Making perfect swimwear for not so perfect bodies

Priyanka Desai — The plus size swimwear designer: Starting her career as a trade journalist, 27-year-old Priyanka Desai today works as the Deputy Editor of the diamond trade magazine — Diamond World. But that is not what sets her apart. It’s her venture Praia Couture that specialises in making swimwear for plus sizes upto 5XL.

Priyanka loves travelling solo and this is something that she picked up as a journalist. During these travels, she shopped to her heart’s content and one thing she splurged on was swim wear. According to her no Indian brand offered her swimsuits that fit her well and if they did, they were exorbitantly priced. After hunting for three to four years, she realised the need for a brand that would offer Indian women stylish swimsuit, tailor made for Indian women’s figures, but with a comfortable price tag. The idea was proposed this idea to her parents just as small talk. Her father was excited and asked her to think about it seriously and present some prototypes and detailed presentation. The dinner table is where the story of Praia Couture began. 

With both her parents being business owners, mother owns a lingerie boutique and father is a stock broker support to venturing out has never been lacking. Soon after the dinner table conversation she made a swimsuit from herself – after 10-12 trials and a lot of errors. Finally, she had a perfect one that she wore on her next trip to Milan at a pool party. It is here that she met a fashion buyer who instantly fell in love with her swimsuit. That gave her confidence that she was on the right track.

Coming back to India she seriously put together a business plan and launched the brand in Feb 2015. Unfortunately, it didn’t pick up. It is then that she realised that she had read the market wrong. The real need was swim suits in plus sizes. Priyanka then started designing patterns that could be executed in Size S to Size 5XL. Today, Praia Couture’s plus size swimsuit range is extremely popular Priyanka is proud that hers is the only brand in India to offer such a wide range of sizes at the same price as smaller sizes. Praia now retails with couple of online retailers, boutiques, etc. 

High point in career

In the 10 months of being the founder and the creative director of Praia Couture, I have had a few women from the age of 18 to age of 57 who have written to me saying that they feel confident, sensuous and bold wearing Praia swimsuits. There is nothing better than listening to such amazing feedback from your end consumers. Being featured in the media is in itself a sense of pride as I am a journalist myself.

My career as a journalist too has been on a steady growth. The best part was being accepted in the certificate course creative writing offered by University of Oxford, England. 

Most challenging assignment so far

The swimsuit industry in itself is a challenge in India. There is such a huge social and cultural stigma around what women should wear or not. This stigma is embedded in women’s minds, too. I have some women who love my designs, they sometimes buy them too but never get the chance of wearing them. There are two reasons for this: 1) They think they don’t have the body for it. 2) They think society will look down upon them if they wear a swimsuit. Thus, making women believe that each body is a beach body and that times have changed and they can wear what they want is a task. In fact my tag line is also #EachBodyBeachBody. I am determined to change the mind set of Indian women and the society’s point of view regarding women’s clothing. It’s an uphill task but I am sure I will succeed. 

Greatest inspiration

My greatest inspiration is my mother. The reason being she is one of the most dynamic figures in India’s lingerie retail. She has studied this field extremely closely and knows the importance of right lingerie for women’s health. It has been more than 15 years since she has been striving to raise the awareness regarding lingerie and it has been fruitful. She has more than 8000 clients who believe in her suggestions when it comes to intimate apparels. She has given her life to her passion and I believe my passion for intimate apparel is a precious genetic gift from her. She helps me study the comfort factor of each of my design and helps me follow my dream no matter how hard it gets. 

Most important milestone in life

I guess it is yet to come but I remember this meeting with French sensuality goddess, Brigitte Bardot at Paris Fashion Week in 2015. She said in her beautiful French accent, “My cherie, you will be a great designer and businesswoman, I am sure of it.” Brigitte Bardot is an icon, a symbol of glamour and French fashion. To hear this from her is a certainly a moment I will cherish forever. 

Women are the better halves. What does it mean?

In my opinion, there are no better halves in this world. There are only equal halves. Men and women have been made to balance each other and balance this world. I agree there has had been an imbalance, especially in the business realm but things are certainly looking up today. I have my father and my fiancé to prove this. They have given me immense support, guidance and encouragement to find my own sky to fly high. If all men realise that women are only there to follow their aspiration and make their own name instead of stealing the spotlight from men, this world will be a better place.