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Poolside Chic

Katya Leoncio and her line Dolcessa scored Phoenix fashion week’S emerging designer of the year title—now she's suiting up for Scottsdale.

MacKenzie Hale, who walked the runway for Dolcessa at Phoenix Fashion Week, models a look by the brand

Katya Leoncio’s line of daring swimwear and flirty beachwear named Dolcessa ( made waves at Phoenix Fashion Week, held at Talking Stick Resort. The Las Vegas-based designer’s creations have been included in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue three times in a row, even appearing on “it” girl model Kate Upton. Always on the lookout for stylish poolwear, Phoenicians are taking note of Dolcessa’s luxury Italian fabrics, eye-catching fringe, ombre hues, peekaboo cutouts and form-flattering lines—just more reasons why we can’t wait for spring to come back around.

What was your reaction to being named Emerging Designer? The Phoenix Fashion Week experience goes far beyond the runway. The amount of support in teaching young designers the importance of the business side is really priceless. ... Being recognized for my passion and knowing other people appreciate my designs is rewarding.

What’s your first memory of an interest in fashion? I used to spend all my money buying new clothes and was addicted to shopping at a young age. In order to support my habit, I started buying fabrics and making my own clothes because I couldn’t afford to keep buying new ones. When my friends started complimenting me, it sparked my interest, [and I thought], I should be a fashion designer.

How has your career evolved? I began designing outfits for the most extravagant nightclubs in Ibiza, Spain. When I arrived in Las Vegas in 2008, the pool-party scene was taking the city by storm, and I became fascinated by the embellished swimwear I saw. Naturally curious, I designed a few styles and placed them in a friend’s fashion boutique. They sold out, and the next year, I was able to land them on the Strip at the Fashion Show Mall and Planet Hollywood. That year I sold even more, and from there, I knew I had something going.

Swimwear trends you’re seeing right now? I see the overall swimwear trend moving toward innovative cutouts, tribal influences and digitized prints.

Any celebrities you would love to see wearing one of your creations? Halle Berry is the epitome of who our customer is. She oozes timeless sophistication.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned as a designer that you’ve taken to heart? Strike a balance between design and commerce. A great fashion designer is someone who understands the importance of history and culture and how it ties in today’s trends, understanding the cyclical nature of fashion.