Going Swimmingly

How do you make modern swimwear? If you’re the designer behind powerhouse brand Montce Swim, you look to the past.

SWIM FAN: Alexandra Grief of Montce Swim is creating a fashion empire, one swimsuit at a time.

By Nina Tsiotsias
Portrait By Vanessa Rogers

It started with a few custom-order prints and solids. Now, celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski have made Montce Swim bikinis a staple in their bathing suit drawers. That’s because 31-year-old Alexandra Grief is doing what she knows best: swimwear.

Ironically, the fashion designer who has been a regular at the Miami Swim Week circuit in recent years wasn’t initially focused on swimwear. Grief had a brief foray as a jewelry designer, creating handmade jewelry using feathers and crystal and turquoise beading, and selling the pieces to an eclectic local shop. She remembers customers even showing up at her house for the jewelry. “It was the first time I thought, ‘Wow, people really like what I’m making,’” says Grief, a graduate of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Soon the feather jewelry market became oversaturated, and Grief felt it was time to start her swimsuit empire. While working as a bartender at a Fort Lauderdale sports bar, she poured pints while talking to customers about her plan to design swimwear. She soon brought her idea to life in late 2009, executing the designs she had sketched on napkins from behind the bar.

“Starting a swimwear line seemed like a natural step for me,” says Grief, who counts memories of visits to Costa Rican beaches as inspiration for her fashion line. “If I had said I wanted to design wedding dresses, I wouldn’t know where to start. But I had already been collecting ideas from surfing, traveling and spending so many years chilling at South Florida beaches and going to Costa Rica quite often.”

Costa Rica even inspired her brand’s name. During one visit to the Central American country, she met a local girl named Montce. “I thought it was a different, pretty and fun name, so I just stuck with it,” she says.

Grief has perfected bikini fits, with each of her styles gently contouring and flattering various body types. Montce Swim effortlessly boasts a “cool girl” aesthetic regardless of cut or style. That’s because Grief is the ultimate cool girl. She is a trendsetter, not a follower. Much of her design inspiration comes from putting a fresh, modern twist on a vintage look, including cap-sleeved tops and gingham one-pieces.

Today, her bicoastal swimwear empire includes a flagship store in Fort Lauderdale and another location in Hermosa Beach, California, which will soon relocate to Los Angeles. While Grief has lived in L.A. for more than two years, she plans to move back to Fort Lauderdale to be closer to the bulk of her business and employees.

Perhaps the start of her return to Florida began in July, during Miami Swim Week. After a rainstorm drenched her models at last year’s show, Grief was determined to come back stronger than ever in 2017. And if a pulsating vibe from the crowd and raised eyebrows from social media influencers Rocky Barnes and Jenah Yamamoto (better known as Gypsy One) are any measurement of success, then Grief was victorious with this year’s show. “The energy, the models and the music all came out exactly the way I wanted,” she says.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Issue.