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Swimwear for the Perfect Girl: We Are Handsome

For the designers behind We Are Handsome, swimwear is more of a lycra canvas for the body than a water-happy costume for summer. Featuring bold prints and iconic names such as The Hollywood and The Africa, We Are Handsome (WAH) is a collaborative project between Indhra Chagoury of Oscar & Elvis Swimwear and Jeremy Somers of People Like Us. Born late last year, WAH has so far received phenomenal amounts of press and success, from selling out in Bondi’s Tuchuzy and Melbourne’s Fat to being worn by Ruby Rose and Catherine McNeil when they announced their engagement. It has received coverage in titles such as Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and has been nominated for Aussie Swimwear Designer of the year. Needless to say, the brand is certainly on the (inter)national radar.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about WAH is that the name of the label is almost as distinctive as the swimsuits themselves. Coming up with the name for the brand was an arduous process, with the two designers bouncing suggestions back and forth for weeks. “Making the name descriptive of the brand is always a good move, as it gives people a good reference for what they’re about to see and experience,” Jeremy explains. “It had to be nice to say out loud, to roll off the tongue, be easy to spell, be not too cool for school, not have an ampersand in it, not start with ‘the’, and the URL had to be available.” It sounds like a pretty detailed and rather tough criterion, but eventually they came across the word ‘handsome’. “We wanted something a little different… at first we hated it but it grew on us.”

“Swimwear is rarely mesmerizing, rarely stands out, and is often seen as a utility. We’re aiming to change that perception,” Jeremy says, pointing out why WAH is so unique. He goes on to explain that the inspiration for their collection was, strangely enough, familiarity.

“We were aiming to produce images which you feel like you know, you feel comfortable with, you feel like they’re iconic – despite the fact that you've never seen them before.”

For WAH, this translated to snarling wild cats, sweltering Los Angeles skylines, Miami yuppies in a pink convertible, vintage bird stamps… anything but your usual swimsuit prints. The duo sourced a few of the images for the prints from books, the internet and 70s and 80s archives, but most were created from scratch in the studio “over many late nights, droopy eyes and a concoction we like to call Skittlebull,” laughs Jeremy. The horse print on The Arabia swimsuit, for example, is composed of around nine different photographs, including two horses, four or five shots of skies and a few of the ground and dirt, which were then graded all at once. “Most people tend to think they’re all photographs, which is our aim,” Jeremy says. “We're trying to avoid using the word retro, as clich├ęd as it is, despite the images being derived from that era and feeling that way.”

“For us, art and fashion are one and the same. Without one, the other doesn’t exist… Our pieces need to be seen as both.”

The WAH website has had over 119,000 page views and has more than 1,050 incoming links pointing to it. We think the smoking-hot editorial-style photo shoot on the site best explains this huge amount of traffic. “Because our stuff is worn as fashion, not just swimmers, we wanted the shoot to have an urban feel so we shied away from your average beach shoot,” Jeremy says. “The shots were all constructed to have a very sophisticated and slightly retro (I hate that word) feel to them; a slightly serious feel to counter the playfulness of our designs.”

Describing the woman who wears WAH, Jeremy explains that “She's the type of girl who secretly loves a little attention. She's not an attention whore, but she knows that when she steps out of the house she looks good, and, more importantly, she feels great about herself… She’s beautiful…but she carries herself with a certain grace and prosperity.” He cheekily adds, “I think I’m describing my perfect girl…oh well, one and the same!”

WAH is in the process of taking their successes overseas and treating the rest of the world with some of the best that Sydney has to offer. This includes getting a UK agent, looking forward to Paris tradeshows and confirming orders from internationally renowned boutiques such as Opening Ceremony. On top of preparing for the looming Australian fashion week, WAH has been invited to go to the Oscars this month to provide product for the nominees and presenters. Jeremy excitedly tells us that they’ve just completed the designs and styles for the coming summer – reason enough to make it through the drop in mercury during the months ahead.

words: Ingrid Kesa


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