Milford resident Magdalena Trever may be only 25-years-old, but she is already making waves with her own swimwear line, Maggie May Swimwear. A graduate of Milford High School and the San Francisco Academy of Art University, Trever started out knitting sweaters, but decided to then apply her craft to swimwear. The result is Maggie May Swimwear, a line that is already getting rave reviews from coast to coast from designers, celebrities and customers as trend-setting for its knitted style and unique design. Despite her blossoming success, Trever has not forgotten where she comes from as she operates her business from Milford while she plots her next course, which she hopes will include her suits being featured in Sports Illustrated. Trever spoke with the Spinal Column about starting her own business, being a fashionista from Milford and which celebrities have worn her swimsuits. For more information, visit her website, maggiemayswimwear.com.
Please tell us about your swimwear line, Maggie May Swimwear, and how your swimsuits stand out from the competition.
MT: My swimwear line is an all-knitted swimwear line. They standout because there’s not that many swimwear companies that have a knit swimsuit. I make mine with bamboo viscose and cotton, which is really great in water. They look great on women, they have a special power mesh lining that helps them to dry faster and they’re really truly like a work of art.
How did you discover that you had a passion and a knack for designing? How did you decide to make swimwear your focus?
MT: Well, while I was in school, I was really supposed to do sweater design and when I got out, I just was really interested in swimwear and with my background in knitting I thought it would be a very unique idea and a fun project to take on making swimsuits that were knitted, like a 1960s style.
I remember I just loved the 1960s and 1970s. They had crochet bikinis, but I wanted to take it to a different level and make it more functionable and wearable and last longer. So I started to do a punch-card knit, which was a tighter weave and it looked more like fabric. It was just a passion, it was really fun. I did one, then I did a couple more and then I started doing these fashion shows and I had dresses and everything else in the fashion show and I included the swimwear.
And then the next time they asked me to do a show, they said if I could just do all swimwear because they really liked it, so that’s when I realized that I had something here. These shows were in San Francisco. There was a big fashion theme. They did a show for Stanford, which was a huge charity fashion show where they donate money to Cuba and all these different organizations helping small businesses and people. They were pretty big. There were 2,000 people there, so it was pretty exciting doing them.
Why did you decide to focus on knitted swimsuits as opposed to some other variety? How much time and effort does it take to knit one swimsuit and how many does your company produce in a day?
MT: The thing is it’s so different. I’ll do these big swimwear trade shows with all the boutiques from all over the world. All the big stores like Nordstrom come and everybody walks by and says they haven’t seen anything like it, it’s very unique and everything’s made out of lycra, which is a swimwear material. Yes, it is more dressy and I guess you wouldn’t want to go diving or tubing in it, but it is pretty interesting and I had really good responses from it, so that’s why I kept doing it.
In a three-month period, we can do about 800 suits, but some suits can take up to an hour, some up to 3 hours and some up to 8 hours. There are different styles. It’s really hard to tell exactly but we do about 800 suits every two months.
Starting a business is a challenge for anyone, but to be in your 20s starting a business in the fashion industry has to be a challenge in itself. When did you decide to start your swimwear line and what was going through your mind at the time? Overtime, how much of your plans have come to fruition and what plans encountered obstacles to which you’ve had to adjust?
MT: I was 23 when I graduated college and at first I was just going to get a job for a big designer or any designer working with sweaters and didn’t even need to start this business. I just starting doing the shows and people wanted to buy them and I would go down to (Los Angeles) and people would buy them.
All of a sudden I realized I needed to go bigger. I needed a loan. I couldn’t do them all on my own anymore and I realized I had something here. So I came back to Michigan and the local bank, Huron Valley State Bank, gave me a loan. They saw my product and believed in me and believed in a small business.
I had my family who was really encouraging me and was very proud and it all kind of happened at once and I got really lucky. A lot of things have happened really fast, which I’m really happy about. We’re already in stores and we already have people calling and wanting the suits, buying them off the website, along with being in actual stores.
Obstacles that have happened are manufacturing. You just don’t know who to trust. It’s like you’re dealing with a lot of money and sometimes it gets hard and being so young. That’s why I’m really grateful I have my family to help me because my mom had a business for 30 years and she knows it and it’s just everyday and you’re working with many people and a lot of things go wrong — especially in the fashion industry, too.
What has the response been from the public and the fashion industry to your swimsuits thus far? What would you say has been your biggest moment or your big break with your swimwear line?
MT: I was told by the person who runs Swim Collective, which is really big trade show, that my swimwear line was trend-setting and he thought I had an upcoming trend and he was very excited for me. I feel like I’ve gotten a really good response from other designers and people who put on the shows. It just gives me that motivation to keep going further.
There’s so many moments — the buyers at the shows placing orders and getting excited, that’s what feels good. Everyday when I’m working and I sell another suit or I’m selling an order, that’s my moment. I just feel great and it reinforces what I’m doing.
Celebrities have worn some of my suits, like Gretchen Rossi from “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” She wore my suit and was shot in a few magazines, and Taryn Manning from “Hustle & Flow,” she bought a suit off me down in L.A. and I did a really small show at the Playboy Mansion, like a charity show, and there were some Playboy Bunnies that actually bought suits from me down there just to wear.
But to me, that’s not as big of a deal as just getting a reaction from all the people around who are buying them and wearing them, wanting to place an order. Those are my biggest moments.
Are there any publications or shows that your line will soon be featured in?
MT: I’m hoping Sports Illustrated. They have a bunch of my samples which I sent and that comes in February. If we make it in there, that’s the best spot you can make it being a swimwear company, is in that magazine.
What is the reaction from those in the fashion industry when you say you’re from Milford? How much does your hometown mean to you?
MT: It is so funny, people think it’s interesting though. People remember me, first of all, because of that reason and also because of the knitted swimsuit, but they just think it’s so unique, a swimwear company in Michigan. Everybody is from California, everybody is from Miami, or even all over the country. It’s just so funny whenever I say I’m from Michigan — their faces just light up kind of.
(Milford) means a lot. I love my hometown. It’s just a relaxing place to live and it’s beautiful and it’s important to me and I’m happy I’m there starting my business and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
What are your ultimate hopes and goals for your business and yourself personally?
MT: I just want to keep growing. I want to be very stable with the swimwear and then maybe branch out into a couple other things like expanding to cover-ups and maybe some cute dresses or things like that and just keep the momentum going.
I just want to do the best I can and just keep giving a good product every year. This is my real passion. I love making these, I love designing them and I love the way women look in them. I think it really hugs women’s curves and that’s what makes me happy.
Where can people who are interested in your swimwear line look it up?
MT: They can buy directly from my website, maggiemayswimwear.com, which is an online store. We also do custom suits, so if they want to mix a couple styles together or have a different color, I do that too. You can just go to my website and e-mail me directly through my contact page and I respond to everybody’s e-mail.
We have orders from stores all over the country and really all over the world. I have Australia, Israel, Greece, down in Mexico City, Brazil. They’re going to be in stores by February, but right now we’re just selling stuff online and then I’ve done a couple things in New York where I’ve sold stuff. We do shows and things like that.