea of having a swimwear company. I was in constant communication with Kate about it, and she agreed that it was a great concept and we began collaborating from there. We named the company after Roberta. “Bert”, though a very comedic nickname and a very easy way to shorten Roberta and, is slightly inappropriate for a lovely young woman. “Birdie” is her nickname most often… but sometimes we call her “Birdie Jo”.
What do you love most about designing swimwear?
On the personal end, shopping for fabric and vintage inspiration. But at the end, when a new line is complete, the potential for making women feel beautiful and lovely and sexy.
Working as a team, do you and Kate share all the roles and responsibilities 50/50?
Birdie Jo as a company is very efficient because Kate and I both have different, yet complimentary interests and perspectives on almost everything. We both have very separate jobs, which I think keeps things really focused and allows us to excel in our areas of expertise. We are extremely supportive of each other’s role in the company, knowing that Birdie Jo would not exist without the two of us working together constantly, selflessly and without conflict of ego.
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Kate worked in advertising and acquired a really great understanding of market/trend research. She is a Virgo (a favorite key point in the office) and extremely diligent when it comes to any administrative task. She worked with Key Accounts in the furniture industry, which gave her experience in being the sole liaison between manufacturer, sales team, and customer. Beyond directing the day-to-day tasks of Birdie Jo, Kate is really supportive and has really good insight to the creation of each Birdie Jo line.
I handle all fabric buying, design, pattern work and production. It is extremely tedious and because the company is both our vision, I present each concept to Kate for approval and feedback. She generally is rather enthusiastic about what I come up with, and I think she enjoys being a few steps away from the factories. I, on the contrary, find it completely exhilarating. I love the process.
What design strengths do you think you both bring to the team individually?
A very tricky aspect to designing a product is whether you are creating something that is marketable or completely an act of creative indulgence. A designer must keep in mind that they are not always their own customer. Kate and I make it our responsibility to constantly ask two questions: Is the line we are putting together a complete story? Is it marketable?
What do you think separates Birdie Jo from other swimwear brands?
Birdie Jo’s fit. I have friends size 0-12. Ages 19-42. They all love the suits. I most often hear one of two comments in regards to Birdie Jo - “It’s actually a pleasure to try these on,” and “I get so many compliments when I wear this suit.” Good enough for me!
How did you feel when you released your first collection just four years ago?
We were really excited and knew that we were launching something that was going to be well received.
In which ways has Birdie Jo grown since then?
Birdie Jo is always growing. We have received a ton of press. We had a cover of Fitness magazine, both this year and last. We have been featured in most major fashion magazines such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Lucky. We also had two shots in the Sports Illustrated Swim Issue this year. Over the last few years we have acquired accounts on a global level. Currently, the company is at a really exciting place, and growing at an extreme rate of acceleration.
Did you always believe in the success of Birdie Jo? Were there are ever any moments when you doubted it?
There isn’t any room for doubt. Birdie Jo would never be where it is now if Kate and I hadn’t treated this company as though its success was our absolute and only option.
Where do you see Birdie Jo in five years from now?
With an entire resort range from bikinis to bags and loungewear… Kids… Mens… a whole lifestyle… We will follow Birdie Jo wherever it takes us…
Azura Swimwear would like to thank Rebecca Fink and Kate Richter for taking the time out of their busy schedules to chat with us, and for giving us a little insight into their exciting world.