Palmela Green sits amid hundreds of fabric rolls in her West L.A. swimsuit shop, surrounded by pink and red sequins, animal prints, knits and faux furs. A photo of one of her recent projects, a swimsuit in a Lexus ad, is proudly displayed on a wall.
Green, who works by appointment, is one of only a few designers — the pool also includes Lissa Walker and Merrilee Madrigal, who are both based in Orange County — in the area who create custom swimwear.
Green's customers pick a fabric and then choose one of her styles or order a one-of-a-kind pattern. Green provides a private fitting and nips, tucks, pads and cuts until the suits fits like a glove.
"People get very creative in here, and I love it," Green said. "Let's just say you like this style, but you needed a little more coverage here. I can do that."
Certain looks have already emerged as customer favorites for the season, among them a '50s high-waist style displayed in her showroom windows. She also pointed out a one-piece in a woven fabric, insisting that it's flattering on every body type, even plus-size.
It's that whole Marilyn Monroe look," said Green as she sifted through the racks of one-pieces. "I love it because it's not always about [showing skin]. It doesn't have to be a G-string."
Green's suits range in price from $120 for a bikini set to $250 for sequined suits and up to $850 for a hand-sewn, beaded couture suit. (Customizing is free, but she charges for an original pattern.) All the sewing is done by Green or a seamstress at the back of her showroom; turn-around time is about a week.
If you're shopping in Orange County, Lissa Walker, owner and designer at Ginger's Island in Mission Viejo, also offers custom suits. Like Green, she works by appointment only for in-store fittings. But Walker also allows customers to order suits online.
Walker has more than 250 tops, bottoms and one-pieces from which to choose. After a customer selects a suit online, Walker sends out fitting samples and fabric swatches, walks customers through a fitting and offers design suggestions. The suits are then made in Orange County by one of Walker's seven employees.
"Women are all different shapes and sizes, and there are a lot of options," Walker said. "You're going to get a real honest opinion and input to elongate, thin out and balance everything,"
Walker noted that among tweens and teenagers, mixing and matching patterns is still popular, as well as neons and bright tones. Each suit varies, but they range in price from $120 to $160.
If you're in the market to put together your own suit but don't need a custom fit, Merrilee's Swimwear in Laguna Beach offers a collection of separates and can re-create any suit from the store's library of patterns.
The store is run by Merrilee Madrigal and her daughter Felicia, who design and manufacture all of the suits in Laguna Beach.
The mother-daughter duo has noticed a surge in sales of bright and neon colors, as well as tribal print patterns and high-waist retro bottoms.
Prices for their suits run from $46 to $105 per separate.