By Nicole Berrie
Photography by Justin Namon
“THERE WAS JUST SO MUCH WACKY SHIT OUT THERE,” says Isaac Ross, the 28-year-old founder of resort lifestyle brand Solid & Striped on the state of women’s swimwear from his midtown headquarters. “The prints are just so crazy and over the top. How did leather get on a bathing suit? I wanted to simplify it and put out some classic silhouettes.” To that end, Ross’ streamlined collection boasts men’s trunks, women’s swimwear and soon a capsule collection of resort wear to be launched later this year that all embody a quintessentially classic, retro-leaning aesthetic that might attract fans like Steve McQueen and Jane Birkin, were it four decades earlier. “Timeless is always a word that I use,” explains the New Jersey native who cut his teeth working at William Morris Endeavor in Los Angeles before embarking on his own career in the fashion industry. “I wanted to create a product that if you lived in a Slim Aarons photograph of a pool at someone’s estate in 1970s Acapulco, it wouldn’t look weird if you wearing one of our bathing suits.” In that spirit, the East Coast-inspired collection includes slim-fitting trunks that fall above the knee in quasi-preppy hues and patterns (think: gingham and candy stripes) and pared-down bikinis devoid of any superfluous embellishment (read: no tassels or fringe here.) The result: an ultimately wearable line that has been hailed by Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar and is quickly becoming the swimwear of choice for vacationing fashionistas in-the-know including Poppy Delvigne, Derek Blasberg and Gisele Bundchen. Below, we caught up with Ross who revealed the DNA behind the brand, the best silhouettes for men and why he makes his friends order the French fries.
What was the moment of inspiration for Solid & Striped?
I was at a friend’s house in Water Mill for 4th of July. Everyone was wearing Vilebrequin swim trunks and my friend’s dad was wearing a pair of navy blue and white striped trunks that he had bought at Club 55 in St. Tropez twenty years ago. They were faded and torn but I thought they looked great. I searched all over and couldn’t find them anywhere. I called a designer friend of mine who was at Band of Outsiders and I was like, “Look, all I want to do is design one pair of swim trunks.” And she did.
You launched with men’s, what inspired you to start making women’s suits?
We do custom pink and white striped trunks for the Beverly Hills Hotel. They’re gorgeous and sell out over and over again. Women were coming in jealous that there wasn’t a BHH bikini. So I called Morgan Curtis of Morgan Lane and we started the first women’s collection.
What was the inspiration behind the women’s line?
I wanted to make a product that ages well both in construction and aesthetic. It’s great when you’re 18 and you can wear a Brazilian pink bikini with rhinestones but we wanted to make stuff for women to feel comfortable in.
How is the East Coast integral to Solid & Striped?
In California, there’s a real surf culture with Quicksilver, Billabong, so a lot of the swimwear is targeted towards surfers. We wanted to make something that was flattering, quick-drying, comfortable and from a design perspective, and to work really well if you were at the beach or the pool but you could also put a shirt on and a pair of shoes and go to lunch and it would look great. That was our focus. Not how to have the most highly technical everything. We’re not marketing this to surfers, there aren’t surfboards in our ads. It’s not a surf brand. It’s more a lifestyle brand.
What was your approach when it came to the cut of the men’s suits?
I wanted to make sure that we were making something that would be flattering not only on the guy who works out regularly but also on the guy who’s taking long lunches and doesn’t have enough time to go to the gym. So I’d bring my friends over, some of whom were really fit and some of them who would fall in the other category, and I’d fit them. We finally we came to a fit that we thought would flatter most guys and a lot of body types, not just one. Because it’s really easy for a fit model to make a pair of swim trunks look great.
What about the silhouette of your trunks that makes it flattering for all guys?
The problem with most elastic bands in bathing suits is that they hug you too much in the waist and billow out in the butt and thigh. If you just ate lunch, it’s going to fit differently. You want some snugness when you dive in a swimming pool, but you also don’t want them to be uncomfortably snug when you sit down. We tailored the leg to make sure there wasn’t the diaper effect, which just adds pounds to guys. A bathing suit, for a guy or for a girl, is most likely the least amount of clothing you’re going to be wearing in public so we wanted to make sure that person feels comfortable in that moment.
Image courtesy of solidandstriped.com Image courtesy of solidandstriped.com
Your men’s trunks are a bit shorter than typical board shorts, why is that?
We launched wit a 12 cm inseam, which falls mid-to-low thigh. A lot of guys, especially who are not in the best shape, think that wearing a long trunk is going to be somehow elongate them. It has the opposite effect. A shorter length elongates and looks better.
You call your company a vacation lifestyle brand, what do you mean by that?
What do you do on vacation? There might be a beach walk, you go swimming at the pool, you have lunch, play tennis. Guys can literally go from the time they get out of bed, put on a bathing suit and don’t have to change until dinner. We wanted to make pieces that can take you from the time you get up to the time you go to dinner.
Image courtesy of solidandstriped.com Image courtesy of solidandstriped.com
What is your approach to health and food?
For a long time, I was trying to be very healthy because I was heavy. I would never eat fried foods, I wouldn’t eat pizza, I wouldn’t eat pasta but now I let myself slip a little bit. I like a good French fry now again. Also, I’m under the impression that if somebody else orders something, and you eat it, even if you eat most of it, there’s still no calories. So I love when somebody else orders a French fries so I can pick at them.
Take us through a day in the life of meals?
I love my Nespresso machine and I drink a lot of water. I don’t want to get headaches so I like to stay hydrated. Sometimes my girlfriend will be nice enough to scramble me eggs but I’ll usually go to Pret A Manger and get a yogurt granola parfait or an energy bagel. For lunch, I go to Dean & Deluca for brown rice sushi or there are a lot of delis around here so I’ll make my own wrap. It’s usually turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato and honey mustard. I’m a big honey mustard guy. For dinner, my girlfriend graciously cooks for me every now and then. She does roasted chicken or lamb with carrots and a great salad. A woman’s touch on a salad is really important. Guys don’t really don’t get it.
Did living in Los Angeles, influence the way you view health?
In LA, it was very easy to eat healthy. In New York, restaurants are largely much less health aware. My New York friends give me a hard time cause I’ll go into a restaurant and ask for a flax seed pancake. They’re like, “Dude, you are 3000 miles away from a restaurant that has a flax seed anything so have your eggs and bacon.” But where I can find the healthy option, I’ll almost always take it.
What do you do for fitness?
I like playing tennis. I never took lessons but it’s something I enjoy and I’d like to get better at.
Do you cook?
I can cook anything that can be roasted. The oven is my best friend. When I eat my healthiest is when I roast stuff. I’ll buy Brussels sprouts, cut them in half, put on olive oil and stick it in the oven or I’ll do cauliflower with pine nuts.
What is your favorite guilty indulgence?
I love cereal. All cereal. I don’t discriminate. I have an oral fixation. I used to be an alcoholic and I haven’t had drink in almost 9 years. It’s about putting your hand to your mouth whether it’s a drink or cereal.
Do you have tips for people who don’t want to drink when they’re out?
I’ll always order a club soda with lime just because I like to hold something. And if everybody else is holding something, it’s nice to be holding something. That’s enough for me.
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