THE IT: Nua Swimwear

Clara Fortini, the designer of Nua Swimwear. Story and photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

It’s the dog days of summer and your first collection is about to debut. Your models are prepping in what could be a closet. There’s no lighting on the runway. And your line is all swimsuits.

Talk about a baptism by fire.

But Clara Fortini, a sociology grad and former flight attendant, emerged triumphant from the launch of Nua, her fashion-forward swimwear line, last weekend at a King West nightclub. Christened with elegant Portuguese identities—Ferro (Iron) and Cobre Tudo (Cover Everything)—her designs captivated a jostling Friday night crowd.

“I wanted people to see that you can pair these suits with a pair of tights or micro shorts,” Fortini explains. “You’re seeing more and more pool parties where there is the element of being in the pool and then going to the club right afterwards. This season I did the one-sleeve and the hoodie, and I want to go even above and beyond that. I’m trying to push the envelope just a little bit for women who are looking for something different in swimwear.”

What was the inspiration for Nua, and how did you decide to start with swimwear?

“About a year ago I was at my desk, watching a fashion show from some swim event in Brazil, and I started to sketch. I thought to myself ‘This is what I want to design’—something super sexy and super different. I took out a pencil and a piece of paper and away I went.”

What influences your interest in fashion and design?

“Versace is my favourite [design house], and has always been. Their designs stand apart from everybody. They’re very asymmetrical and my suits are like that—I find symmetry boring. I think there’s balance in asymmetry, if that makes any sense. I find influences everywhere though, I’m very visual. I work at CTV so TVs are always on, so I’m always looking.”

How do you deal with the trade-off between functionality and style?

“It’s difficult. I think that was the biggest challenge for me, trying to figure out how to make a removable sleeve which doesn’t rust in the water, for example. So I worked very, very closely with my pattern-maker and my seamstress. I would try on the suits and make sure that they fit me the way that I’d want them to fit my clients. There were a lot of little tweaks and changes that had to be done along the way to make sure the suits were practical as well as stylish.”

How would you respond to critics who might say that the beyond-the-pool concept is unrealistic, that nobody will really wear a swimsuit to go out?

“But they would! I have, and it works. I mean why not? It’s not like wearing, for example, a halter bikini with a pair of shorts. Because the design of my suits is a little different from the norm, a person would be able to pull it off and do it well. I’m sure not everyone would want to do that, but I figure if I do, then there has got to be somebody else out there who will.”

Where do you think swimwear is at these days? Is it increasingly about less being more, or is there a conservative influence slipping in?

“It depends on the person. I think there’s always going to be a market for both. I have a friend who is the most conservative woman I’ve ever known, and she bought my one-sleeve white suit with the two cut-outs on the side because it’s sexy but still covered. I was able to make her feel safe and look sexy all at once.”

So what’s next for Nua?

“I’d like to sell it in select boutiques which maybe are also trying to make a statement and a name for themselves. After that, I definitely need to see my suits in a market where they will be embraced, and I think I’ll find that in Europe. Europe and Miami are next.”

The current Nua collection will be shown at Nyood (1096 Queen St. W.) on August 31.

Below, a few looks we liked in the crowd at the Nua show.

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