Article & Interview by Wynn Wilder
In the ever-evolving world of fashion, it's a rare delight to encounter a designer who has carved out a niche as distinctive as Heidi Fish. As a journalist for Nfm Magazine, I had the privilege of delving into the creative world of this renowned swimwear designer. Heidi's story is a testament to passion, perseverance, and a unique vision that has seen her become a celebrated name in swimwear design.
Heidi Fish's foray into the realm of fashion began at the tender age of two, under the tutelage of her grandparents, both of whom were skilled sewers. Her grandmother Henrietta, a German designer whose creations found a home at Saks in the 30s and 40s, instilled in her the importance of mastering a trade. Heidi's formative years were spent sewing alongside her other grandmother on the farm, crafting outfits that would later inspire her swimwear designs.
Recalling her early days designing and selling her swimsuits, Heidi explained, "In my 20s, I used to design outfits and would often see similar ensembles to my designs on various magazine covers a few months later. When it came to swimwear, after having five sons, I struggled to find a swimsuit that fit my body type while shopping. That's when I decided to make a swimsuit for myself. I did, and I loved it. I received many compliments and started making swimwear for my friends.
Within a few months, a whole new collection was brought to life. At that time, my life revolved around selling my designs on Alki Beach in West Seattle, but only on sunny days. The first year was 1998, and my swimwear was displayed under one umbrella. By the second year, I recall using three umbrellas."
Heidi's first significant breakthrough came when she was chosen by Gen Art, a foundation for emerging artists, to showcase her retro 40's fashion with a 90s twist at the Shrine in Beverly Hills. This opportunity catapulted her into the limelight, and her designs have since graced several Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues, including the recent 2023 issue. This accomplishment is a testament to her relentless pursuit of her craft and her ability to create designs that are both visually stunning and functional. Heidi's designs are not just about aesthetics; they are about celebrating the female form and creating swimwear that women feel confident and comfortable in.
Heidi also shared a memorable story about her first feature in Sports Illustrated. "I had been sending lookbooks and definitely not getting anywhere. So I started sending swimwear samples knowing I most likely will never see a return. At that time, Diane Smith was the Editor and Chief of SI. She finally acknowledged my designs when I sent in a high-end seashell bikini. I used FedEx to send it. She called me upon opening this up and she was so amazed. It was at that time that storylines would come in every year. With Diane, she would give new designers one storyline to work on. The first time was a cheerleading theme. To see my name in this issue was so amazing; it was also released on my birthday, so it was even more exciting."
Heidi's design process is as meticulous as it is creative. From sketching to pattern making, prototyping, and finally production, each step is carefully executed to ensure the final product is both fashionable and useful. Her designs are unique and different from the mainstream, a quality that allows her to stand out in the competitive fashion industry.
Looking ahead, Heidi shared that some of the key swimwear trends to look out for this season include denim looks, Barbie-inspired designs, and retro styles with a cheeky bottom. As Heidi mentions, "Turquoise with a hue of green [is also in]. Why? To remind us all that our waters are beautiful; let's keep it that way." Sustainability also plays a significant role in her designs, with materials like bamboo, hemp, and rubber being used in environmentally responsible ways.
When asked about the future of fashion in Seattle, Heidi expressed her vision of merging music and fashion, much like in Europe. She believes that Seattle, known for its great new music and music legends, has the potential to become a hub for fashion as well.
Heidi Fish's journey is a testament to the power of passion and tenacity. Her designs have not only graced the pages of prestigious magazines but have also brought joy to many women around the world. As we wrapped up our interview, I was left with a sense of admiration for this remarkable woman who continues to redefine the world of swimwear design.
Swimwear by Heidi Fish
Model, Mazzy Eckel
Hairstylist, Galina Petersen
Makeup artist, Yulianna Baliasnikova