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Backstage at Luli Fama: Bikinis, Swim Week, and Miami Life

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Images via Raquel Zaldivar

If you're a sucker for a good ruched bikini, then you can handwrite a thank you note to Lourdes Hanimian, the designer behind the much acclaimed swimwear brand, Luli Fama. This year, the Miami bred gal celebrated ten years of outfitting our beach bodies with the launch of her "Miami Nice" collection at Swim Week, which was accompanied down the runway by stilt walkers and enough Gloria Estefan and Marc Anthony tunes to give any Latin nightclub a run for its money.

We sat down with her just two days before her runway show, and then crept backstage on the day of her fifth Swim Week show to capture the craziness. Read on to learn more about this Miami girl's Magic City woes, how she invented the ruched bottom, and her secret dreams to be a big shot stiletto designer.

What made you want to go into swimwear?
I started working for a swimwear company and I fell in love with the whole thing. It was part of a company from Argentina, and they were three partners. The company dissolved because they didn't do very well. [Augusto Hanimian] and I went into business together. We started another line we had which was Cover Style, and now Luli Fama is ten years old.

This is your fifth year putting on an IMG show. What is that experience like?
It's amazing. The exposure that we get, I mean, all the important media is here. It's really at the very beginning of our year so it's the time that we expose the line pretty much to the whole world, because it's on YouTube ten minutes later. It's great exposure and they have the whole operation handled very well, so it's a very nice, sophisticated way to show the collection.

And what about in the weeks prior to putting on your show? What's that like?
No sleeping, no eating. Running around. I mean I went to bed last night at 3:30am and woke up at 7am, not because I don't want to sleep, but because my head keeps going.

Does it get easier as the years go on?
Never. It actually gets harder because we keep getting more important and growing more. It's more tension for people. We started out at the smaller tent and then moved on to the Cabana Grande, and we still fill it up. They closed our show down once because we reached capacity. And then we have buyers that get upset and media that doesn't make it in and people like, 'why didn't I get front row?' so it's hard. It get's harder because we've grown a lot. We do more shows and travel all the time, pretty much year round. The work gets bigger and we get more important, but the time's still the same. There's still 365 days in a year.

Is IMG the show that you prepare for the most?
It's the only real fashion show that we do of that caliber. The rest are trade shows. We just came back from a trade show in Paris and we have a fashion show there, but THE Luli Fama Show is IMG.

With swimwear, I feel you need to be really creative with such a limited use of fabric. What are some of the challenges you face?
For us it's different from most swimwear companies because we actually design our prints. That's one of the special things that Luli Fama is known for. We actually go to Europe, meet with graphic designers, they present ideas to us; it goes from a blank sheet to getting to the actual prints. It's very challenging. The first year we decided to do it- because we went from buying prints to designing all prints- I said we're either going to do great or close down. So we were successful, thank God, and it's been great because we're certain that nobody else has the same print.

So you started the ruched trend? Tell me a little bit about that.
We started the whole ruched back trend. Everybody copied it but ours is still the one that sells most. It has a great fit.

What inspired it?
It was actually from clothing. Actually, my dress is ruched in the back. I just think it gives you a great shape. To make it fit well, it's hard to make. I look at the copies and I think, this is never going to fit.

So this next collection you have is Miami themed. What about Miami inspired you?
A little bit of everything, just the way Miami has transitioned from the 80s to today. That's kind of our theme for the year. I grew up in Miami, and this being our tenth year we just wanted to come back home and make it about the city, the influence of the cultures and the people. I mean, we have the sexiest people in the world! I've traveled all over the world and I feel like there's nowhere like Miami.

Is there any one print in this collection that you're most excited about?
We actually have a Miami Nice print, which is the name of our fashion show this year. It's a flamingo feathered palm tree print and it was actually one of the car wraps for the Mercedes Benz cars [outside of the show]. We're focusing the collection on a mint color and calling it mint Cadillac, along with a Miami peach.

What was it like for you growing up in Miami?
I lived in South Miami and that's pretty much where I've lived all my life. We had our company there, but now we moved to Doral. So now I'm trying to find my way towards the beach, because the beach is not as far from Doral.

Right now you only design for women, but have you ever considered branching out?
We get asked all the time but we're really trying to expand in giving the Luli Fama customer more of the brand. We introduced Eye Candy, which is our sunglass line, but I would like to expand in shoes, in bags, in hats, just giving her more of Luli Fama rather than just branch out to a different customers. Rather than be everything to everybody, we want to cater more to our customer because we have a very loyal family. Once they buy Luli Fama, they stay very true to the brand.

Let's get into our fire round.

If you were a city, which would you be?

What do you love most about Miami?
The nightlife.

What do you hate most about Miami?
The humidity and the driving.

What's your favorite neighborhood in Miami?
I love the beach, but I really do like the whole Gables area and Midtown. We hang out a lot around there.

What's your sign?

What's your favorite dish?

What is your favorite thing about the beach?
Being in the sun. I love the sun, I know it's terrible, but I love the sun.

What is your least favorite thing about going to the beach?
Having to drive home with sand everywhere.

If you weren't a swimwear designer, what would you be doing right now?
Probably a shoe designer.

What kind of shoes?
Very sexy. Stilletos or nice wedges, but definitely heels.
· Luli Fama [Official Site]
· All One on One Posts [Racked Miami]
· All Swim Week Coverage [Racked Miami]