A few weeks ago I wrote about my latest Made in the USA find, Popina. The designer and co-owner of Popina is Pamela Levenson. She recently answered a few questions for me about her design career and the influence of the past on what she creates.
1. Were you interested in fashion as a child? Did it ever enter your mind that you would grow up to design swimsuits?
I have always loved fashion and dreamed my whole life of having my own line and boutique. I never really dreamed that my outlet would be swimwear, but a lot of weird coincidences kept pushing me to spandex. For example, I worked at a swimwear boutique that cut and sewed swimwear to order in college (never dreaming of doing it on my own) – but drawing on that background proved to be helpful! I also randomly worked at a company that sold swimwear fabric when I first moved to Portland and bought an industrial serger from a customer. When I could not find a suit I loved in Portland in the wintertime, I had the materials, the machine and the basic know how and that was my start.
2. Do you sew?
I do sew, I originally did all of the Popina production myself and I still sew up all of the prototypes.
If so, when and how did you first learn the skill?
I first learned to sew in high school and in fashion school it was required to sew. To learn pattern making, I took a pattern making class and refined my skills as I went.
3. What is your fashion background and experience?
I graduated from Brooks College in Los Angeles and most notably worked for Guess as well as a handful of smaller manufacturers.
4. How was the idea for Popina formed?
Basically I could not find a swimsuit I loved in October in Portland, Oregon so I stayed up all night before a trip to Mexico the next day. From there I got compliments, made some for friends, then sold consignment and finally took the leap to get a 250 sq ft brick and mortar store. I now have two boutiques; one that is 1,800 sq ft and one that is 3,000 – making us the largest women’s boutique on the west coast – I never dreamed that would happen in my wildest dreams.
5. So many of your swimsuits are vintage-inspired. What are the direct influences of the suits you create?
I really look to styles of the past and look to update them with help of modern construction and materials. I love looking at old vintage photos and current styles to make the classic styles fresh.
6. I’m really attracted to the fact that the swimsuits are made in in the USA. What are the benefits of manufacturing your product locally?
The principal advantage is that I can drive 15 minutes and talk directly to my production people. That greatly improves communication it also allows us to do smaller production runs. We have not looked very hard at doing production out of state or overseas for that matter, we hope we never have to. Our life is complicated enough as is, it is really nice to have a straightforward production process.
My thanks to Pamela for taking the time from her very busy schedule in order to let us have a glimpse into her world of design.
Photo copyright Popina. Do not copy, pin or tumble!