Angela Chittenden — From Swimsuit Model To Swimwear Maverick.
You’ll find Beach Bunny Swimwear gracing the beautiful bodies of the world’s sexiest women. But if you want to find the woman who designed these drop-dead gorgeous suits, you’ll have to look inside her Orange County, CA office. There, behind the towering stacks of fabric swatches and hardware samples, founder and designer Angela Chittenden is hard at work on her next best-selling creation.
The brains — and body — behind Beach Bunny Swimwear, Angela’s passion for couture kicked in at an early age. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved fashion and swimwear,” she explains, taking a momentary break from her jam-packed schedule to speak about her design philosophy. “So being able to combine the two is a dream come true for me.”
Angela’s all grown up now — a mother of two daughters and four step-daughters ranging in ages between one and fifteen. But she’s managed to keep her spectacular figure and her sense of fun. Both of which inspired the launch of her breakthrough swimwear in 2004.
As a former swimsuit model, Angela had the chance to wear hundreds of different suits. “And none of them ever felt right,” she recalls. “Either they were too conservative with too much coverage, or they weren’t very classy. There was nothing out there that was sexy and elegant. So I decided to design my own.”
In designing that first Beach Bunny Swimwear line, Angela knew she wanted to create something different, something special, “something that would let women show off their bodies, feel sexy and confident, glamorous, flirty and fun all at the same time.”
She searched for unique fabrics, experimented with sexy cuts, added embellishments and hardware no one had ever thought to add to swimsuits before. Rather than looking at other swimwear designer lines, she found inspiration in the bedroom, blending elements of upscale lingerie into her styles.
“Some people said I was crazy, that my designs were too risky, too out-there to catch on,” Angela remembers with a sly smile. “I guess they were wrong.”
Angela’s boudoir-inspired lines were an instant hit with women looking for swimsuits that make a bold statement. By ignoring trends, Beach Bunny Swimwear started setting them. And grabbing the attention of the fashion, media and celebrity worlds. Sports Illustrated dedicated more pages of its Swimsuit issue to Beach Bunny Swimwear than any other line. Soon, iconic women from the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Fergie to Cheryl Tiegs and Cindy Crawford were hitting the beaches in Beach Bunny suits. And Angela found herself featured in a slew of media outlets including USA Today, Vogue, People, InStyle, E! and Extra.
Not bad for a designer with no formal training — just a serious passion for fun-loving swimwear hand-sewn in the good ol’ U.S.A. In fact, Angela credits the success of her line in part to her self-taught design skills and instincts. “We do whatever we want, without paying much attention to what other designers are doing. This creative freedom is what makes our suits so unique, and so popular. Every woman is different. They want swimwear that reflects their individuality.”
Angela also credits her success to the outstanding team around her. Believe it or not, Beach Bunny Swimwear is a family-run enterprise, with Angela’s father balancing the books as the company’s CFO and her sister leading up wholesale accounts. Even her step-daughter has expressed an interest in getting into the family business.
“My family has been incredibly supportive and patient,” says Angela. “My daughters Presley and Nikolai, my step-daughters Kaelin, Jordan, Payton and Jasmin, and their dad have been a tremendous source of inspiration for me.” Angela is also quick to acknowledge everyone working in her office and store, who often know before Angela which suits are going to be the season’s smash hit.
Angela continues to find inspiration for her swimwear, not only from the people around her but from the places she visits. A voracious traveler, she’s always on the look out for textures, colors, tones, hardware and fabrics she can borrow for her designs. “I’m using the color of the bark of this incredible tree I saw in Belize for one suit,” she explains. “I just got back from Dubai, where we’ll be opening a new store, and fell in love with the beautiful jewel tones I found there. You’ll see that in the new line, too.”
While always thinking about the next design, Angela is also thinking about the future of her company. With the opening of several retail stores in Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Miami Las Vegas and Dubai, Beach Bunny Swimwear is quickly becoming an international brand. So how does this small-town girl originally from Iowa handle the success, and the pressures that come with it?
She’ll be the first to admit, running a successful high-end swimwear brand is not always a day at the beach. “But I love what I do. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, to be able to create something that celebrates women, their beauty and strength and personality, every day. This motivates me to work harder.”
But like the women who wear her suits, Angela also likes to have fun. When not creating her next break-out design, she enjoys traveling, loves to dance, and of course relishes every second with her kids and the man she’s been with for almost ten years. So, if Beach Bunny Swimwear is designed by a mom, does that mean mothers can also wear them?
“Absolutely,” agrees Angela. “I’m thrilled to see how much our audience has expanded. We’re seeing more mother-daughter pairs come into our store, buying matching suits. Beach Bunny Swimwear is for women of all ages.”
So if you’re on the hunt for a sassy new swimsuit that shows off your every curve, then bring your sense of fun — and your mom — and head over to Beach Bunny.