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Changing Tides

In flesh-happy Miami, designer Mauricio Esquenazi is making a style splash with his cover-up approach to swimwear.

Mauricio Esquenazi

 

Clockwise from top: Swimwear designer Mauricio Esquenazi; the white Flamingo style from his Peixoto spring 2013 collection

Mauricio Esquenazi always wanted to work in fashion, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his résumé. At 15 he left his native Colombia to attend boarding school in—of all places—Tennessee. “It was a culture shock, but I met amazing people,” he says. After that, he earned a business degree at Loyola University in New Orleans, and subsequently, landed a job at a Miami advertising agency. “After a year and a half, I knew it wasn’t for me,” he says. Then his brother’s girlfriend suggested he design swimwear. It made sense to Esquenazi. “I love the sun, the ocean, and the tropical environment. So I started studying, because I wanted to break into it on my own. At 25, I didn’t have time to go back to school for four more years.”

After reading up and soliciting advice from trusted contacts in the garment industry—his family had been in the lingerie business—Esquenazi made a few hundred swimsuits and sold them at trunk shows, through friends and by word of mouth. He upped the ante with his second collection by taking it to a trade show in Orlando. “I got 10 orders. Not a lot, but it was something,” he recalls. “That was when I realized that maybe I had something.”

That was in 2012. Today, Esquenazi’s swimwear line, Peixoto (peixotostore.com), has taken off and is now sold through online retailers such as shopbop.com as well as brick-and-mortar stores in New York, California, Puerto Rico, St. Barth, Spain and throughout Florida. The price point is a very reasonable $108 for a one-piece to $120 for bikinis, in bold colors and geometric prints. “I heard women complaining about the cost of swimsuits and discovered that the best ones are $200 or $300,” he says. “I’d rather you buy two or three of mine.”

With swimsuit designers saturating the market these days, Esquenazi’s winning formula is rather straightforward. “My designs are flirtatious without being vulgar,” he adds. “When I see a girl out and she’s showing everything, I lose interest. There’s no mystery. I like to show cleavage, but not just with a triangle top. The bottoms are sexy because they aren’t the typical American cut, which is big, but they’re not the Brazilian cut either, which is tiny. The way I express it, less is more.” He laughs and corrects himself. “Or in my case, the other way around.”