With just small pieces of fabric and a grandmother’s sewing machine, Catalina Alvarez and Mariana Hinestroza began Agua Bendita, a worldwide recognized Colombian swimwear line.
The brand—now known for prints and colorful designs— will show their collection at this year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2014 at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach with a runway show featuring their new collection, “Time for Us.”
The designers, both 32, met at a fashion design program but neither of them had big dreams of becoming famous fashion designers, Alavarez said.
“When we first met, our focus was not designing,” she said. “We signed up for the fashion design program to see if it was something for us. All we cared about was friends and partying. We were just 19.”
But all that changed when someone gave them several bags of lycra remnants.
“We didn’t know what to do with them,” Alvarez said. “The pieces were so small so we ended up creating patchworks and decided to make bathing suits out of them.“
The two began sewing their bathing suits at home. They would put the suits in a small suitcase, and sold them among their friends and family.
When the demand for their designs became overwhelming, the pair dropped out of college, just three semesters shy of graduation.
“We saw what was happening, and it was the right time for us,” said Alvarez, who began working full-time for the line.
“Everyone around us thought it was an act of rebellion against our parents, but none the less they supported our dream to want to give our designs a chance,” she said.
Today, Agua Bendita can be found in over 50 countries worldwide. To meet their demand for handmade bathing suits, they employ more than 700 underprivileged, low resource women in Colombia, who work on their bathing suits from their homes.
“We both feel truly blessed, all that’s been happening up to now is truly a blessing,” said Alvarez.
Since their first Miami Swim show in 2006, their designs have been frequently used by Sports Illustrated models such as Leonardo DiCaprio’s ex-girlfriend, Bar Rafaeli; Victoria Secret Angels, Irina Shayk and Izabel Goulart; and most recently by Kendall Jenner, who is representing this year’s line.
“Kendall is a leader among her peers all over the world,” Alvarez said. “We focused on her because we knew she was a big fan of the brand, we love her energy and her spirit.”
The pair insist that they began from zero but took every opportunity presented to them.
“We have worked very hard to be where we are, we never imagined we would get this far. Never,” Alvarez said. “But we are working hard to achieve bigger goals and dreams.”