FOR WOMEN, IT IS SUMMER’S WORST EXPERIENCE: GRABBING AN armful of bathing suits off the rack, confronting winter’s sins and settling on the getup that looks least bad. But swimsuit designer Michelle Deziel’s clients at Second Skin Swimwear in Juno Beach, Fla., have it easy. Using an innovative computer program, Deziel creates custom-made suits that not only fit well but also might include power liners to control flab, frills to hide hips or padding to boost the bosom. The suits, which cost $70 to $170 each, come in 12 basic patterns and in dozens of colors and prints. Says Deziel: “We can hide what you don’t like [about your body] and emphasize what you do.”
Deziel’s business is going swimmingly. It grossed $1 million last year, and half of her sales are to repeat customers. “Buying a suit used to take weeks of going from mall to mall,” says boater and mother Karen Rawling, 32. “Now that’s a thing of the past.”
A former accountant from Los Angeles, Deziel, 36, had spent three years in the U.S. Virgin Islands “bouncing around on boats, wearing bathing suits that never fit.” In 1983, after settling in Palm Beach, Fla., she read about a computer whiz who had designed a program to make a bikini for his wife. Deziel bought it for $20,000, worked out the glitches with the help of her father, a computer manufacturer, and opened her first shop in 1984. In addition lo her Juno Beach store, she now has three franchises—in Sarasota, Fla., St. Louis and Grosse Pointe, Mich.—and has licensed the software to about 20 shops around the country.
While business is booming, Deziel, who is divorced and has no children, doesn’t spend all her time with her measuring mouse. She and her current beau, Jack Blades, 55, a retired marine supplier, have designed a combination RV and houseboat for amphibious fun.
But even at work, life is a beach. “When you make a woman look good in a bathing suit,” she says, “you’d think you had given her the secret of eternal youth.”