Native New Yorker Shoshanna Gruss revolutionized dress departments in 1998 when she launched her eponymous figure-flattering collection, Shoshanna. Since then, Gruss has continued to make waves in the marketplace, from the debut of her innovative swimwear line in 2001 – the first to have lingerie-inspired sizing – to the recent launch of her eveningwear line, Shoshanna Midnight.
BELLA sat down with the busy fashion mogul to talk about her new collection, summer fashion, and dressing for the Hamptons. Listen in…
You started your fashion line in 1998 out of frustration that there were few clothing options for well-endowed women – a frustration that you had experienced first-hand. What pushed you to launch your label?
I was pretty young when I launched my label – it wasn’t part of my plan. I had attended college at University of California, Los Angeles, and worked for a boutique called Tracy Ross. It was one of the first curated clothing boutiques, and the boutique at the time. For years, I had a hard time finding clothes that worked for my shape, and that weren’t overtly sexy or matronly. While working at Tracy Ross, I saw a lot of young designers come in and show their lines, and that sparked the idea to launch my own label. I saw that you could build something out of a good concept and with decent samples. Although I didn’t have the background or training for this – I had thought I would work in finance after college – I had this feeling in my tummy that creating my own label was something that I should do. I just couldn’t shake it. I knew that this idea of a clothing collection that was inclusive of all women’s shapes would strike a nerve with a lot of women – and it did.
How does your desire for figure-flattering clothing continue to inspire your collections?
It’s always our goal to create collections that are as inclusive of many body types. When I started my collection I was designing everything by myself, but now I have a great team of designers and we all work together to make sure that our designs suit many shapes. We don’t only ask the question, “Where would you wear this?” but also “Who is wearing this?” We want to create clothes that look as good on a 15-year-old girl as they do on a 45-year-old woman. A design is not just a piece of artwork, but something that will accentuate a woman’s shape and make her feel beautiful, confident, and celebrated.
You revolutionized the swimwear industry in 2001 when you created swimwear separates inspired by lingerie sizing. When did this idea come to you?
I was so extremely curvy that I had to have all of my swimsuits custom-made, and the process was very expensive and time-consuming. I thought, “You don’t buy your bras and underwear as a set – swimwear should be like that.” Our first line had 13 top sizes, with two sizes for each cup size, and seven bottom sizes. I had lots of push back from stores at first; many were concerned that they would have leftover stock from tops and bottoms that didn’t sell. I was confident that women would respond well to the collection, and offered to take back items that didn’t sell. The line was very successful, and put the Shoshanna label on the map even more. As a young woman, it was great to be three years into a collection and to have a boom.
Swimwear shopping is difficult for many women. What advice can you offer them for finding a swimsuit that suits their shape?
I think it’s important for women to find the part their body that they like best and highlight it. We create about 10 to 15 different tops for our line, but I know that only three or four of these fit me best so I stick to those. I like bikinis; they break up my body and make me appear taller. Figure out what works for you and stick to that. And when in doubt, a well-fitting black bikini is always flattering.
Tell us about your summer 2015 line. What inspired this collection?
I love bright colors, especially in the summer, and those appear a lot in this collection. There is a bohemian spirit to the designs for this season, and we have picked up on that with beautiful beadwork, great colors, like mint, blue and green, and paisleys.
Bright happy colors appear a lot in our summer Mommy and Me line as well; my oldest daughter, Sienna, helps me with that collection. It’s great to have her point of view on the designs.
This issue spotlights New York’s favorite summer spot, the Hamptons. As a born and bred New Yorker, have the Hamptons always been a part of your life?
Yes. My parents have had a place there for years, and I have spent a lot of time out there – for camp, then working. I lived with my parents in New York City for a long time, but bought my first house in the Hamptons when I was 23-years-old. I love it out there. I work out there in the summer with my kids; it’s a beautiful, relaxing, and very special place. My family and I have an amazing time – It’s a great place to unwind.
Have your experiences in the Hamptons influenced your designs?
Yes, definitely. The Shoshanna collection has a very clean, classic feel but with a preppy undertone and a little edge. Growing up
in the Hamptons, I have been inspired by the area’s colors and that old- school-Hamptons feel in combination with the bohemian feel of places like Montauk and Sag Harbor. All of this is part of my personal fabric and aesthetic as is growing up in New York City. I love gingham but I also love black with grommets.
Let’s say my girlfriend is heading to the Hamptons for the weekend. What three items from your summer collection should she pack in her suitcase?
She will likely spend most of her day on the beach, so she will need a bikini. She will also need an awesome day to night cover up – a sexy, flowy dress with an elastic waist can easily transition from the beach to dinner with pretty sandals and fun earrings. And she should pack one cocktail dress just in case she gets invited to an awesome party. I’d also pack one to two pairs of sandals, a great pair of heels, and a straw bag.
After 17 years in business, what are you looking forward to next?
I am always surprised and excited by what happens next. Two years ago I signed with Elizabeth Arden, which has been an amazing partnership. I am collaborating with Club Monaco, which is fantastic. We found that women are increasingly interested in cocktail and evening dresses, so we just launched an eveningwear line for Shoshanna. I am always looking for what’s next, and look forward to continue to move forward and enjoy my work. I am very grateful. Shoshanna.com