Gallery: Hannah Reed [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Rebecca Parsons
July 5, 2017 marks 71 years since the bikini first made its debut in 1946. In the late 1800s women’s swimwear consisted of bathing costumes, which were essentially conservative dresses. By the 1910s a more form-fitting suit was introduced in an effort to enhance athletic performance. In the 1940s, World War II called for fabric rationing, inspiring the introduction of a two-piece suit that revealed a sliver of skin at the waistline. Then, on July 5, 1946, French engineer, Louis Réard made history by designing the world’s first bikini. Réard received much criticism for his revealing design and women who chose to indulge in his suit were looked down on, but by the 1960s the bikini became the suit of choice.
Since its introduction some 70-years-ago, the bikini has experienced much celebration as well as criticism. Styles and cuts have changed over the years and today’s options include classic cuts, athletic styles, and even retro pieces that date back to earlier times. While the bikini has drastically evolved over the years, it has yet to plateau—the future of the iconic piece of women’s swimwear lies in the hands of the younger generation.
Meet Hannah Reed
The 18-year-old entrepreneur hails from San Clemente, California, a stone’s throw from the beloved surf beach of T-street. Reed grew up on the water: surfing, swimming, and participating in junior lifeguards. A swimsuit became her uniform of choice and as she grew older, she discovered that fit and pricing weren’t in line with her standards, so she decided to make one of her own.
“I found it hard to find the perfect swimwear that was both affordable and fit the way I liked it. Most of the bikinis I liked were $200+ for the set and my mother wasn’t going to buy those, so I decided to try and make them myself.”
Reed was enrolled in a college and career class at San Clemente High School and began using her time to research how to make swimwear. She watched countless YouTube videos, read sewing manuals, and even took apart old suits for inspiration.
“I asked my mom to drive me to the LA garment district to search for some fabric,” Reed recalls. “It was so exciting to see all the fabric stores lining the streets. I wanted to make a red bikini first because red is my favorite color. I only purchased a couple yards of each fabric because I had to pay my mom back with the money from my sales.”
After several tries, Reed was satisfied with the sizing of her first red bikini. She then set out to make suits in difference sizes, which required a lot of patience and practice, but eventually paid off.
“My freshman year I only made bikini bottoms because everyone mixes and matches their suits. I sold them for $35 and they were gone in two hours,” Reed says. “That’s when I knew I had a great business model.”
Each day after school, Reed would rush home to her sewing machine to work on her suits. After perfecting her bottoms, she added additional styles and eventually added tops and one-pieces to her collection.
Word of her cute and affordable suits spread and Reed made numerous sales through referrals, trunk sales, and social media. In March, 2016, the spring of her junior year, Reed officially launched her website, Hannah Reed Swimwear.
The company is unique as it is entirely focused on the suitability and specifications of the buyer. Reed understands that every individual is unique and strives to customize her suits to fit women of all body types.
“No two bodies are the same and a small, medium, or large bathing suit does not always fit one person or another properly in all the right places’” Reed says. “People should feel confident and comfortable in whatever they are wearing, especially while being active in the water.”
When you visit Reed’s website, you first select the style suit you want and then the color and print of your choice. For no additional cost, you can customize your suit requesting additional coverage or specific string colors, so that the suit is exactly the way you want it. To top it off, many of the bikinis are reversible, providing you with the option to mix and match to your heart’s content.
The young seamstress acknowledges that bikinis can be expensive, so she sets her prices based on the amount of time it takes her to make the suit, while keeping her prices low enough to beat competitors. Her bottoms range in price from $45-$55, while her tops are anywhere from $45-$85.
“Not everyone can afford to buy a bikini for two hundred dollars,” Reed says. “I feel that people shouldn't have to break the bank to buy an appealing bikini.”
Reed’s suits are designed for everyone, but her main audience is girls ages 14 to 30. She makes styles perfect for surfing or volleyball, or simply for lounging on the beach.
In addition to being a full-time student and a business owner, Reed is the founder and president of the Entrepreneur Club at her high school.
“As founder of the Entrepreneurs Club, I hope to inspire other students to turn their ideas into a reality like I did with my business,” Reed says.
In 2015, Reed and four other club members entered a Hype Global Youth startup competition. They created a Memory Optimizing Manager to assist with memory loss and won the finals at the World Expo in Milan, Italy for their design. For their efforts, the young entrepreneurs won a scholarship and mentorship with the European Alliance for Innovation, helping them to connect with investors, business developers, and global corporate executives in order to bring their product to the market. They currently have a patent pending.
“It had nothing to do with swimwear, but it taught me hands-on business experience in researching competitors, product cost, marketing strategies, sales, insurance programs, revenue stream, publicity and fundraising,” Reed says of the experience. “I’ve immersed myself into the business world and hope to accomplish great things in my life.”
As Reed wraps up her senior year at San Clemente High, she has her sights set on the future. She plans to attend college and pursue a business degree with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. She intends to bring her sewing machine with her and continue to make suits and expand her business while earning her degree.
As far as her business is concerned, Reed plans to someday manufacture her swimsuits in a US warehouse as well as add clothing to her ever expanding line. She hopes to be featured in numerous swim collectives and is already set to be featured in Seventeen Magazine’s June 2017 issue.
“I’d like to spend my time designing more and sewing less, although I do find sewing very therapeutic,” Reed says of the future. “It’s a great feeling to create a finished product that you know someone is going to enjoy wearing.”
At only 18-years-old, Reed already has an impressive resume backed by hard work and determination. Keep your eyes peeled, Hannah Reed Swimwear is going places. b
Visit hannahreedswimwear.com to view and/or order bikinis.