When former model and fashion industry veteran, Melissa Leach, developed melanoma in her late 20s she struggled to find a way to protect herself from the sun whilst also maintaining her discerning style. Twelve years on, she has established her own company, Factor, and designed a collection of one-piece swimwear that is equally stylish whether you are swimming in the ocean or enjoying an evening cocktail.
“I unfortunately suffered from melanoma at a relatively young age,” she explains. “Thank goodness I caught it early and had a full recovery to date. During that time, because I was so involved in fashion and high-end brands, I always thought to myself ‘I really wish I had something I could wear that reflects my own personal style that will still protect me from the sun.’”
After doing extensive research, Leach found that much of the high factor swimwear available was either designed for water sports or just didn’t meet her exacting standards. “I was looking for something that was more minimalistic, elegant and transitional so I could wear it in the sun, but could easily slip on a pair of shorts and wear it to dinner or lunch.”
She therefore designed her own and launched her debut capsule collection of four different styles, in three different “moody hues” colours, in May, to coincide with Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
They are all one-pieces and, she explains: “the concept is that it is swimwear as ready-to-wear so they are transitional body suits that can be worn in the sun but can also transition into a ready-to-wear piece.”
Each style has a different amount of coverage, but the back is always completely covered. The fabric is Italian Lycra and has an ultra violet protection factor (UPF) of 50, which protects against 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays. The material is also sustainable and made from recycled fishing nets.
“I’m aware, as a skin cancer survivor myself, that it’s very important to be as covered as possible; however, I don’t always want to be 100 percent covered. I want to have variation in my wardrobe. If I’m out for a day on a boat I might want to wear the full-covered style, but if I’m sitting by the pool and I’m able to be under an umbrella, I might choose to wear something that has a bit more exposed skin.
“Not only is it sun protective and good for anti-ageing, but all of my fabrics are really luxurious,” she continues. “It’s all Italian fabric that has UPF of 50. All of the pieces are double lined and seamless so fit like a second skin and the look of them is a sleek, seamless bodysuit. They also have removable belts. I’ve chosen not to sew in loops at the sides so the pieces can be very transitional. You might wish to use the belt when using it as a swim piece because it will accentuate your waist and be really flattering to your figure.”
The first collection is small and simple to test the market, but Leach has other styles and designs in the pipeline. “It’s important to me to make a success of these pieces and build it from there.”
Leach also believes the Bermuda angle will appeal not just to locals but internationally as well. “I think that being a Bermuda brand adds a high-end feeling and also a real mystery,” she says. One of her models is Bermudian, Lily Lightbourn.
After starting out as a model herself, Leach moved into the commercial side of the fashion industry and previous employers include Burberry and Jimmy Choo. She is also a mentor for the Bermuda Fashion Festival.
Factor swimwear is available on-line at www.factorbermuda.com, in Resort Life & Style at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club and in Regali at Rosewood Bermuda. Prices start at $285.