Sunny Days ahead for Irvine based L*Space

Photo: Jason Wallis
Monica Wise in her home studio. Photo: Jason Wallis

Monica Wise is a bikini girl by nature. An Ohio native, Wise, who lives in Corona del Mar, chased the sun to Tampa at age 18 and started living in a swimsuit. The founder of Irvine-based L*Space by Monica Wise was inspired after having a custom suit made for her birthday. “I thought, ‘I can do this.’ ” With no formal design training, she started a line in 2001. “I hired a few sewers, and that was the beginning.” L*Space’s sexy bikinis and fashion-forward one-pieces are sold worldwide. Now she’s into festival-ready apparel, hats, bags, a sandal collaboration with Cocobelle, and a bespoke collection made from archive fabrics by Liberty of London.

The Maniac one-piece, with strappy, low-cut back, is the designer’s love letter to the ’80s. $159

I’ve always wondered what L*Space means.
When I started, a lot of things I was looking for in life started with an L. I was not married and always looking for a good time with my friends, so laughter, love, they were everything I was looking for professionally and personally—my “L space.”

Why bikinis?
I couldn’t get enough warm weather growing up in the Midwest, so as soon as I could, I packed my bags and moved to Florida. Once I got a taste of the beach lifestyle, I knew what my passion was.

What’s new for your company?
We now have a full-fledged L*Space by Cocobelle Sandal collection that our customers are absolutely loving, and we’ve introduced beach hats this spring, to round out the classic lifestyle of the L*Space girl. We went through the archives of Liberty’s fabrics, 130 years worth, and picked ones that were perfect for our brand. They’re not only beautiful, but iconic—special, classic, and timeless.

Why Liberty prints?
They’re known for heritage, integrity, and overall quality. I want my brand to be known for the hand of it, the feel of it, even before the fit. You can touch one of my suits and know it’s an L*Space based on this really buttery, beautiful quality of the fabric. And their prints have a cult following just like our swimsuits do.

How would you describe your style?
It’s mirrored in my brand—designs that focus on that chic-yet-unfussy coastal-cool lifestyle. I also make sure we have enough newness each season. I’m getting a little more conservative, but I still love a little crazy touch to bikinis, a little uniqueness.

Newest swimwear trends?
Swimwear is an essential in every girl’s wardrobe. We want styles that work on and off the beach. Unexpected color-mixing, wrap styles, and piping are all doing well. We’re excited about our Maniac one-piece, which is in stores now. We’re bringing back the ’80s, so dig out those Reeboks and hair scrunchies.

Why the excitement over Maniac?
It’s an overall sexy suit. You can’t help but think Zinka sunscreen and “Baywatch” when you see it—a great one-piece for turning heads this summer.

How has the swimsuit industry changed since you started?
Over the past five years, girls have taken the bikini from the beach to yoga, traveling, scuba, anything active—indoor or outdoor. Another thing that’s really shocked me is how it has evolved into a year-round business. When I first moved to California in 2004, I had months where I’d shut down and lay people off because it was more seasonal.

Ward off Coachella’s desert heat in L*Space’s Tanzania shorts, $79, and kimono, $145.

How has your brand changed?
We do apparel now. It’s like taking resort wear out of the closet to everyday wear, which has been my goal. I brought on a talented designer from the popular contemporary brand Free People four years ago, and it has been a great success. It’s all about designing our apparel with the same soft, beautiful garments as our swimwear.

Trends for festivalwear?
It’s still pretty boho, but it’s getting more elevated in terms of the styling.

Your recommendations for Coachella?
The Maniac with a pair of high-waist denim shorts is a perfect festival look. Another key look will be a wrap‑bikini top paired with our long lace Summer Breeze robe ($145) finishing off the look with our Gili leg-wrap sandals ($119). This line was designed with festival season in mind.

At what age should a woman stop wearing a bikini?
Never. It’s all in how you feel. I’ve seen women in their 60s wear bikinis and pull it off with confidence. That’s really what counts.

What’s the future for L*Space?
I want to provide the cover-up, the sandal, the hat, the bag, the towel, and maybe even her jewelry and a home accessory. I want to be a lifestyle brand.


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