The Swimwear Chronicles: Phylyda

by Ashley Baker

Lydia Maurer (Photography by Steven Kohlstock)

With experience working at Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy, plus a tenure as creative director at Paco Rabanne, Lydia Maurer was ready to branch out on her own, and launched Phylyda, a line of swim and resort pieces. Maurer relocated to Berlin in 2015 to work on the line (pronounced phil-le-da, from the Greek root phil, for leaf), and continues to put out cohesive collections of classic swimwear with all the technological features that allow the “modern day sensualist” to “dive into life.”

What’s your professional background?
I’ve spent the past ten years designing for different luxury maisons in Paris, such as Rue du Mail by Martine Sitbon, Givenchy and Paco Rabanne. Working for such incredible brands taught me everything and we were putting out fantastically photogenic pieces fit for women with ideal measurements. Growing more mature, I was drawn to working on something which would embrace the fact that our bodies are in constant change…that there is an enormous number of women out there that cannot find beautifully executed and well designed pieces in their size and I wanted to help change that with Phylyda, putting my craft to use for a purpose.

Have you always had a particular interest in swimwear?
I spent my childhood in Mexico City and getting out of town to spend long weekends at beaches or traveling to Colombia,,where my mother is from, was a huge part of my life and I have been carrying these inspiring images in me since. I feel that swimwear is the one piece of clothing that most people associate their best memories with and yet it’s also the piece women fear shopping for the most. I think that this is partly due to the fact that most cool swim brands have a very limited size range and a lack of interest in using the techniques that would make swimwear more flattering- particularly in larger sizes. Offering a range of separates that would foster a feeling of ease and great fit starting in the changing room became my single-minded goal.

What was the first memorable bathing suit you owned?
I remember I bought a super chic navy one-piece with white stripes at the top with a slight boy short cut and a low, square neck with tiny straps that was cut just right when I was 14 with my bowl cut, visiting family in Colombia! The suit was not at all practical for the tropics, nor like what my cousins were wearing, clad in the florals and flashier colors of the 90s, but I felt gloriously 1920’s glamorous. When I grew out of it, as it happens with one-pieces, it was a  painful experience.

What was missing from the swimwear market?
I think that the swimwear market is very segmented: there are the very expensive luxury brands which only offer small sizes and then there are specialized plus brands whose product isn’t chic, qualitative nor modern. What I find least of all modern is this lack of choices in terms of fit and size, and the need to label things as plus size or straight size. Everyone offers ‘Mix & Match’ pieces but this concerns colors or prints and maybe a choice between XS-XL — What about women with larger busts that need support for example? What about women who have a small bust and large hips or vice versa?

How do you integrate technology into your product?
At Phylyda, offering beautiful, comfortable pieces with a truly great fit is my main design priority. Traditional lingerie craftsmanship plays a major role in my collection as it enables us to give maximum support, but technologies such as bonding and ultra-sound techniques offer great complementary benefits, enabling us to avoid thick seam allowances wherever they seem less flattering throughout the collection. Thus, some of our pieces are truly seamless with bonded edges, and others have laser cut and bonded details and tapes which playfully integrate a classic lingerie appearance. Our signature ultra flat, and soft, thermo-welded clasp with three adjustments offers a perfect fit for our bra-sized pieces. Bonded shoulder straps offer firm support with a super smooth look. For the fabrics, they are distinctly sensuous and not too techy, while not compromising on exceptional sculpting, fast drying and SPF 50 properties. I also sourced a lining made of a microencapsulated fiber, containing caffeine which enhances skin texture. This is particularly great for some of our rash guards and bottoms!

What’s it like to run a fashion brand out of Berlin?
My father is from Germany and I had been living in Paris for 16 years and  felt like it was time to reconnect with my origins and to have some family support on hand to dive into my new venture! Berlin is one of the most innovative cities in Europe and it has a dynamic cultural landscape which feeds me enormously. With all its talent and space, Berlin has been a really great base for me to focus on Phylyda. I have found great collaborators and a few good ateliers which are particularly convenient when developing new ideas and when it comes to manufacturing or sourcing. And I’m only 1,5-2,5 hours away from the more classic fashion capitals like Paris or Milan.

Where are you manufacturing the product?
All pieces are made in Italy and Portugal.

Are any retailers on board at this point?
We are starting the sales for our debut collection with our showroom, Barefoot Chic in New York this coming week and then in London and Paris in early July. We will launch the Phylyda online boutique/shop in November.

What are the collection’s key styles?
To facilitate finding the right fit, I grouped all sizes into three body-type categories which speak to specific proportions of the upper and lower body: Petite, Curvy and Voluptuous. Key styles include our Ariane or Bea bikini bottoms which solve the problem of having to compromise between breast support, tummy coverage and a proper bust length adaptability. They can be combined with any top of the collection to provide a contemporary alternative to a traditional one-piece. The Laurel swim dress is a top that provides the comfort of a one-piece while leaving you the choice of bottom style. Concealed hooks will attach to seamless high waist bottoms, creating a single piece. Key tops for Petite women would be the light triangle, Jo, or underwired Kate, which is a discreet push-up top engineered for the most Petite amongst us. My personal favorite for Curvy women would be the plunge neck triangle top India with its tubular straps and it lends great support thanks to its larger under-bust band! For Voluptuous women, I love the balconnet bandeau Pia with a large adjustable underbust band and dainty detachable straps. Rash guards protect shoulders from harmful UV-rays during water sports or shore-side kid-watching. The collection boasts two versatile styles: Mimi, a flattering V-neck wrap top with integrated adjustable bra, and Costa, an athletic top with semi-removable sleeves, featuring our intelligent lining to indulge your skin with smoothing extra care. Versatile sashes can be styled around the waist, neck or shoulders for cocktail hour. The Laurel swim dress features an integrated shelf bra with removable thermo-welded shoulder straps to provide the perfect bust support for every activity.

What’s the story behind your prints?
This idea came about pretty early on in my design process. I was finally able to sketch more generous women’s silhouettes and these sinuous lines inspired me. At the same time, I was inspired by Kimonos from the 1950s so I took these ideas and asked a dear friend from Studio Berçot, illustrator Ayumi Togashi to develop them with her own unique brushstrokes.

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