Finding a bathing suit that not only fits well, but that also feels elegant on is a challenge that Sara Cristina Villasmil, like many of us, has struggled with, particularly when she went home to Venezuela where it’s endless summer. Her solution, Sara Cristina, is a line of clean, feminine but not-at-all-frilly swimwear. And added plus, Sara’s new atelier in NYC is now open for private appointments, so you can have a chance to meet Sara (she is lovely) and let her help you find a suit that works. (I’m going, I think I need the black maillot below.)
What was your career path prior to launching swimwear and why swimwear? I wanted to be a painter, but I was young and maybe afraid, and I didn’t go for it, so I went to school for communications and I did a minor in visual arts, then I decided to do a master in industrial communications. I got frustrated because I wasn’t happy doing that. I went back home in Venezuela and there my family lives in front of the water. Going to the pool or the beach is one of the things we do the most. During that period, I struggled finding an elegant, clean yet comfortable bikini. So, I decided to create my own.
My mom has an atelier and I used it to make my own bikini. It turned out well and then I did more research and decided to go to Parsons for fashion design.
When I was in New York, I partnered with my brother David De Lima who has a very innovative mind and we founded Sara Cristina together. He is responsible for the marketing and I’m in charge of the design process.
Finding the right bathing suit isn’t easy… what do you want women to feel when they put on a Sara Cristina bathing suit? I want them to feel confident, comfortable, elegant and beautiful. I’m a woman and I know how hard it is because you’re exposed. We’re very self conscious. A bathing suit needs to be part of you; if you don’t feel comfortable, then you shouldn’t wear it. Obviously all of us have different tastes, but I always make one that is black, that I know different sizes will feel comfortable in.
What should a good bathing suit do for you? It should enhance your body. It should be wearable, beautiful and make you feel comfortable.
What inspires your designs? I love fabrics. When I see a fabric and touch it, it tells me so much about what I want to do. We’ve been trying to find sustainable fabrics and it was hard because the options are limited, but now we found this brand, Econyl, that uses regenerated Nylon, and they’re amazing. I’m excited because this collection is a hundred percent sustainable.
What do you love about summer? Summer is the best season for me. It’s also all I knew growing up in Venzuela. I’m from the summer, it is my habitat. I think summer gives you an energy and I also love the smell, the light and of course that you can wear a bikini.
What are your five beach day essentials? A Sara Cristina bikini or a one piece. I think a one piece is super important to have, for me a black one piece that you feel comfortable in, because our bodies change so much–one day we’re bloated, one day it’s something else. So many things can happen to us that change the way we feel and the way we look and we need to be comfortable. Then a hat, a white or light blue big button-down shirt, Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses and sunscreen.
You just opened your first showroom—what is it like? What will you offer to clients there? It feels like you are in the Caribbean but in the middle of NYC. It’s elegant, comfortable and private. We take our clients by appointment, as I believe swimwear selection is a very private experience for many women.
Women who inspire you: My mom has inspired me a lot. She tells me things that no one else will. The first time I did a bathing suit she actually stretched it out in a way that it broke. And she said, “Okay, this doesn’t work. You have to keep going. You have to keep doing it.” I was sewing it myself and that’s how I learned. So I admire that she tries to challenge me.
I also love Georgia O’Keeffe and the fact that she did so much during her time. I love painting and water color and she has beautiful water color paintings.
Three words that describe your company: Tasteful, conscious, sensual.
Three words that describe you: Optimistic, joyful, creative.
What came easiest for you in the beginning when you launched the collection? Since I was child, I saw my mom sewing and creating dresses. I was always very curious and involved. This experience helped me have knowledge and a better understanding of the finishes of a well-done garment. Moreover, the beautiful complicity of starting a business with my brother made us realize the potential we had. We live together and all we do is work passionately day and night.
Hardest part of starting out that no one warned you about? I started not knowing how difficult it would be. Now I see that innocence was a good thing. There are so many parts in this business that I had no idea how they worked. Also, I started in NYC and I didn’t know anyone when I came here.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: Perseverance and understanding what makes me different.
Best career advice you received: To believe in myself and to be perseverant.
What motivates you? To be better every day, to create a meaningful company, to help my seamstresses so they can also keep doing what they love.
Life goals: I want my company to keep growing to empower through design, to keep creating with a meaning. To have a family.
Daily goals: Every night I make a to-do list and I try to accomplish as much as I can the next day. I always include a workout in my list.
Favorite inspirational/motivational read: I love reading about painters and their creative process. That always motivates me to create or explore with colors. A few nights ago I bought a book called Textiles of Japan and I’m obsessed with it.
Favorite sites/people you follow: I love Chairish, I can spend hours searching for vintage furniture and I love having all my favorites saved. On Instagram right now I’m into @sculpting_in_time, @equator and @jimsandkittys.
Daily rituals: I wake up every morning and I practice a few minutes of gratitude in my bed. I try to remember the good things I have or that happened that week or the day before. Then, I have a cup of lemon and warm water, after that a black coffee that always gets me very inspired.
How do you unplug: A warm bath and music. If I’m able to unplug for a longer period of time I paint or draw. It is my favorite thing to do.
Favorite small indulgence: I have to have chocolate every day. Either Lindt 70% dark or Italian Baci–I love the messages inside them. Last week I had one that said, “The best thing in life are friends, but much better is a friend with Chocolate.” And it was by Charles Dickens. I thought it was funny.
Hidden talent/hobby: I love painting and I was the best student in my Japanese class. I minored in Japanese at school; my Japanese is much better than my English!
Album currently on repeat: I love Rosalia. I can listen to her all day. Also, we have 3 playlists at Sara Cristina’s Spotify that are on repeat wherever I go. One I created with my brother and the other 2 are from two friends that inspire me and I asked them during quarantine to delight us with good music. [Links to playlists are here, here & here.]
Favorite hour of the day: After my coffee in the morning, when I feel that I can do anything so eight am, nine am. I just wish that time could be longer. I get very inspired and use it to do challenging things like that email that I don’t want to answer or a difficult challenge I need to resolve, because I know during that moment I can do it.
A perfect summer day involves? Seeing the sunset by the water.
Follow Sara Cristina: Instagram.