Suit Up! A Q&A With Calavera Swimwear Designer Anna Jerstrom

July 3, 2012 | By | Comments (1)

Finally! Really warm weather is upon us. Whether your summer plans include shredding serious waves or just kicking back in the sand, Anna Jerstrom’s line of hyper-functional swimwear, Calavera, has got you covered. But not too covered to soak up some sun.

Perhaps the unlikeliest candidate ever to become a  swimsuit designer, Anna left a job in finance in rainy London to do just that. Now a Costa Rica based surfer, her stylish line reflects a life of surf and sun. Hours of innovation and trial and error went into creating suits with zero bulk that won’t slip, sag, or slide no matter how hard you play (no rash guard required). My favorite “how-did-no-one-think-of-this-before” development? A discreet ring that tucks inside your top to hold your keys, which means you don’t need to leave anything behind on the beach.

Anna, in one of her own suits, now enjoys a different type of “board meeting.

Anna recently gave me some insight on her refreshing new take on life—and filled me with envy…

Q&A with Anna Jerstrom, Founder & Designer, Calavera

What inspired you to move to Costa Rica? Where did you find the courage?
I was working 12-hour days in my investment banking job in London, and by late fall I realized I had vacation days accumulated that would expire by the end of the year, so I decided to go to Costa Rica and give surfing a go. I travelled with a friend to a surf camp and the first day we were grouped with somewhat experienced surfers. The instructors decided to take us out to the real waves rather than train in the white water by the shore, as is customarily done for newbies, so the whole group could stay together. It was such hard work paddling that massive 10-foot board through the breaking waves but I finally got out with a lot of help from my instructor, Alvaro. After taking a long time to catch my breath Alvaro asked me to turn around and start paddling. As the wave rose behind us he pushed me in to it and shouted “UUUUP!” I popped up on the board like it was all I had ever done and my heart exploded. I fell in love that very moment and there was no going back. It wasn’t even a case of being courageous, I had found the love of my life and there was no way I was going to let it go. I went back to London, resigned from my job, packed my bags, and moved to Costa Rica.

How did end up designing swimwear?
I had always been a hobby designer, but it would take me months to finish a piece since I had such a demanding job and very little free time. When I went to Costa Rica, with my sewing machine in tow, I thought I was going to return to my old lifestyle at some point so I was making loads of work suits and dresses when I wasn’t surfing that I never got to use. Making bikinis made so much more sense, since I basically live in them.

What was the innovation design process like? How did you realize exactly what needed to be altered to make the swimsuits better?
Making a suit that works required a bit of creative thinking. Because I had no formal training in swimwear design I was not restricted by the typical standards and I started experimenting with non-traditional materials and solutions. It was clear to me that the problem was the elastic nature of the fabric, so I started putting fillers inside parts like the spaghetti string and the under bust band to make it tighter. I simultaneously retained the stretch in other areas that didn’t pose problems in order to preserve comfort. There was a lot of trial and error, and a lot of wardrobe malfunctions in the water while testing the suits, but eventually I ended up with a killer bikini that allowed me to focus on my surfing without the constant tugging and adjusting. It made a world of difference in my performance! I have heard other Calavera girls tell me stories about trying on their old suits and the message seems to be that once you go Calavera you can’t go back. They are so comfortable, practical and flattering that beyond surfing I often wear them instead of a bra, instead of a training top for active sports, and instead of my old bikinis at pool parties and on beach days.

More of Anna’s designs, hard at work.

Finally, is there anything you miss about your previous life and line of work? Are you still connected to it at all?
I miss my designer shoes; I love the surfer lifestyle but there is not a lot of room for high heels on dirt roads and sandy beaches.

Thanks to Anna for talking with us! Now, tell us in the comments: Do you surf or participate in other water sports?