“Hey Stranger” is a typical greeting you might hear from Ali Conway. She’s the designer behind Strange Bikinis, a handmade bikini line designed for women of all body types. I walked into Ali’s store “just to look” and walked out clutching 2 new swimsuits and a big fat smile.
I was so excited about my new swimsuits that I joked with Ali that I’ll lie when someone asks where I got them from. Oh, this old thing? I got it from Target. But in my head, I’ll be cackling, my strange bikini is mine, all mine!
Just kidding. I hope that didn’t scare you off, because Ali’s story is seriously amazing. Shortly after moving to Reno in 2011, Ali’s mom convinced her to start making swimsuits. Mothers do know best…
Here’s Ali on why she is so passionate about making women feel their best:
“My mother said, ‘There’s a store here in Mesquite’ – which is my hometown- ‘that is interested in carrying your swimsuits’. I was like ‘What swimsuits? I don’t even make swimsuits.’ My mother was like ‘They want a wholesale order. Whip up a whole bunch and send um down.’ That was basically how it started. She said ‘You should do this.’”
“When I first started, I was between a couple different names. Strange, I liked the most. I wanted to call it Casuali with my name in there, but didn’t have the same catch. Every stranger is potentially a customer. It’s a fun way to think about that too. I’m meeting so many people. I make strangers my friends. That didn’t come until later. I’m meeting people I never would have through this.”
“I always imagined a girl at Zephyr on the 4th of July. Someone asks her, ‘Where’d you get that swimsuit?’. And she’s running away and shouting behind her like, ‘It’s a strange bikini!’”
“Swimsuits are marketed to the skinny-tall-petite-small. And that’s great, they need swimsuits too. But for the most part, in America, the world, there’s 85 percent of us that don’t look like that, especially after you have children. I wanted to create a culture that embraced every single body shape. I wanted people to have freedom to choose what they wanted.”
“I never had a store before this. They were all made to order. Within that, someone could want a full coverage bottom, like ‘I’m 48 years old’, and that’s fine because that’s what makes them feel their best. I’m still holding onto that message. I’ve been using curvy models and unphotoshopped photos since the first time I posted a photo.”
“I started realizing naturally that I had this mission. I wanted to reach out and connect over just being average. I always wanted to write a blog. My swimsuits are catered to the average girl. Everyone has the capability of being amazing, but not everyone’s a 10 Victoria Secrets model. But why shouldn’t you feel like you are?”
“I’ve always thought of myself as average, not in a bad way. I’m not fat, not skinny, not ugly, not gorgeous, which I think a lot of people can relate to.”
“I have them come in and make them feel amazing. I tell them I make it for them. It’s a huge reassurance that it’s going to fit and feel good. When I make something for someone, I don’t necessarily make it right the first time, but I do alterations until it’s fitting them how they want.”
“Maybe someone just had a baby and doesn’t want to show that much. You can pick that up really quickly. I make small adjustments to make them better flattering for their body shapes. People think I’m a guru. I’m not honestly. My swimsuits look good on everybody. Except for when I try them on, I’m like ‘Ew take that off.'”
“I want people to feel confident in my swimsuits. That’s pretty much it. I think they do too. That’s one thing that I hear from my customers. A huge complement, by the way, is the repeat customers I have. I acquire new customers and they come back year after year after year. They tell me ‘I constantly get asked where I got my swimsuit’. And hopefully they’re feeling amazing.”
Strange Bikinis is hosting a Big Ol’ Summer Kick Off Party this Thursday, May 25 from 6-9pm. They’ll have snacks, drinks, and a DJ, plus swimsuit give-aways every hour on the hour. It’s completely open to the public. Check out the event page on Facebook here.
You can book a custom fitting with Ali here, or check out their 2017 Deep Dream collection online or in person at their store, located on 2115 Dickerson Rd in Reno, NV. The store hours are Friday 3-7 pm, Saturday 11 am-7pm, and Sunday 1-7pm.
Until next time, Saludos!