LA-based designer Chelsea Bell launched Stone Fox Swim in early 2012, and with a loyal cult-like following of bikini collectors, the brand has been a leading player in the bikini game since it entered the market. Just three years later, Bell has expanded her brand with Stone Fox Sweat, an activewear line that compliments the health-conscious, beach goer that is her customer. Here, the designer sounds off on the secret to her success, her new activewear endeavor and plays favorites with a particular bottom she just can’t get enough of.
HL: Tell us a little bit about how your bikini empire began, and how Stone Fox Swim started.
CB: The Fox-pire started when an uncontrollable obsession with Brazilian bikinis met with a month-long trip to French Polynesia. As you can imagine, with such a trip there were a lot of creative juices flowing, so I decided at that journeys end that I was going to make my dream a reality. The rest is history.
HL: Stone Fox Swim is for a very specific, confident customer that doesn’t shy away from cheeky bottoms. What sets your brand apart?
CB: Well, I think that the specific genre of what I like to call ‘booty-kinis’ definitely sets Stone Fox Swim apart from most swimwear that is out there today. But I also like to attribute Stone Fox Swim’s uniqueness to the custom prints that are designed with each collection. I love designing crazy, bright, bold prints that my customers can get excited about with each new season.
HL: What inspires you most creatively?
HL: You’ve just launched active wear with Stone Fox Sweat. Why was the crossover into this new category so natural for you? Is she the same customer as Stone Fox Swim?
CB: I feel like Stone Fox Fweat was a natural progression for the brand. As you stated in the previous question, Stone Fox Swim is for a confident customer who is not afraid to show what she’s workin’ with. Our girl loves to be active and stay in shape so why not wear Stone Fox Sweat while you work it out at the gym and then Stone Fox Swim while you work it out at the beach? They go together like peanut butter and jelly.
HL: What is your creative process like from concept to execution?
CB: It is quite a long process but it has definitely gotten more streamlined the longer I do this! It starts with concept drawings for styles and prints, these are then turned into final patterns and files with the software that we use. I always try to go with a story line for each collection, so I choose color ways based on this. We then sample, fit, tweak and resample the pieces until they are perfect (this is the hardest part for me because i have just a touch of OCD when it comes to this. From there, we start planning and prep for our campaign photo shoots, execute shoots and start the selling season for each collection from that point. It is a lot of little steps repeated about 5 times a year now that we have added Sweat to the family.
HL: What’s a typical work day like for you?
CB: I’m a night owl, so I usually work from around 5 or 6 pm until 1 or 2 am. I run a lot of errands for the business during the day, banking, factory visits, etc. If I am in production, I usually spend the entire day at the factory and then sit down and get to business in the late afternoon. Most of what I do is on the computer, so I spend those late hours taking care of e-mails, spreadsheets, lots of notes: I’m a compulsive note maker, making graphics and so on. The magic that makes Stone Fox is done typically in PJs, sitting on the floor typing on the late night.
HL: As a bikini and active wear designer, how do you stay in shape and bikini-ready year round?
CB: This is very hard to be honest. I have to make a huge effort to remember to fit this in as I feel it is not only important for me but it is important for my business. The only way I can stay on track and be held accountable is if I have a trainer, and I have a pretty epic one who is more like my guru; he is always reminding me to put my health first. If the the captain of the ship is not healthy then the ship does not sail, he reminds me. This does the trick for me.
HL: This might be a hard one, but what’s your favorite bikini you’ve ever made? It’s ok if you need to pick more than one.
CB: It’s a single piece. Hands down, my Tucker bottom in the original ‘Dream On’ print, I die every time i see it!
HL: Active wear is having a moment right now, some even calling it the “new denim.” Why do you think dressing for the gym has gone from ratty college t-shirts and shorts to chic active wear ensembles?
CB: I think the world is having a lifestyle moment. Health is a big part of the way we all live now and most people spend a lot of their time working out and being active. Because of this, I think there is more of a demand for transition pieces. Not only does it motivate you to workout more, but people want to feel and look good all day long and still be able to do whatever activities they want with their day. Fashionable athletic wear is the perfect solution for this demand.
HL: If you could dress anyone in either Stone Fox Swim or Stone Fox Sweat, who would it be?
CB: I’m gonna go all in here and say Queen Bey…go big or go home, right?
HL: Your dream vacation is…
CB: A loooong trip traveling to the different islands of the South Pacific: Cook Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Kiribati. There are so many places to see!
HL: Your mantra is…
CB: It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.