When Mary Gillis was getting ready for her vacation in Cabo, she ran into a problem; she couldn’t find a swimsuit that she felt both confident and comfortable in. When she expanded her search, she found that most of the suits that provided the amount of coverage she wanted were designed for athletes and not comfortable to lounge in. She discovered that swimsuits that provided both coverage and style simply didn’t exist. Knowing that she couldn’t be the only one struggling with this, Gillis and a friend began asking other women about their swimsuit shopping experiences, and found that many other women were also interested in finding swimsuits with more coverage. From this realization, Swim Lively was born. Swim Lively is a swimwear company based out of The Runway: Fashion Incubator and Retail Showroom in downtown Lansing. Gillis, who has been an artist for her entire life and earned a degree from New York University, began dipping her toes into clothing design to fill the needs of people looking for a different kind of swimsuit. “The difference between my suits and other legged suits is that the other suits aren’t designed for lounging. They are more designed for sports, where my ‘athleisure’ wear is designed for both,” says Mary Gillis. “I wanted the suits to be designed to not only be used as a swimsuit, also so that you could wear (the swimsuit) without needing to cover up to walk down the beach.” The fit of the suits was very important to Gillis, so she did extensive testing and created suits for different body types. She designed the suits to have either underwire or a shelf bra to suit different people. The swimsuits also have the option of a closed back or an open back, depending on preference. Gillis wants her suits to be able to fit anybody. The feature that sets her suits apart from others is the nearly invisible zipper along the leg of the suit. When unzipped, it gives the feeling of lounging but allows easy leg coverage when zipped. Gillis plans to create more designs for the swimwear, but will keep the bottoms legged with her patented ‘Hip Zip.’ She also has plans to move her suits into wholesale in the future. Gillis has an extensive art background, working in both paint and sculpture, and easily transitioned into designing and creating her swimwear. Not only does she have her swimwear for sale, but she also sells the art showcased around The Runway. Her artwork and swimwear can both be purchased online and downtown at The Runway. “I love it here at The Runway,” says Gillis. “It’s a learning experience for a lot of us, so there are a lot of business boot camps about branding and investing. There are also people to help with sourcing materials and finding manufacturing.” You can find out more about Mary Gillis and her artwork at marygillis.com. More information about her business, Swim Lively, can be found at swimlively.com.
Kyle Dowling is an employee of M3 Group and is pursuing a writing degree at LCC. He enjoys fiction writing, video games and movies.