We had the good fortune of connecting with Denise Foley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Denise, what do you want people to remember about you?
My family is from Brazil & Peru and I grew up with my mother always telling me to love my body. I was raised in a small town in Oregon and my body matured much more earlier than any of my friends, this left me feeling self conscious and embarrassed of how I looked, so I think the root of the motto for Sunset Vibes #lovewhatyougot comes from that experience and all the times my mom would remind me to love myself. As a child, my father took me traveling to see the world and understand first hand that no matter where I came from or what experiences I had earned or been given I was no better than anyone else and that we are all connected. One of my favorite trips was going to the Amazon Rainforest where I saw colors more vivid than I could have ever imagined and saw so many different species ranging from pink dolphins to anteaters. Experiences like this have made me feel connected to this Earth and one of the goals for Sunset Vibes is to bring awareness to deforestation and the effects it has on the planet while giving back to the non profits that are helping to protect and preserve the animals and fauna in the Rain Forest. Sunset Vibes is sustainable in many ways, 100% of the material is made from recycled water bottles and our packaging is biodegradable. I have had people ask me why I chose to make the company sustainable, at the end of the day I believe it is our duty to protect the planet and that all businesses should be thinking about how they can contribute to leave this planet better than how we found it. My goal is for my legacy to be a leader that helped this Earth, helped empower women and educated consumers about the power of purchasing dollars and supporting the right companies.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We want our customers at Sunset Vibes Swimwear to feel like the search for the perfect bikini is over! What separates Sunset Vibes from other swimwear lines, is the way the bikini fits your body. As a woman who has had a DD bra size since high school, I was NEVER able to find a bikini that fit well and was stylish. It didn’t matter how many hours I searched online or how much money I spent, the bikinis were never supportive enough and I would have major side boob. I’d always experience neck or shoulder pain from the straps. In addition, many times the bikini bottoms would cut into my hips and create a mini muffin top that wasn’t there before. Finding the perfect fit and solution was not easy. The vetting process for our developers and manufacturers has taken over 1 year. There were companies I came across that promoted themselves as companies who knew how to create swimwear that fits well, so I would work with them and after a few months would realize they didn’t have an advanced knowledge of swimwear creation and there was room for improvement, so I continued looking for the right people. I was not going to settle for anything short of my vision to have an amazing bikini that is comfortable, supportive, sexy and stylish. I went through 6 developers and vetted over 12 manufacturing companies before finding the right people to work with. Through my journey of discovery, I was able to procure a team who is literally the best in the industry. The person who is helping me with the tops and bottoms is a globally renowned expert for underwire construction and has created pieces for companies like Cosabella and shape wear for celebrities like Kim K. & Cindy Crawford. The manufacturers I work with are women owned companies and manufacture swim for some of the biggest names in the fashion industry. I have learned it’s so important to work with partners who understand the pain points women have had when shopping for swimswuits and also understand the need for support and quality. One of my biggest and most powerful assets is my mom, Nerida. She immigrated to L.A. from Peru when she was 16 and has been a pattern maker since the 60s! In her career she has worked and created patterns for Gaga Gabour, xoxo & rampage (huge brands in the 90s), Beyonce, Leon Bridges, haute couture designers and many high profile companies that are sold in big retailers. Aside from her experience, she has a special eye for fit & the ability to construct patterns so the fit is just right. The pattern is the most important piece when creating new products…it’s the blue print for how something will be created and how it will ultimately look on someone. An added bonus is that she always provides me with honest feedback and has so many innovative ideas. It’s been so much fun working with her. With my team, we have created supportive features built into the bikinis that you can’t see with your eye. The features provide natural lift and are comfortable to wear all day. The material we use is stretchier and more sturdier that what you usually see in swimwear, this is a great feature because it enables the bikinis to be super functional without comprising style. Our material is made from recycled water bottles, we source from Repreve, who is an industry leader in eco-friendly and sustainable high quality materials. I’m very proud that I created Sunset Vibes to provide a solution for the person who is searching for the perfect supportive bikini, that doesn’t sacrifice comfort or style! In addition, Sunset Vibes is a 100% sustainable swimwear line, that’s women and minority owned, it’s made in Los Angeles (to lower the carbon footprint) but inspired by the beaches of Brazil (I’m half Brazilian)! During a trip to Brazil in 2015, I was struck by how every body type on the beach embraced their bodies! It didn’t matter what age you were, or what body type, women were rocking