From Scratch: Maggie May Swimwear

When the attendees of fashion trade shows in New York and Las Vegas hear about couture bikini designer Magdalena Trever’s  background, they do a double-take.

“They say, ‘Bikinis in Michigan?'” says Trever. “They can’t believe it. And I’m proud of that. I love saying it.”

And despite the fact that Trever’s unique Maggie May Swimwear designs are creating a buzz from coast to coast, she doesn’t plan on changing her answer to “where are you from?” anytime soon. At just 25, the Milford-based designer’s knitted bikinis have been appearing everywhere from San Francisco fashion shows to celebrities in Star Magazine. That’s after only two years in the biz.  

Trever graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco with a degree in knitwear and an eye on working for a high-end sweater designer. “I started doing swimwear as a side thing,” she says. “I think it stood out because it was unique, because it’s knitted. I got a business loan and we just kind of grew from there.”

Grow it did, and for good reason. The unique knitted bikinis are something the fashion industry has never seen before. Trevor combines her knitting skills with avant-garde designs, bright colors and high-end yards such as bamboo and silk. The boldly embellished bikinis are about to show up in even more highly visible locations. One of her designs may be seen on a contestant in the next Miss America competition, and she is also working hard to secure a spot in the holy grail of swimsuit publications, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Though she isn’t sure of the placement yet, the feedback from the national magazine has been positive thus far.

“They now have 11 of my suits that I made just for them,” says Trever. “That would a big way to get exposure.”

Even with all the growth Trever has seen over that past two years, appearances in the Miss America Pageant and Sports Illustrated would be sure to cause her business to expand like never before.  Maggie May is still a fairly lean operation, but she already has a plan to keep her growth local.

“My swimsuits are very difficult to manufacture,” she says. “That’s what makes them unique.” It’s also what makes selecting a manufacturer tough. She’s currently working with a company in New Jersey, but as demand increases, she intends to build her own troupe of bikini knitters at home.

“My real goal is to employ people here and have less manufactured out of state,” she says. “I’ll have seamstresses and knitters right here where I could have more control. That’s my real dream.”

She hopes to begin building on that dream as soon as this coming winter. As one might expect, summer is the busy season in the swimwear industry, and though she’s currently bustling from one side of the country to the other, Trevor is looking forward to the cooler months ahead when she’ll get a chance to design, reorganize and prepare for an even busier season next year.

According to Trever, finding the local talent is the least of her worries. “There is a lot of great talent here,” she says. “When I came back to Michigan I met a great group of models, designers and photographers. I can see the fashion industry really growing here.”

In fact, Trever attributes the active Detroit-area fashion community with her sudden success. A local hair and makeup artist put her in contact with the Miss America contestant whom she is now working with, and she credits Detroit photographer Scott Spellman for connecting her with important industry contacts. “He’s the photographer I use,” says Trever. “He helped me get started. It’s really been word of mouth.”

Her work has also been featured in Detroit’s fashion magazine Styleline. “Styleline has beautiful articles,” she says. “It’s been great to have the chance to have my work in it.”

“There are a lot of people from Detroit who are getting involved in the fashion industry. There is a designer from Project Runway (Joe Faris) who is from Detroit. Tika, who is one of the Victoria’s Secret models and from Detroit, will be at a show I’m doing soon in St. Clair Shoes.”

So while the fashion elite from New York may still be surprised to hear about a high-fashion swimwear designer from Michigan, Trever is certain that they’ll be less and less surprised as Detroit’s fashion community continues to grow.

“I really believe in Michigan,” she says. “This is where my roots are and I have a lot of supports here.”

With a fast-growing company in hand, support is something that Trever values. “It’s scary because sometimes I feel like I’m not going to do enough on my own,” she says. “There is so much work to do. It’s very busy and crazy, and every day I’m doing stuff. I’m always working.”

The work, she believes, is paying off. While she keeps her eye on keeping up with the demand for her line of knit bikinis, she’s also thinking about what Maggie May Swimwear will look like down the road.

“In the future I want to focus on swimwear and get really well known for that, but I may do more knit garments and expand from there. Maybe eventually do a full line.”

With all the hustle and bustle of success, Trever is perfectly happy to be fully immersed in her bikini designs. “Swimwear is my real art,” she says. “I love what I do. I really want to make women feel more beautiful. It’s really an art form.”

Natalie Burg is a freelance writer and the news editor at Capital Gains.