At first glance, the two might have little in common—yet the eponymous swimwear and hair accessory brands were both founded in high school, and each embody the West Coast in product and spirit. Now, Francesca Aiello of Frankie's Bikinis and Julianne Goldmark and Emily Matson of Emi Jay are collaborating on an uber-chic pop-up shop—and the founders are giving our friends an exclusive look.
Interview by Olivia Perez
How did you start your brands?
J/E: My business partner, Emily Matson and I started Emi-Jay in 2009. We were in middle school and obsessed with headbands and hair accessories at the time and couldn’t find ones that were reasonably priced. With no intentions of starting a full-on company, we went downtown in LA and got fabrics and supplies to make our own. Our friend and hair stylist Chris McMillan fell in love with the simple hair ties we had made and a magazine decided to feature them. From there we built a website and it all went from there!
F: I basically lived in bikinis growing up and surfing in Malibu. And when I was on a trip to Hawaii, I remember looking at the carefree women on the beach in their suits and feeling like there needed to be more functional versions of these sexy and fun swimsuits for active girls like myself. Shortly after that, I began the trial and error process of starting a swimwear company.
What was it like starting a business in high school?
J/E: It was definitely harder to be at the office in high school since we’d be in class from 8am to 3pm and then had homework after. Now, I get to schedule everything on my own, which I love. Overall though, it’s been the best experience for me. Being put into a creative work environment at a young age taught me more than I could ever learn in a classroom. I’ve gotten to meet and work with such cool, talented people. It’s been such a great experience altogether.
F: Being in high school and starting a business was difficult for me because I did not have anyone to relate to. Although, now I'm thankful for starting Frankie’s Bikinis when I did because the swimwear industry has become more saturated with new brands everyday. Frankie’s would not be where it is today if I didn't start in high school. Also, I think it’s an amazing situation for me since I'm the same age as my consumer. It has allowed me to create a personal relationship with them.
How did you meet?
F: Julianne emailed me about potentially collaborating and once I read her story and realized it was nearly identical to mine, I knew we had to get lunch. We clicked instantly!
Why did you choose to collaborate?
J/E: Everyone loves a good bikini, and our hair ties and tees are great daily essentials. We’re always looking for cool companies to collaborate with, and since we all grew up in the same town and are the same age, it felt perfect! We created a tee that says “I’d rather be wearing a bikini," hair ties in Frankie’s prints and then we brainstormed the pop-up shop. I think all of our girls will die over the whole thing.
Describe the quintessential Emi Jay/Frankie’s girl.
J/E: An effortless and simple yet trendy girl. I picture someone who throws their hair up in a messy bun (using an Emi-Jay tie, of course), a bikini, and espadrilles or converse. Easy and cute.
F: The Frankie’s Bikinis/Emi Jay girl is carefree and fun. She’s down for adventure but also loves to relax and soak up the sun.
Who designed the collaboration and what did you want to achieve with it?
F: The collaboration was designed by both Julianne and I. We have an amazing tee together as well as Emi Jay hair ties with Frankie’s Bikinis prints that are a part of our 2015 collection. We wanted to create something unique that both of our customers would love.
Both of your brands are geared towards women. How do you think your brands promote healthy body images and support women?
J/E: All of our products at Emi Jay are for the everyday girl! Through social media we’ve created a small community. Girls tag their friends in our photos and give us suggestions every day. We’ve grown up, and so has our brand, which means our photos and marketing angle are slightly different than they used to be. Some of the images for the collaboration with Frankie are a little risqué, but that’s what happens when you put a girl in a bikini. I’m hoping our customers understand that it’s just fun and that we’re all about embracing women’s bodies.
F: Our brand has a strong following with young woman. I always make sure to pick models that have healthy and achievable bodies that our followers can look up to.
Why did you choose to do a pop up shop?
J/E: Personally, I’ve always dreamed of having my own boutique of some sort. Obviously running a store requires a lot, so having a pop-up is an easier way to get a taste of that. Also, we wanted to grab the attention of a range of girls by making it more of an event. So you can buy a bikini and a shirt, but also take pictures in the photo booth, get your hair done, and get a drink! I think the pop-up will allow our customers to get a real experience of our brands versus just seeing it online or on Instagram.
What will be at the pop up shop?
F: We will be selling our bikinis, beach bags, and sarongs, and Emi Jay will be selling their hair accessories and tees. There will also be an Alfred Coffee Ice Tea Bar, A Glam App braid bar, and more. The collaboration is also available on EmiJay.com.