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A passion for fashion, and the beach, sparked this swimsuit brand

From left, Andrea Izturiz, Catherine Cybulkiewicz, Silvana Isaacs, who founded Antigua Collection, Alejandra Ghersi and Alma Delgado, at Casa Wynwood in Miami on Dec. 4, 2017.
From left, Andrea Izturiz, Catherine Cybulkiewicz, Silvana Isaacs, who founded Antigua Collection, Alejandra Ghersi and Alma Delgado, at Casa Wynwood in Miami on Dec. 4, 2017. For The Miami Herald

Company name: Antigua Collection / Silvana Isaacs

Headquarters: Miami and Maracay, Venezuela

Concept: To provide high-quality, affordable handmade fashions and bathing suits that can transition from day to evening wear and flatter the female spirit.

Story: Silvana Isaacs grew up in the city of Valencia, Venezuela, near the coast. She went to the beach every weekend. Even her wedding was on the sand.

In 2015, Isaacs, also an interior designer who studied in Milan and London, decided to embrace her passion for fashion. She bought fabrics and sewed the first 25 designs herself. Testing her market, she took the swimsuits to a fair and quickly sold out.

She knew she had something. She just didn’t know what.

Knowing that every great fashion designer first produces a great brand, Isaacs drew on inspiration from her favorite Venezuelan restaurant for the name “Antigua.” Antigua, the restaurant, was timeless, inspiring, and just felt good — just like she wanted her collection to feel on people and how she wanted people to feel in her stores.

In 2015, Isaacs bought three sewing machines and got involved with all aspects of the manufacturing herself. She hired a team of seamstresses; she designed day and night, manufactured and ultimately launched her inaugural 2016 Antigua Collection.

She planned to open her first store in Venezuela, but after noticing that a grocery store next to her soon-to-be shop had a line of people waiting for food deliveries, she knew a new swimwear store was not needed when people could barely buy staples and groceries.

In August 2016, due to the worsening situation in Venezuela, the family decided to move to the United States. “There, you have to work with whatever you can find to design with,” Isaacs said in an interview in her first Miami store. “Here you can have everything, you have all the options.”

In December 2016, Isaacs sold her first wholesale order to Loews Miami Beach Hotel; the hotel continues to buy her line for its boutique store. Now she makes about 300 bathing suits plus other fashions, and markets them primarily through Instagram, where she has more than 25,000 followers. A tribe of creative friends from Venezuela helps with photography, videos, modeling and more.

In summer 2017, eight months pregnant with her second child, Isaacs and her husband, William Francis Craig, opened a pop-up store in Wynwood, a casual, playful space adorned with art and sandboxes among her fashions. Being totally hands-on, the couple even painted the mural outside welcoming guests into the store. Isaacs ran the shop, too.

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Silvana Isaacs, who founded Antigua Collection, poses with one of the dresses from her collection at Casa Wynwood in Miami on Dec. 4, 2017. Alexia Fodere For The Miami Herald

In February, Antigua moved to a permanent location down the street at 181 NW 25th St., a colorful store also designed by Isaacs. “When people come in, they always tell us is that they love the vibe.”

She is launching a 2018 spring/summer collection that will also include an active collection (gym wear) and men’s beachwear, too. Isaacs said the new collection is Art Basel-inspired, infused with palm leaves, black and white stripes, gold and pops of florals.

Launched: Inaugural Antigua Collection in 2016 with 24 designs. The 2017 Collection consists of more than 250 designs.

Website / Social: www.AntiguaCollection.com and https://www.instagram.com/antiguacollection/

Management team: Silvana Isaacs, founder and designer, and her husband, William Francis Craig.

No. of employees: Nine

Financing: Self-financed.

Recent milestone: In July 2017, the first Antigua Collection pop-up store opened in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District. The first permanent Antigua Collection store opened nearby at 181 NW 25th St. in February. Held events during Art Basel at her pop-up store, and Loews featured an art installation by Isaacs in the hotel’s lobby.

Biggest startup challenge: Because of Venezuela’s lack of resources resulting from the country’s political decline, it was difficult to source the materials needed, and therefore stifled Isaac’s ability to create and design. She had the talented help, but not the fabric or materials she needed.

Next Steps: Isaacs’ goal is to be part of Swim Week Miami 2018 and to open up sales channel distribution for major retail stores nationally and internationally. Isaacs will be working with an international group to find global sales distribution.

Strategy for next steps: Isaacs will continue to manage her own Instagram channel to ensure her followers are taken care of and so that she can listen to their recommendations for growth. She plans to expand her collection in more locations in the U.S., the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Spain, France and the U.K. She plans to continue investing profits to maintain control of her company.

Mentor’s view: “She is naturally talented and quickly implemented early advice that I gave her,” said Christi Tasker of the Tasker Agency. “Her biggest challenge will be handling more sales. She is working hard to maintain inventory in all sizes and styles for quick deliveries. My message to all foreign business owners: America does not wait and rarely gives a second chance to new brands. Make the experience right the first time.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. Email: ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

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