“Women should never have to change themselves to fit into clothes,” Lydia Maurer states as she flicks through the railings, guiding me around the showroom. Chic and petite, with dark hair and a violet velvet choker tied round her neck, Lydia is the founder and designer of new luxury swimwear brand Phylyda – a brand that was designed with the female form in mind.
From first impressions, you’d be mistaken into thinking Lydia is another high-end designer who puts clothing before comfort. She’s dressed very elegantly, with elements of Parisian chic and a bone structure to die for. But after getting to know her, this couldn’t be further from the truth: she’s personable, with a warm personality and kind eyes, and who listens intently to every word you have to say. More so, she truly believes in making all women feel represented by the fashion industry – a belief that most luxury brands arguably don’t share.
After working in luxury fashion in Paris for ten years, she grew tired of the “harsh” environment and pressures that came with the job. “You think it’s bad for models, but it was just as difficult for the designers working there,” she says of the pressures to be thin and to look a certain way. I completely understand – modeling in Paris was one of the most miserable times of my life, having been asked to lose three inches off my hips in a week on the morning I arrived.
Not only that, but she grew bored of creating clothes she knew women couldn’t wear. “Clothes for runway or haute couture are designed for one body type: thin models”, she says. “I would watch women come into the store and leave with nothing, because they could never look like the girls they saw wearing them on the catwalk.”
This is what inspired her to create Phylyda, her debut resort wear collection that took a year and a half to complete. The colours are beautiful – a mixture of coppers, golds, peaches and purples – and I sense a nod to the fifties in her designs.
It feels like a lifetime since designers created pieces to fit or enhance the female figure – everything suddenly became tight-fitted and corset-like, putting fashion before women – but brands like Phylyda are hoping to change that. Rather than changing our bodies, the Phylyda pieces aim to enhance them. “As women, we have a tendency to blame our bodies for not fitting into clothes, when it should be the other way around,” she adds. “We’re not built to fit a size. Clothes are supposed to be built for us.”
Nothing showcases the female form more than swimwear. The irony, she says, is that buying swimwear should be a happy time. “You’re buying swimwear for a holiday, which is meant to be fun, but in the end, it becomes a miserable experience because you’re too worried about what you look like in a bikini.”
She’s designed a collection where women can choose what bits they want to hide, boost or show-off, and which flatter every body type. Her collection features traditional bikini bralettes, long sleeved cover-ups and skirts that can be changed into skirts or boob tubes, going up to a size 18 and a 42F cup.
As no female body is the same, the tops and bottoms are designed to cater to and flatter each woman individually, allowing you to mix and match whatever pieces fit you best. For someone like me who’s built like a pear – wider hips and a smaller top half – there are plenty of options to choose from, such as a skirt that flatters and covers my thighs, and padding in the bras to boost my small chest. “Every woman should decide what part of her body she wants to enhance,” she says.
Lydia believes that clothing technology should be wearable, rather than robotic. As I have incredibly pale skin that burns in an instant, I was intrigued to discover that the pieces are made from SPF 50 fabric, keeping your skin safe as you lounge on the beach. One of my favourite pieces from the collection is the Mimi wrap that keeps your entire arms covered (ideal for those worried about their arms!), providing a lift in the bust department, too.
Not only that, but Lydia tells me the fabric is “micro encapsulated with caffeine”, helping keep your skin smooth and diminishing cellulite in the process.
I’m a huge fan of the Phylyda lookbook. Shot in Paris, it features three models with three very different body shapes: all womanly, all beautiful. “I had to fly my models to Paris from Belgium and the UK,” she says. “The plus-size movement is nonexistent in Paris. No agencies represent them there.”
I love brands that help women of all shapes and sizes being catered for, and I’m really excited to see where Phylyda goes. After all, every woman deserves the right to feel represented in fashion, no matter what their size.
Pre-orders are available from October 1st this year. For more info, visit http://phylyda.com.