After growing up as childhood friends in Sydney, Australia, Rosie Ward and Alicia Whillas moved to New York to study fashion at FIT. Twelve years later, their swimwear line, Ward Whillas, is charming the fashion set with its reversible silhouettes, high-tech fabrics, and flattering shapes. Ward and Whillas explain the genesis of the brand, which has launched at Net-a-Porter and Opening Ceremony.
What are your professional backgrounds?
We both studied fashion design at FIT, and have been sewing and making things for ourselves since we were kids. Rosie [Ward] used to work for companies including The Row, R13, Proenza Schouler. Alicia [Whillas] designed accessories at Marc Jacobs.
What did you feel was missing in the swimwear market?
We realized that there was a lack of innovation in the swimwear category. Coming from technical backgrounds, we are really inspired by new technologies and the possibilities they allow. Noticing that no other brands were applying these new innovations, such as heat-sealed technology and technical fabrications that are prevalent in high-performance active sportswear, to the fashion swimwear category, we decided to take it upon ourselves to fulfill this gap.
What inspired the creation of Ward Whillas?
Our ongoing inspiration and the challenge we have set for ourselves is to bring fashion swimwear into the 20th century. We have a desire to create something new and exciting in the swimwear market—a category that hasn’t changed since the ’70s.
What are the aesthetic signatures of your brand?
All our pieces are reversible, offering two looks in one suit. We have a signature “zig-zag” tape that symbolizes the ‘Ws’ in Ward Whillas, and you can find this on our custom straps, necklines, and taped seams. We also designed custom heat-sealed labels and rubberized hardware. Every little detail is thoroughly thought through and labored over until it adheres to our design philosophy—to design high-quality, flattering, timeless, beautiful pieces that have been thoughtfully constructed using high-performance fabrications and bonding technology.
What’s so unique about your fabric?
Our Italian-sourced fabric is first and foremost, sculpting. It also has quick-dry, wicking and UV-protectant qualities and is resistant to chlorine and body lotions. It’s a super fabric! Working with a fabric as special as this allows us to create high-performance swimsuits, while adhering to our design aesthetic.
Your seams are really unusual.
All of our seams are ultra-sonic-welded, which means that they are joined together using high-frequency sound, and then bonded with heat and pressure using a custom Ward Whillas tape.
What are your favorite beaches, and how do you like to spend time there?
Our favorite beach is Bondi in Sydney. We grew up spending a lot of time here and have many fond memories. Every trip back to Sydney includes long days of swimming and sunning on Bondi, followed by sunset cocktails in the surrounding restaurants and catching up with old friends.