Fenntessa Swimwear

August 2, 2015
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Summer means different things to different people. For some, it’s about barbecues and picnics, cocktails on the patio and Sunday brunches with friends. For others, it’s a time to get away and finally take that vacation to Europe you’ve been talking about for years. For many Vancouverites, it’s about hitting the beach to practice the fine art of see-and-be-seen. Which brings me to the next point: summer means trying on bikinis. And bikini shopping is every woman’s nightmare.

Unless, of course, your name is Angelina, Gwyneth, or Kim. Or you decide, Fuck it, I’m gonna wear this teeny bikini. Never mind the love handles or those extra 10 pounds you’ve been trying to lose for the last five years. If you’re like me, you probably follow one (or a dozen) bikini brands on social media. Sure, there’s no shortage of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue types wearing barely there bikinis on Instagram. But search deeper and you’ll find regular women showing off their not-so-perfect bodies. The best part is that they too are wearing teensy bikinis. And if they can, why not me? I think. Why not every woman?

As it turns out, there is no such thing as having a “bikini body.” If you’ve got a body, all you gotta do is get the bikini on. Though for some, it’s easier said than done. “It has been challenging to get ladies to show a little more skin,” says Vancouverite Cami ‘Tessa’ Rush, who along with her sister, Robyn ‘Fenner’ Rush, launched Fenntessa in 2009. “The first year was the hardest. Wearing cheeky bottoms definitely takes some getting used to and it requires a lot of confidence.”

I came across Fenntessa on Instagram and instantly fell in love with their small (but definitely not teeny tiny) bikinis. By Latin American standards, which is what I’m used to having grown up in Argentina and Venezuela, their bikinis are downright modest.

The sisters, as it turns out, are self-described Latinophiles. They spent a lot of time travelling in Latin America and noticed that down there, women of all shapes and sizes wear tiny bikinis. Cami recalls the time she spent in Lima, Peru teaching fashion design and fashion illustration. “While I was down there I was exposed and immediately enamoured by the manufacturing industry of Lima,” she says. “I wanted to understand how it worked and see if I could manufacture stuff myself.” She dabbled around with all kinds of products until. Until something clicked.

“I tried making bikinis and it just felt right!”

Cami made a very small collection under the name Crush, and sold them off to friends and family. “It was during the process of selling the suits that I realized the complexity of having a small clothing line.”

Things came together when she left Peru and met up with her sister Robyn and her parents in Maui. “I came to Maui with an entrepreneurial drive that was unstoppable,” says Cami. “Both of our parents are entrepreneurs and have been supportive since the very beginning. In fact, our dad, Gord Rush, named our business Fenntessa.” Cami asked Robyn if she wanted to start a business with her and the rest, as they say, is history. “Working with family is great,” she adds. “I feel that we have an understanding of how the other person works and thinks, which allows us to be genuine.”

I chatted with Cami about Fenntessa, her passion for travelling, and helping Canadian women get in touch with their wild side.

Robyn and Cami, the sisters behind Fenntessa Swimwear.

ON LATIN CULTURE
We both have degrees in Latin studies and speak Spanish. Robyn has a Mexican boyfriend that she has been with almost a decade. She goes down to Mexico with him every year. I spent time working in Venezuela, Argentina and Peru. Robyn and I went backpacking through Central America when we both in our early 20s and it changed our lives. That is where she met her boyfriend and where we both fell in love with the culture. There is so much passion down there, It’s hard not to get seduced by it all. Now we are fortunate enough to have a working relationship with our manufactures in Medellin, Colombia.

ON SHOWING SOME SKIN
We have two bikini bottoms that have been in our collection since the get-go. The basic bottom, which is ruched and shows more skin than the average bottom but isn’t that skimpy; and the cheeky bottom, which is more like a Brazilian cut and definitely on the skimpy side. We notice that the basic bottom is sort of like a stepping stone to the cheeky. A lot of girls start out with a basic and then graduate to a cheeky by the end of the summer. Honestly, you don’t have to be a bean pole to wear the cheeky bottoms. They are great for tanning and look good on lots of body types. You just need the guts!

Fenntessa Swim. Photo: Whitney Krutzfeldt
“Each year it gets easier and easier to sell the tiny little suits here,” says Cami. “I think globalization and social media have opened up an international bikini market to Canadians.”

ON FINDING THE RIGHT BIKINI
Robyn and I are here to help Canadians women live on the wild side. Robyn is the best at helping women see that they look like a million bucks in our bikinis. She is honest and isn’t afraid to give her opinion. We do a lot of private fittings. Girls who aren’t sure about the product might reach out via email. If they live close we often invite them over so they can try on all the styles and learn about the fit. We also have excellent relationships with all our retailers. We educate our retailers about our product, which helps them sell it to customers. We are currently sold at Charlie&Lee, El Kartel, One of a Few, Violet Boutique, Still Life Vancouver and Still Life Victoria. We have such great retailers and are so grateful to be located in such wonderful stores!

Photo: Whitney Krutzfeldt
“Retro is back,” says Cami. “We did a fun high-waisted retro inspired bottom that people seemed to really love.”

ON THE FUTURE
Watching Fenntessa grow is one of the most satisfying parts of having the business. This year we hired Alexie Rhodes, our marketing strategist and the best thing that happened to us. She has taught us so much. In the next five to 10 years we would like to add more people to the team. Personally speaking, I think the most crucial part of running this business is being able put away my ego and realize that there are many people out there who are smarter, or more knowledgeable about something than me.

 CAMI RUSH’S VANCOUVER

What’s your favourite Vancouver or BC beach? Good question. Third Beach for hanging with friends,and Wreck Beach for tanning (no tan lines). I love Jericho Beach too. Vancouver has great beaches!

Favourite water or beach sport? Paddle boarding. Our parents gave us matching paddle boards for Christmas a few years ago and we have been hooked ever since.

How do you stay fit in the city? Robyn and I are big tennis players. It’s such a great sport, so fun. We play each other singles and a lot of mixed doubles too. We also play on the same softball team, and share the position of third base. I am big into yoga. I practice at least once a week. Robyn plays on a volley ball team. We both bike to work and run a lot. We are both very very active.

Favourite place to go work out? YYoga.

Your go-to drink and where do you get it? I like a nice glass of wine or a cold beer. I’m not a cocktail person. I like the micro breweries such as 33 Acres, and Brassneck Brewery. The Pour House is good. I like the Alibi Room too.  I also like the Stable House in South Granville.

Favourite brunch spot? Cafe Medina. I want to try the Fable on 4th.

Favourite restaurant to go on a date? Hmm, good question. I just went to the Oakwood and that was really nice. I like Chambar too.

What place do you always take out of town visitors? The Stanley Park seawall.

Favourite hotel for a staycation? The Fairmont Pacific Rim. My friend Erin always stays there and I visit her there, although I’m not really a hotel person.

Photos: Whitney Krutzfeldt

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