Fashion Insiders’ New Obsession: Made by Dawn Swimwear

A former model and her husband launch a feminine swim line featuring soft pastels and ruffle trims.

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Dawn Peterson grew up in Hawaii, where she lived in her bathing suit. After spending some time as a model in New York, the tall, lean blonde moved to the West Coast and settled in Santa Barbara, where she searched for romantic and playful swimwear from other brands, but came up short. As such, she started to sew her own. Not long after, with the help of her husband, Kirk, Made by Dawn (with a smiley face in the logo, which says something!) launched with styles featuring small ruffles and sweet bowties on the shoulder straps. Now, the brand is worn by editors, It girls, and models all over. Plus, their swim now sits in a window at Saks. Below, the couple shares how Made by Dawn all began.

Fashion Insiders’ New Obsession: Made by Dawn Swimwear


What was your particular interest in swimwear? What led you there? I loved making swim that I wanted to wear. I started drawing patterns and sewing swim for myself at home. I found that I wanted to make cuts that would be more flattering to my figure. I am from Hawaii, so I wore a lot of swim growing up.

What was the experience of getting your business off the ground? We started sewing our first samples at home, to learn the whole manufacturing process. We had no experience in the apparel business, so it took quite a bit of time to learn how to properly develop the first collection, and how to sell it.

What were the main pieces you began with? Coral, a high halter neck maillot and bikini style, and the Petal, a scoop neck maillot with ruffles on the straps. Both are still extremely popular with our customers.

What swim trends are you seeing among women right now? Buying more swim instead of just having one classic swimsuit.

When did you feel the label was on the right track? Right now – seeing our swim in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue on our last trip to New York. It was so exciting to see the “Traveler” style in crystal blue, right in front.

Let’s talk about fit – what does it mean to you, your brand, and how is it important? What is the key to great fit? Fit is very important. The right cut can make you feel beautiful. I also wanted to make swim you could play in, that would stay put as you move. The key to a great fit is the right cut & fabric.

Is there a certain beach that inspires you? Every beach is inspiring!

Where are you excited to travel this summer? Tahoe, we love the beautiful blue crystal clear water and the great hikes for us and our two dogs.

If one of your swimsuits could be packed by a style icon and taken anywhere, who would the icon be and where would she go? Carolyn Bessette wearing our “Coral” style in Foam in the South of France.

Talk to me about your plans for the future. What’s next? Making it even better. We want to have fun being creative and we want to continue to try new things.

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