their bikinis, laying out, playing volleyball, having fun all day on the beach! I wanted to bring this love of one’s body back home. One of the founding mottos of Sunset Vibes is to “#lovewhatyougot.” I want women to feel so amazing in these bikinis, that they embrace and love their bodies, and feel empowered and confident in Sunset Vibes piece. The launch of my own business was by no means easy! I had 16 years of senior corporate partnership & sales experience working with many of the world’s largest brands, but ___________________ My biggest lesson would be to never give up. There were so many times I was hit with a massive roadblock, where it literally felt like walls were caving in on me because the situation was out of my control, whether it was a legal issue, social media issue, website issue, manufacturing issue or anything else! As a business owner you wear so many hats, you just have to figure it out each day and never give up! It can be challenging mental and emotional roller coaster, but I have learned that this is all part of the learning process and to be patient. Tenacity and perseverance have been my greatest allies to pushing forward. And also knowing when to take a step back, decompress and regroup when the time is needed. I want women to truly feel empowered in their bikinis & embrace their bodies and truly love how they feel, all while supporting a business that has sustainable practices, that gives back to the Earth & community. My greatest success story was seeing a customer wearing our Zuma bikini top, that provides underwire support and is so light. I coincidentally ran into her on the street and she was wearing the bikini top with her leggings, she came up to me and told me that it was the first time in her life (she’s 38) she had gone out in public wearing a bikini top and pants, exposing her midriff, that the top was so supportive and comfortable it empowered her to enjoy the summer day, call up her friend to meet for lunch and rock a bikini because she felt so good, she was glowing! This literally makes my heart sing and is the epitome of what Sunset Vibes is out to accomplish.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend were coming into town I would spend one day cruising up the PCH and stopping for a fried fish sandwich at Malibu Fish Mart then head to Puerco Canyon Beach or Broad Beach to soak up the sun, walk on the beach and play in the ocean. On our way home we would stop at Rosenthal Winery Tasting room (right by Topanga & PCH) and try a flight of wine, sit on their outdoor patio and enjoy the ocean breeze and views of the Topanga Beach sunset and maybe catch one of their awesome 90s cover bands playing live! The next day we would definitely hit up a brunch spot, my favorite in Los Angeles is a hidden gem called Inn of the 7th Ray. The food is all sustainably/locally sourced, organic and the service is amazing. The entire restaurant is outside in a forest with fountains, so it’s really fun to go and sit there for a few hours. They serve an amazing coffee drink, Spiced Coffee that I get every time I go. After brunch I can walk to yy favorite stores, Hidden Treasures and Pebbles both also in Topanga Canyon. Hidden Treasures has the funkiest, coolest and unique vintage pieces. Pebbles is a really cute boutique with functional and stylish bohemian clothing. It’s the perfect attire for living by the beach! For dinner that night I would go to the Whaler in Venice. The Whaler may have a reputation as a party spot, but they currently have the BEST baja fish tacos in Los Angeles and have recently taken the crown from Playa Provisions. Of course I would have to take my guest to get amazing Mexican food while they were visiting. I have 2 go to’s: Lula’s & Tacos Por Favor, both in Santa Monica. Lula’s is a family owned restaurant that has been on Main Street for around 30 years and the decor is bright and beautiful with lots of color. The food is so delicious and they offer a choice of traditional entrees that are fresh and tasty! They also make their own pineapple infused tequila served on the rocks. It’s a great night cap to end the day. Tacos por Favor has an outstanding chili relleno burrito and in my opinion, the best crunchy tacos in L..A. Other fave food spots are Stella Barra for pizza and Superba for brunch.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people and experiences that have helped push me along, it’s so hard to share one, so here’s a brief snapshot of some of the people who have helped or motivated me along the way! I realized at a Daybreaker excursion in Cuba that it was time for me to leave my corporate career and take the plunge to launch my own business. Radha and Miki Agrawal are 2 of the co-founders and also unapologetically paving the way for businesses who do good. My mom has been there with me every step of the way of launching my business, she’s an amazing pattern maker (she’s done work for Beyonce, GaGa Gabour, etc) and has helped me in vetting out materials and a lot of the behind the scenes tasks of running a swimwear company. My friends, who are also business owners, Kirstyn & Suzanne. When you’re launching a business it can be scary, intimidating and filled with “What the F Am I Doing” moments. These 2 ladies have responded to all my texts asking for help and advice and it’s been amazing to have a connected network of people who care and are there for me. Thanks Kirstyn & Suzanne!! Ruth Bader Ginsberg – there have been times where I felt so overwhelmed, but when I start to feel that way I think of all the things RBG achieved and did in her life, she worked diligently while taking care of her ill husband, going to school full time for the both of them and overcame so many challenges/obstacles. She is a motivation to me for perseverance & tenacity.