Interview with Gwyn Prentice
As Miami Swim Week approaches, we continue to explore the swimwear marketplace, and get to know some of the designers behind some of today’s hottest swimwear brands. Today we meet Gwyn Prentice, the designer behind Helen Jon Designer Swimwear.
Q: How did you start Helen Jon? How did the brand get its name?
I could never find anything I was comfortable wearing and I thought other women might feel the same way. I always felt somewhat naked in swimsuits — like I was running around in my bra and underwear and was envious that men could basically wear shorts to the beach and pool.
I always felt somewhat naked in swimsuits
So I started wearing men’s swim trunks and finding swim tops to match. After doing that for 15 years, I thought I might have something to offer other women who felt that they couldn’t find swimwear that they loved and actually wanted to wear. I now wear Helen Jon swim shorts and surf pants to the beach and pool and feel comfortable and confident.
I started wearing men’s swim trunks and finding swim tops to match
Finding a name for the brand was difficult since we wanted a name with sincere meaning. Coming up with Helen Jon wasn’t immediate but, when we finally did, it was a eureka moment and the search ended there.
Helen was the name of my beloved great aunt who, herself, did not have children but my sister and I called her “grandma” and she called us her “grandchildren.” She exuded style, had a true way of dressing to perfection, and always added just the right accessory — a lot of love! She never cared when I would fall asleep on her lap and drool on her fur coat. “Jon,” was the term of endearment that my friend’s father used after her name to mean “dear.” I thought together it was the best way to honor Helen and incorporate the beauty of the world.
Helen was the name of my beloved great aunt
Q: Fit is a big deal for your brand. Why is it so important, and what else differentiates the brand from others in the market?
Fit is of the utmost importance to us since providing our customer with swimwear that makes her feel confident and beautiful is our top priority. If a fit is flattering to a woman’s curves and stays in place on her body, she can relax and focus on what she is doing, not what she looks like. We want our customers to enjoy their time on the beach or by the pool free from self-consciousness!
Fit is of the utmost importance to us
We differentiate ourselves by marrying great coverage and supportive fit with elegant prints and silhouettes. We know our customer wants it all — flattering fit, constructive support, soft fabrics, beautiful prints and solids, silhouettes that are classic and chic – and we strive to provide that! And choices too – if she wants a lot of coverage or protection from the sun, she can wear our boardshorts, surf shirts, or surf pants; if she is looking for less coverage but still supportive fit, our string bikini is perfect.
Q: Who designs your swimsuits and other clothing, and where are they made?
We have a small team but we value each other’s opinions and listen closely to what each team member has to say. One of the things I am most proud of is the open dialogue our company values and fosters. I want to hear every opinion—from our Helen Jon employees to our customers. Open communication is essential to create great products and I take every comment seriously!
Helen Jon is proudly manufactured in Los Angeles. This keeps us in very close contact with our factories, which allows us to carefully watch the quality of our garments and to also develop supportive relationships with the factory owners and workers. We have open discourse with our factories and do our best to give them business during their slow season but also control our calendar so as not to overload them during their busy season.
It is gratifying to know that we are supporting local employment in California!
Q: What did you do prior to Helen Jon? What passions or inspirations are behind the brand?
Before Helen Jon, I spent my time volunteering for non-profit organizations with a focus on women and children. I volunteered as a Guardian ad Litem before attending Columbia Law School and then, afterward, while living in Kansas City, served on the boards of the Women’s Employment Network, Truman Medical Center’s Women’s Health Partnership, CASA, and the Child Protection Center.
Before Helen Jon, I spent my time volunteering for non-profit organizations with a focus on women and children
My passion has always been on promoting women, and this passion was the driving force behind developing a swimwear line that addresses the needs of women and gives them choices on how much to cover (or not cover!) their bodies.
Q: Tell us about your partnership with Women’s Foundation for the month of July! Do you have any upcoming charitable partnerships for this year?
We are thrilled about this partnership since Women’s Foundation empowers women by promoting equity and opportunity for women of all ages. Specifically, during the month of July, we are donating 10% of all web sales to their Appointments Project, which helps get women appointed to boards, commissions, task forces, and committees at the local, state, and national level in order to ensure that women are in positions of decision-making power. We are excited to see all the directions where our partnership will take us!
during the month of July, we are donating 10% of all web sales to their Appointments Project
We are also ecstatic about our partnership with Glam4Good, a non-profit founded by Mary Alice Stephenson. The organization focuses on harnessing the healing power, joy, and attention fashion and beauty bring to bolster self-esteem, promote positivity, honor courage, and help everyday people in need.
We have created a capsule collection that will raise money specifically for Glam4Good’s breast cancer initiatives. They have been wonderful to work with and we are enthusiastic about collaborating with them in the future!
We have created a capsule collection that will raise money specifically for Glam4Good
For us, partnering with agencies like Women’s Foundation and Glam4Good brings us to our roots – celebrating and supporting women!
Q: You’ve already expanded beyond swim wear to activewear, resort wear, and accessories. What do you see as the future of Helen Jon?
We strongly feel that our future continues to be in providing the best and most thoughtful swimwear we can possibly provide. We continue to listen to our customers to meet their needs and we expect that to continue! But, even as our focus continues to remain on swimwear, we feel that our design philosophy of providing simple, supportive, and chic garments extends easily to other areas besides the beach and pool. For example, our activewear is very simple, yet extremely flattering, as is our resort wear. We hope to continue to expand our offerings in the active, resort, and accessory markets.