INTRODUCING: MEI L’ANGE
New York-based swimwear label Mei L’ange launched in 2016 introducing a range of statement, contemporary pieces – adorned from abstract motifs to edgy hardware – made using extraordinarily soft and fine premium fabrics. The company is helmed by Soni Borcar, a graphic designer by training, and collections are designed by Eefje Sarah Dierickx, who has studied at the ArtEZ Academy of Art & Design Arnhem and then the prestigious Central Saint Martins, and went on to work as a womenswear designer for labels the likes of Calvin Klein, Isabel Marant, Preen, alice + olivia and COS. We sat down with the creative duo to discuss the design process and inspiration, and future plans for expansion.
Tell us about your background and what you led you to launch Mei L’ange.
Soni Borcar: I always had a great attraction to the ocean, having grown up within walking distance to the beach; that is my happy place. The past few years, I’ve personally struggled to find good swimwear that is stylish, trendy and young, yet offers me modest coverage. There are brands out there that are trying to offer this, but either the prices are fairly high or the styles are plain. I have a creative background in graphic design and a deep love for fashion. A conversation with Eefje Sarah, a talented and experienced designer, led to the creation to Mei L’ange, with the simple goal of offering the very swimsuits that we (and a lot of our friends) have struggled to find.
The story began in 2016 – and continues happily, because this is only the beginning.
Your brand’s head designer started building her career in fashion working in womenswear. How was the transition to swimwear? Were there any challenges you had to deal with?
Eefje Sarah Dierickx: When I met with the owners of Mei L’ange, they asked me to design a few pieces of swimwear. I happen to love a challenge and like to dive into something new. I always start with doing a lot of research, by going to swimwear shops, speaking to a lot of women to find out what they are missing, and, of course, looking at competitors.
To be quite honest, it s not completely different from designing clothes, as I am always designing with the women’s body in mind. The main challenge is to make sure she feels comfortable and good in her swimsuit, as it’s easier to make somebody feel good in a dress and cover up more where needed. With swimwear you can’t do this; you have to be careful where you show more or less skin, and keep many different body types in mind when you design.
From graphic prints to timeless silhouettes how has been your inspiration been shaped?
ESD: It sounds like a strange combination, as, most of the times, timeless and graphic prints don’t seem to go hand in hand for some people. As my influence always comes from architecture or graphic posters from the 60s, there is a certain minimal effect when you combine the two. When I design, I try to keep in mind what kind of print could work with this to balance it out. In my opinion, graphic prints tend to have something timeless: the streamlined shapes and placement gives them something modern but, at the same time, creates an illusion of a smaller figure.
To what extent do your personal preferences in swimwear influence your design decisions?
ESD: It influences my designs for the most part, as when I design, I need to want to wear it myself as well. I am a very passionate designer, and find it difficult to create something that I am not connected with.
What is your relationship with trends? How do you find balance between keeping up with trends and establishing your own style?
ESD: It’s important to be aware of what is going on. In the end, it needs to sell as well. Consumers are getting influenced by all the images on social media, commercials, magazines or even by window shopping. They are more aware of trends now than they used to be, and they better know, because of this, what they want. I have to play along, but always stay faithful to their own image and taste. A designer can still give it their own swing by, for example, using their signature print or hardware, as we still need to differentiate from our competitors.
Where are your products made? Is production location important to you?
ESD: Currently, the product is planned and developed in New York, and production is done overseas. We would eventually want to move production locally to the US. The problem we face at the moment is the high cost to produce locally – we want to keep the garment affordable yet offering the best quality in fabric.
How important is including all women’s shapes and sizes when designing?
ESD: Very important! It’s one of the most important things and differences when you design swimwear comparing to women’s clothing. My aim is to design for different sizes and shapes, and give all women confidence by using the right cutouts on the right places and giving the right coverage where needed, but still make them feel sexy and feminine. There are different styles with different customers in mind.
Do you see yourself expanding in a men’s- or kids’ swimwear collection, or perhaps beachwear accessories?
SB: We surely want to expand as we grow. We plan to start by adding cover-up and resort wear to the women’s line, and expand to the kids line. But over time. Right now we just want to ensure we are offering the finest product with the perfect fit.
What are you currently working on and what are your future plans?
SB: We are currently working on the Resort 2018 and Spring/Summer 2018 Collection. We will be participating in the Miami Swim Week in July at the Hammock Show. We hope to have a successful season, and hope the brand continues to evolve.
Images © Mei L’ange