In the middle of the pandemic-driven lockdown, like-minded creatives Bianca Ubeda and Rocco Valentine quietly launched a sustainable swimwear label, Inez Valentine Swimwear, out of New York City.
The cofounders, who went to school together in Boston, desired a versatile swimwear label that offered luxurious, sustainable designs fit for the on-the-go NYC-woman with a mission rooted in community, philanthropy and their Latina and queer identities.
After working on the wholesale side of the fashion industry for many years, Ubeda, a first-generation Latina American (her parents immigrated to New York from Paraguay), saw a widespread lack of diversity and concern for sustainability. Valentine, a queer man from Long Island Sound who has worked as a stylist for brands such as Urban Outfitters, Reformation and more over the last eight years, too desired to create something with a sustainable core. Over a meal at The Butcher’s Daughter in November 2019, the duo dreamed up their future swimwear label, Inez Valentine Swimwear.
The pandemic hit simultaneously with their manufacturing search; although it was a difficult time to source production, Valentine and Ubeda soon found a women-run, sustainable development studio in Los Angeles, which soon became their first product partner. “It was a blessing in disguise that we found them through all of this,” Valentine remarked over Zoom.
In July, the duo soft-launched Inez Valentine Swimwear’s first collection of luxe, sustainable swimwear designed from recycled water bottles found in the ocean (each piece is made up of 26 percent regenerated high Clo spandex and 74 percent recycled PET). The initial double-lined, seamless styles include a halter-style maillot, high leg, high-waisted bikini bottoms and two versatile bikini tops in a range of muted, playful colors — bone, juniper green, calypso blue and peony — in sizes extra small to large. Designed for the New York girl on the go, the styles were designed to pair back to ready-to-wear for a beach-to-street look seamlessly, with a sharp price point ($180 for maillots, $90 for bikini separates) to boot. Valentine noted that the brand is fully sustainable, from its packaging to production to fabrics and hopes to further these endeavors through deadstock fabrics in the future and closer manufacturing.
In addition to a sustainable core, a focus on community and giving back was of utmost importance to the cofounders.
“We really want it to be so much more than a swim brand, we want it to be a community that just so happens to have really cute swim,” Valentine remarked.
Upon its July launch, the emerging brand immediately gave back to Black Lives Matter foundations; every month, the brand’s goal is to give back to other foundations — surrounding mental health, sustainability, inclusivity, women of color, and more — while collaborating with and spotlighting like-minded creatives on their e-commerce’s “IV Journal” and social media platforms.
Twenty twenty-one serves as Inez Valentine Swimwear’s larger launch, with new styles ahead that resonate with the brand’s ethos of challenging the boundaries of luxury sustainable fabrics while delivering a new perspective on women’s wear style, celebrating the female form and giving back to the community.