Matthew Zink tells Kelly Killoren Bensimon about the perfect bikini, Charlie By MZ and more
Are you a #charliefan?
Swimsuit designer Matthew Zink spent five years making Victoria's Secret the hottest swimwear in the country. Today, the 31-year-old New York designer is taking the world of swimwear by storm with his own line, Charlie By MZ. Rhianna sends him birthday Instagrams, Jennifer Lopez wears his bikinis and one-pieces on personal vacations and in Vogue magazine spreads and his e-commerce business has retailers and social media magnates glued to his every step.
From his Brooklyn office, Zink exposes the seduction of the perfect bikini.
Q: How did you get involved in swimwear?
A: I've always loved swimwear. I love old Sports Illustrated magazines. I loved seeing Christie Brinkley. I just loved swimwear for both men and women. I was suggested by a friend to meet Victoria's Secret. I started to sketch into the company before the meeting, and it was love at first sketch. I got the job and worked there for five years.
Q: What was the first sketch that first inspired you?
A: It was sketching a great, simple, black string bikini. It was about the proportion on the body -- how big I wanted the triangle, and how long the ties are. That is the magic about swimwear, it's a fitted piece. It was all about proportion and enhancing and celebrating the body. No tricks about a string bikini. It's three triangles that cover the female anatomy.
Q: Who did you work for in the fashion industry?
A: I worked for Carolina Herrara as an intern. I'm from Ohio and had no New York experience or fashion experience. I got to experience the level, care, polish and the fabric of one of the most iconic brands. I was the first in in the morning and the last to leave. I then worked with a production company and worked with Tom Ford and Gucci, and YSL and Stefano Pilati. It was exciting to work with Tom Ford for he was creating a fantasy with every single detail.
Q: Why did you want to start your own business?
A: It was the right time for me. I knew who I was as a designer. I couldn't place myself at another brand. I had a passion for swimwear. My friends never said the brand they loved for swimwear. They all had favorites for jeans and shoes, but not swim. A lot of women and men couldn't find what they were looking for.
Q: What is your business?
A: We specialize in creating timeless and sexy swimwear. It's a very functional piece of clothing. I want my customers to love how they feel when they are in it.
Q: Why the name Charlie?
A: Charlie is my ultimate muse for both men and women. It's a constant touchstone for my designs. It's class, handsome, irreverent and has a '70s/'80s connotation. It is timeless.
Q: How do you use social media?
A: We started a social media platform so we could see our clothing with #charliefan on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Our fans tag the photos and we see our fans in all sorts of amazing environments. It's amazing how the fans get inspired to take these pictures. There is a surge for self-documentation right now, and it's great for me as a designer based in New York to see the fanbase and what they love and how they live. It's a very natural and honest way of engaging with our customer.
Q: Who's your favorite designer?
A: Halston. I love that his friends were his muses. I also love Gianni Versace and how he married Miami and Italy and the celebration of the supermodel. I also have a lot of respect for Tom Ford. His work is unique and consistent, and his repertoire is exactly how he wants it. He's proud of what he has and what he does. That's really inspiring to me.
Q: Who's your favorite model?
A: Jerry Hall is one of my favorites. I love a model that loves to smile like Lauren Hutton.
Q: Any advice?
A Be passionate. My passion for swimwear has allowed me to create a brand I love and connect with people who love it too, like Rhianna, Jennifer Lopez and my fanbase. It's getting bigger and hopefully I can expand the world of Charlie very soon.