This New Line of Swimwear Is Turning the Tide on the Risqué Bikini Trend
Photo: Courtesy of Mayan Toledano
Bikini or maillot? That’s usually what separates one kind of bathing suit fanatic from another. And yet swimwear designer Maayan Sherris is proposing a third way, one that’s far more nuanced and layered in the most literal sense. Launched in 2016, her line, Babes in Bathers, blows up the traditional notion of swimwear beyond the trendy itsy-bitsy proportions. In fact, what you’ll find in her new collection isn’t too far removed from an everyday summer wardrobe: Think, a cropped dandelion yellow tank top or a mint green dress—both with a flirty ruffle trim. (Sherris often gets asked if her swimwear can be worn off the beach in the same way as regular clothing, which indeed it can be.) Sometimes, her designs even come with layers built in, like the fuchsia tank that comes over a quarter-length pale pink shirt. The colors look like the inside of a Crayola box, a rainbow of lollipop and pastel hues. Though beach goths need not despair: Babes in Bathers also offers full-coverage pieces in black.
Sherris, 30, whose first name “Maayan” means “fresh water” in Hebrew, developed an interest in fashion growing up on a kibbutz in Israel. In order to stand out from the other children, she began sewing and customizing her own wardrobe. Sherris later studied fashion design in high school and moved to the United States to attend Parsons, where she began experimenting with the idea of swim. “Working with different body types in fittings got me thinking about how to make clothes that were truly functional,” Sherris says. “I wanted to design clothing that moved with the body rather than just hanging on it.”
While her new designs might seem geared towards style-conscious rather than serious swimmers, don’t be fooled: The pieces hold their own when it comes to performance. Just ask the surfers who have wear-tested her suits. “Working closely with the communities in Rockaway, selling in person, fitting locally, and listening to what they have to say has been a crucial part in building Babes as a personable sportswear company,” she says. “It’s important for me to learn from the active lifestyle communities around me to improve every season and grow with them. Every year I try and go to a place I haven’t been before to hear from the people who swim there.”
Her pool of market-research participants is pretty impressive. Last season for her lookbook, she collaborated with India’s Olympic swim team no less. “They gave me insight on where seams should be, what’s comfortable, and what’s not. They taught me what a ‘drag suit’ is, which offers extra resistance from the water while you train,” says Sherris. “I adapted this drag suit and interpreted it in the cuts and fit of my collection.” The resulting training suits are what she calls “Swim Jammers;” they resemble cycling shorts and are worn by both men and women. If Sherris could dress anyone in the world though, it would have to be Katie Ledecky, the recording-breaking American athlete who has won more Olympic gold medals (five) and World Championships (14) than any other female swimmer in history. “She’s so fast. I’m dying to see how my suits hold up with her speed,” says Sherris. “I need her to answer my DM!”