Kathleen Bruening Designer Interview On How Her Swimwear Was Launched By Kate Upton


Swimsuit season is almost here (sigh!) and who best to go to for some swim-spiration, than designer Kathleen Bruening of Kate Swim. The Hawaiian born and raised, Bruening is behind the seams of some of the hottest swimsuits featured on the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, that look equally as good on bombshell models, as they do hugging the curves of ‘real’ women (trust us, we have tried them). Dive into the dressing room!

Real Style: How did growing up in Hawaii inspire you as a designer?

Kathleen Bruening: The Hawaiian girl inspired me the most. Hawaii is very much a surfing culture, so I wanted to go beyond that and create swimsuits with a fashion edge, that are still usable in water; you can jump in and your top won’t fly off, which is always a good thing…especially with those waves.

RS: What’s been your favourite appearance of Kate Swim in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?

KB: I loved the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover. I think Kate Upton just looks effortless and this really was the launch of Kate Swim. It turned a hometown girl, who was designing in the second bedroom of her apartment, into a bonafide company—which is still mind-blowing to me. My second favourite look actually came out this year; a two-page spread with Nina Agdal and she looks like a complete, hot, badass. She’s sitting on a beach, the wind is in her hair, and the water is blue and perfect.

RS: Why did you move to Las Vegas?

KB: Something just drew me. I moved here in 2011, a year before we landed the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. That bikini fabric was actually bought at a tiny fabric store here—an independently owned mom and pop shop—so if I wasn’t in Vegas, I might not have done the cover that year. I miss home though, obviously. I go back as often as humanly possible.

RS: How did you get noticed by Sports Illustrated?

KB: I owned a few different companies at the time and for one, I did open-air, farmers markets. The lady beside me at the market was actually submitting designs for Sports Illustrated. We knew each other for years and I always brought her pictures of swimsuits I made for clients and one day she looked at me and said, “You’re finally ready,” and flipped me a little piece of paper across the table. It had nothing on it but the Sports Illustrated address. From there I started submitting random pieces I thought they would like. The very first year Sports Illustrated featured us online, I didn’t even recognize my swimsuit. My first thought was, “Hey, I designed one just like that. How dare someone steal my design,” and then I was like, “Wait, that is my design.”

RS: What’s your favourite summer getaway?

KB: I love to go back home. Anytime there’s a little break in work, I’m on an airplane. My parents have a six acre farm on the big island of Hawaii. There’s an amazing black sand beach there, that’s really hidden and it has these huge Honu—the green sea turtles—and you can just go lay down and Honu will come start chilling with you. The black sand looks like you’re walking on black diamonds and there are very few people who know about it.  That’s always my favourite getaway.

RS: How do you prep for swim season?

KB: My favourite thing is the sauna and I try to do it every day, if not more. It gives you glowing skin, you feel amazing, and you get an adrenaline rush. Then I like to do a little tanning with spray tan, because I’m probably the whitest Hawaiian you’ll ever see. I also really love to run in the morning. I run anywhere from seven to 10 miles when I’m in shape, to two miles when I’m not.

Stay tuned for part two where we get the latest in swimwear trends from Kate Swim designer, Kathleen Bruening.


Free to join! Get the hottest fashion, beauty and celebrity news, enter exclusive subscriber giveaways and be the first to receive the full digital version of REAL STYLE magazine every month.