Years after establishing herself as a versatile accessories designer, style icon Tweetie de Leon Gonzalez now designs swimwear.
“I’ve been wanting to do swimsuits for the longest time. It’s always been in the back of my mind and I just didn’t know how to go about it,” says Gonzalez, former model, actress and host of “Project Runway Philippines.”
The opportunity presented itself when she met Patti Manuel Go, owner of the homegrown activewear brand theshapeshop. Gonzalez asked if they could manufacture swimwear. Go said yes, and a collaboration was born.
Launched today and available at Aura Athletica at Power Plant Mall, Makati, TDLG x theshapeshop is a collection of six styles of swimwear, each in three colorways.
Available in small, medium and large and with prices ranging from P2,700 to P3,500, the swimwear—from bikinis, ‘trikinis’ and maillots made of Lycra to breezy cover-ups—is accessorized with coral, citrine, carnelian and colored agates used by Gonzalez in her handmade jewelry line.
“There’s also a lot of asymmetry in the design, which is very much my style,” says Gonzalez. “I have traditional cuts too, but the back will reveal a surprise.”
Women, from those in their 20s (like her eldest child and only daughter, Sabina, 22, who models in these photos) to those in their 50s—Gonzalez is now 51—will take to the classic collection.
“It’s not out there as far as cut, color and silhouette are concerned. It’s made for women who look for comfort and want to move around a lot. Whatever your activity—whether it’s swimming, playing volleyball on the beach or just lounging around—there’s a style for you.”
A matter of preference
While Gonzalez acknowledges the rules of wearing swimsuits based on your age and body type—she, for example, goes for halters to emphasize her toned shoulders—she also isn’t strict about them: “We’re at a time when we have learned to love ourselves, so it’s really a matter of preference and what makes you feel good about yourself. And this line covers you in more ways than one.”
Like her jewelry, Gonzalez is a hands-on designer, involved every step of the way. (Her line of handcrafted jewelry is available at TDLG, her boutique at Alabang Town Center, which also carries her wide range of complementary fashion items.)
She used Sabina as fitting model so she could get feedback on the swimsuit from a wearer’s point of view. She also revised her design when its sample didn’t translate into a snug and secure fit.
Her foray into swimwear design was an enjoyable experience.
“Patti and her team guided me through it all. Plus their quality is really good, their workmanship is swell, and our business relationship is excellent. It was free flowing.”
Those closest to Gonzalez shouldn’t be surprised with her new venture.
A swimsuit fanatic since her single days, she once owned as many as two dozen swimsuits, and still keeps pieces from decades past “for sentimental reasons.”
In her younger years, her go-to style was the triangle bikini, an unforgiving cut only supermodels and the genetically gifted could pull off.
“I still wear it, but now I bring my children along so there’s an explanation as to why my body looks this way,” says the mother of four, with a huge laugh.
Interestingly, Gonzalez, who represented the Philippines in the Ford Supermodel of the World search in 1987, never modeled swimwear or lingerie in her heyday.
“I’ve been asked. But I would politely beg off and say I didn’t feel comfortable, and nobody took it against me. They understood and respected me for my choices.”
Wearing a bikini to the beach—now that’s a different story. Gonzalez, who stays in swimsuit shape these days by going to the gym three to four times a week and attending twice-weekly sessions of Pilates, says, “I guess I never outgrew the mind-set of a student. I’m still excited for summers because it means going to the beach. And now that my husband and I have kids, it makes each trip more fun.
“The sight of water and the sound of waves crashing give me a special feeling,” she adds. “Even if I’m not in the water, the sight of it is healing for me in so many ways. It makes me feel at home, at peace, and that everything will be okay.” —CONTRIBUTED