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Ever since she was a child, Genesis Vegas has been obsessed with swimwear. Born and raised in Panama, she grew up traveling the beaches of the Caribbean and Latin America. Two years ago, she left her marketing job of eight years to follow the dream of launching her own swimwear line: AYRA SWIM. Genesis’s knowledge of product branding has helped boost her Instagram following from 5,000 last year to nearly 100,000 today, and AYRA’s original, earthy designs have helped her build a devoted fanbase. In an exclusive interview with People Chica, she shared the secrets of her success, as well as her vision for the future. She also revealed the very personal reason she named her line AYRA.
How would you describe AYRA?
AYRA is a very young brand that targets a woman who likes to be in nature and travel. We care immensely about aesthetics. None of our designs have any jewelry or gold inserts or anything like that. Everything is crochet or macramé. We’re not using things that aren’t meant to be used outside in nature.
What inspired you to create a swimwear line?
I would go to the beach with my dad and sister every weekend, so I basically grew up in a swimsuit. Since I didn’t have a background in design, I decided that bikinis would be the easiest for me. I said to myself, “You have to do something that you are passionate about.” I have like 200 bikinis in my closet! I knew what I did and didn’t like, so it was easy to create amazing quality. I’m pretty obsessed about having everything fit perfectly.
What’s behind the name, AYRA?
It’s in honor of my mom. She died when I was 5 years-old in a car accident. When I was 27, I sat down and was like, “Oh my God, I’m the same age my mom had when she died,” and it was a very motivational and spiritual moment for me. I felt like I needed to go ahead and do something different to honor my mother. I was going to follow my dream because she didn’t have the opportunity to keep living and making hers come true. So I decided that I was going to do it for her and I.
How did you start putting your plan in action?
The first thing I did was go to Colombia Moda, in Medellin. They have a trade show that’s for fabrics and everything related to manufacturing. But when you’re starting out, Medellin may not be the best place to go because they have all these huge brands like Agua Bendita and Maaji, so they don’t see you as a potential customer. So I eventually decided to go to L.A. because I heard that there are all these Mexican communities downtown where you can manufacture anything in small quantities, and I found the most amazing team of people that helped make my dream come true. They’ve been with me since I started and was producing only 50 of a kind to now where I’m producing 2,000. I thought I’d find American manufacturers in L.A., but I ended up finding the right people, who were more like me.
What makes AYRA standout from other swimwear lines?
Making every design original. For example, the Panama One Piece, which is our best seller, got us into Sport’s Illustrated. That suit is ridiculously beautiful and it’s so different from anything that anyone else has, and I think that that’s been part of the huge success we’ve had. I’ve seen two other big brands unsuccessfully try to copy the design, and that made me realize that being original is the most important thing you can do.
What does it mean to have actualized you vision and created a successful brand?
I feel like I’ve made my mom proud, and wherever she is, she will see it and be happy about that. So I feel very happy with everything I’m doing. But, there’s a lot I want to see happen. I see AYRA as a huge line beyond swimwear. Eventually, I want to have a RTW and jewelry line.