This interview with Clover Lewis, Designer and Creator of Clover Lewis Swimwear, was originally done for THE DESIGN ROOM interviews for The Swimwear Yearbook
DR: Why did you start designing swimwear and beachwear?
Clover: Clover Lewis Swimwear (CLS) arose out of my struggle to find stylish, premium quality swimwear to wear after having a mastectomy following breast cancer. I designed my first bikini for myself to wear to learn how to scuba-dive in Bali, which was my big recovery goal after breast cancer.
I managed to get my PADI scuba diving certificate in my own bikini, which felt like an amazing achievement!
I quickly realised two things:
how powerful having the right swimwear was for raising my body confidence and self-image after breast cancer, and
That there must be other women who wanted pretty swimwear to reach sunshine-filled goals and to have adventures in; and I wanted to support them to do the same.
Soon after returning from Bali, I dived into the swimwear market and found a significant glaring gap. The community of women with breast cancer was growing, but remained woefully underserved as far as swimwear is concerned. There were little glamorous swimwear choices for these women who were choosing designer swimwear before their mastectomy or breast reconstruction.
This troubled me, because wearing swimwear is one of those fashion challenges many women dread, and these feelings were amplified for me once I had my mastectomy! So I started out creating bikinis and one pieces that not only hold a breast form (prosthesis), but were also very stylish so women could feel gorgeous wearing.
My designs received a lot of love and compliments from loads of women in my breast cancer community. Especially poignant were the comments from the women who shunned holidays because they could not find swimwear that helped them look and feel good in. This, and having personal experience of this big problem inspired me to take my ideas further: and so Clover Lewis Swimwear was born!
DR: What is your brand’s DNA?
Clover: The Clover Lewis Swimwear strapline is ‘Look good outside. Feel great inside’ is its’ DNA. It says what my swimwear is about: it is the desire to help women who want to look and feel good about themselves, inside and out. Especially after breast cancer. And Clover Lewis Swimwear can do this. This is the foundation of my brand.
Clover Lewis Swimwear is the UK’s first premium post surgery swimwear designed by a breast cancer survivor. I create high quality, stylish designs and add a dash of glamour to each bikini and one piece. Each piece is designed to cover up a woman’s scarring and breast imbalances, and to give her a natural appearance when wearing on the beach, or by the pool. Each gorgeous style is adjustable and customisable to suit the woman who wears it.
Much more than just functional swimwear, Clover Lewis Swimwear is a brand that focuses on evoking pride in the woman who wear it, to raise her body confidence and self-image.
DR: What is different about being a swimwear designer?
Clover: Designing post mastectomy swimwear is innovative design. To make it, a designer must take on the challenge of making a mainstream product do the many ‘jobs’ or functions needed so women can swim using prosthesis or with breast imbalances and still look amazing!
There is the emotional impact too: my swimwear forms part of a transformational journey in women’s lives, beyond just concealing features. Each piece is a real treat to wear, supporting women as they move towards a better and healthier lifestyle after diagnosis. MY bikinis and one pieces help women to feel better about themselves.
DR: Where do you get your ideas/inspiration?
Clover: I’m so lucky to live in London, England - one of the most inspiring cities in the world! The museums here are exquisite, and exceptional as a source for inspo! An excellent source for me is the renown Victoria & Albert Museum. I go there often as it’s visual inspiration on tap! I learn a lot from looking the structural makeup of vintage swimwear in their costume archives. The vintage methods of construction for comfort, support and timeless style you can see in all my swimwear heavily influenced by those swimsuits worn by bathing beauties from bygone eras.
Another source of inspo is my obsession with scuba diving - despite being very wary of deep water! I find sea life intriguing; the colours, shapes and the way the light plays on surfaces and creatures is a never-ending colour palette. My Dive collection nods to this compelling underwater world.
The work of Norman Parkinson, the father of fashion photography deeply inspired me. His work is very spirited; I love the use of colours and locations in his compositions.
And of course I get inspiration from my customers, who feed back to me their post-surgery needs which helps me to develop and refine my styles!
DR: A Typical Week…in your life?
Clover: Nothing feels typical since launching the brand! Designing, production management, PR, and marketing make up most of my week, as well as supporting our retailers and online customers.
My favourite activity by far is product testing my designs with women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. The highlight of my job is hearing a woman express how she feels in my swimwear: confident, sexy, adventurous, and feeling gorgeous again.
Running Clover Lewis Swimwear means having to be very organised for other staff to do their jobs well! I have many roles, and this is what makes my week exciting!
DR: Who wears or whom do you think wears your collection?
Clover: She is the woman who desires to look gorgeous and feel confident after breast cancer surgery. She want to be stylish on the beach, and feel assured that her mastectomy or reconstruction -related issues will not be an issue or get in the way when swimming or lounging. And she doesn’t want to wear the limited and aging styles that are available from other post-surgery brands.
Other women fancy our swimwear because of its excellent bust support, and that it has a little bit more coverage too.
DR: If you could design swimwear for a celebrity, whom would it be
Angelina Jolie as she is a dynamic woman who has experience of what it’s like to have new needs that arise from having breast surgery. When Angelina shared she had mastectomy, she revolutionised the view in society of women with breast cancer and previvors. She helped to open up dialogues about breast cancer and reconstruction.
DR: Your proudest moment to date?
Clover: Winning the Post Surgery Brand of the Year at the UK Lingerie Awards (like the Oscars of the lingerie & swimwear world). Despite fierce competition from many industry heavyweights like Anita and Amoena, receiving this award within our first year of selling was more than I could ever hope for! It was a great result, and not just for my brand; it was proof the fashion world was recognising products for women with breast cancer need to be part of mainstream fashion too.
Clover Lewis Swimwear started as my recovery project, which I have grown into an award-winning business. Research and development of my specialist swimwear took several years, which at times was frustrating as it took so long! However, I’m pleased with the evolution of my swimwear collection, which women around the world love.
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Clover, Creator of Clover Lewis Swimwear
Clover started designing mastectomy swimsuits and bikinis after struggling to find a stylish, beautiful post-surgery bikini to wear on her first holiday after a breast cancer diagnosis. The holiday? A trip to Bali to overcome her fears by learning how to scuba-dive.
She made her first mastectomy bikini, got her PADI diving certificate wearing it, at that moment personally realised the connections between body image, clothing confidence for women with breast cancer.
So despite the expectation to carry on with “life as normal” after cancer, this experience had a profound effect on Clover. It became the fuel for her mission creating beautiful swimwear for women to feel good about their bodies so they can swim again.
Through Clover Lewis Swimwear, Clover helps women feel body confident… and feel like they belong on a beach.