INTERVIEW: Billionaire Bikinis

Life for Jennifer Stano is going swimmingly. The 25 year old, who has modelled for brands such as Pizza Hut, Prada, Miu Miu and Oil of Olay, has just launched a new swimwear label, called Have Faith.

Whilst widely recognised throughout the US as a sex symbol, thanks to her successful modelling career, Jennifer has only recently been catapulted to celebrity status, due in part to the announcement of her engagement to billionaire playboy and actor Alki David.
An appearance in September with her fiancée on E! Channel, as part of the Kim Kardashian produced series ‘Spin Crowd,’ only helped to cement Jennifer’s growing public profile.

The model is now in talks with E and Bravo over possible shows on her and Alki, and the new label. If they go ahead, the shows could act to make her a household name and provide priceless publicity for the swimwear company, which is owned half by Jennifer and half by her fiancée.

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“E and Bravo have both shown interest doing something with Alki and I, including the line,” she says, excitedly. “It’s all going on behind the scenes. You go to the store and buy a bathing suit, but you don’t actually know what goes on in getting that piece to the store. It is blood sweat and tears, but I love it.”

Fiancee Alki will certainly not be afraid of any potential air time. Alki is a digital media entrepreneur, known for his heavy usage of social media. He launched the first US high definition internet television service, FilmOn, in September 2010, and 24/7 live reality TV channel Battlecam. He has also expanded his family’s business empire, Leventis-David, which owns Coca-Cola bottling plants in 23 countries, and enjoys a successful acting career, having previously starred in The Bank Job and The Grid.

Notorious for being a prankster, Alki famously offered $1 million to anyone who would streak in front of President Obama with the name of his social networking site emblazoned across their stomach. One man attempted to win the money last month at a rally, which the president was attending, but as Obama apparently did not see the full display, he was only awarded a portion of the total money.

However, despite the business mogul’s involvement, Jennifer does most of the day to day running of the brand – whilst no doubt benefiting from Alki’s advice.

“I guess he is kind of a silent partner,” she explains. “I do the designing, the ringing round and the running around.

“For next season, we are going to be pushing it really hard. We are going to be doing boutiques and then a few stores in the UK. I would love it if Harrods or Selfridges wanted to stock it in the UK.”

Though it all seems to be taking off at once for the model, this foray into design is no recent interest. In fact, Jennifer started sewing when still just a child.

“My grandmother and my mum used to sew,” she says. “When I was young, I was always into arts and crafts. I used to make clothes for my barbies and I was very skinny, so my mum had to alter my clothes and I would watch. When I was 21 or 22, I also used to make my own bikinis for pool parties in Miami and I got such a great response from everyone, I decided I should do something with it.”

Jennifer’s swimwear is made to reflect the different aspects of her own personality and range from the glitzy and glamorous through to more chill out pieces.

“I have a number of different sides to me,” she says. “During the day, I will be in cute little shorts and a sweatshirt. In the evening, I will put on my Louis Vuittons and sexy jeans. In Vegas, I feel very comfortable and I will be totally glamorous and strut around. In St. Tropez, I will wear a big pair of shades and a large martini.”

Jennifer’s collections include Vegas inspired collection entitled the ‘Strip Collection’, a range based on Saint Tropez, ‘La Femme’ and a new desert inspired line for Spring/Summer 2011.

“Vegas is very sexy, very glamorous,” she says. "Girls go to a party in Vegas just to be seen in a bikini – they will wear it with heels. I also have La Femme collection, which is more girly and the St. Tropez collection, which will be launching for Spring/Summer 2011. That is very classy, with whites, burnt orange colours and golds. I can be that classy girl in St. Tropez.”

While designing pieces that reflect who she is as a person, Jennifer is also keen to ensure that each piece is one that she herself would want to wear. Part of this involves pricing. Despite her aspiration to be stocked in high end boutiques and department stores, such as Harrods and Selfridges, Jennifer is determined not to make her swimwear too expensive and wants to ensure that it provides good value for money.

“I want my boobs to look like they should be,” she elaborates. “I want something that will accentuate my butt. In LA, all the girls will go to the same hot brand and pay a fortune. I want to provide quality at a reasonable price. It is one hundred percent me – I am not making anything I wouldn’t wear myself – I don’t want to keep it all to myself. I want to share it. I don’t want to rip anybody off and make three hundred to four hundred pounds from a bikini. “

The average price for a Have Faith bikini is $120, going up to $150 for the pieces with chains and a large amount of detailing. Sizes are perhaps currently more suited to tiny Californian figures, with small being a UK 4 to 6, medium being a UK 8 to 10 and large being a UK 10 to 12, but Jennifer will soon be introducing an extra large size, which will likely equate to a UK 12 to 14. Cup sizes range from UK B through to UK DD.

“At first, I just wanted to keep small, medium, and large,” she says. “As I went on, I realised it wasn’t fitting everybody. So, I am going to bring in extra large bottom. I did have extra small, because my sample maker messed up and so rather than waste them, I introduced the extra small size with a few of the pieces.”

The decision to provide an additional size is not the only example of how Jennifer has chosen to adapt in response to changing conditions. Jennifer’s original collection was called Fama Bikinis after the Roman goddess of fame. However, upon discovering there was already a Lumi Fama brand, Jennifer decided to err on the side of caution and change the brand name, anxious to avoid potential law suits. The ‘Have Faith’ name came about almost as a fluke when she was considering her other options.

“I have ‘faith’ tattooed on my wrist,” she says. “I thought, what can I call it that will be sexy? Faith sounds weird, so I was like ‘Have Faith,’ just to have faith in whatever you do.”

The next challenge for Jennifer was to win the internet domain name that she needed for her website, which had been taken for about ten years.

“I was a bit worried that I might be bidding against religious groups and churches,” she admits, “and I thought ‘they are going to be so mad when they see a bunch of sexy bikinis on there.’”

At the moment, Jennifer sells her swimwear through the website, but she plans next year to launch her brand internationally in boutiques and high end department stores.

“I will look at any place that has cute little boutiques, such as Athens in Greece,” she says. “I have a lot of people who buy my swimwear online from Australia, but I want there to be somewhere where people can try it on in person.”

Jennifer has no shortage of ambition when it comes to her company and is already planning years ahead for new lines. She has already decided that she will be doing a men’s line and a mature line, which will be 50 plus, and then finally a maternity line for when she gets pregnant. She also fully intends to ensure that Alki wears only her new men’s pieces.

“I am sure he will wear it. He will be benefitting from it too, so he better promote it,” Jennifer says with mock sternness.”
Apparently, the promotion this time will not, however, stretch to streaking President Obama and Jennifer should know as, for obvious reasons, she will be the one who is fronting the line.

“If they are wearing a bikini, it wouldn’t be streaking though, would it?” Jennifer says, laughing. “Alki would love that, though I am not sure he would be the best person to do it. I think it might be better if I continue to be the face of the brand.”

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