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2012 July 20

Vitamin A's Amahlia Stevens on Modeling, Miami, and Dating A Certain A-Lister

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(MIAMI) Ever hear of a Cali-bred swim designer named Amahlia Stevens? Buckle up! Stevens is not only the brains behind Vitamin A swimwear (sported by the likes of Jessica Alba, RiRi, Gwyneth, and Anne Hathaway), but she's also the 2012 Mercedes-Benz Presents designer and Brad Pitt's ex. BY MARIA DENARDO

What were your childhood summers like?

I grew up in L.A., and my family used to rent a house in La Jolla. It was pretty fun jumping off cliffs and being naughty. I spent every day at the beach; I considered it my full-time job.

Were you immersed in surf culture?
I started "surfing" when I was a teenager, but I'd get pounded. I remember all my friends skating on drain pipes and in pools. We wore tube socks and skater shorts. It was the norm. 

How did you get into modeling?
My roommate at UC Santa Barbara was a model. I went with her on a casting call for moral support. I was 17 or 18 years old, modeling mostly for a local ad agency that focused on the surf and swim industry. It wasn't anything I aspired to do, so it wasn't a big deal to me. We'd get boxes of free bikinis, which made it all worthwhile.

Why did you start designing swimwear?
I was always obsessed with swimsuits because I was wearing one every day. After college, I had a design consulting firm in Laguna Beach called Vitamin A. I had a lot of local clients that were part of the surf and skate community along with bigger companies like Levi's, Patagonia, and Speedo; I was mostly working on men's swim. I never found exactly what I wanted to wear, though. There were only two options then: American or Brazilian. I’d buy the oversized American suits and the teeny tiny Brazilian suits and take them to a custom swim shop in Laguna Beach, where I had them recut and redesigned into a fit that later became my trademark—the “California cut.”

How did you nab your first creative swim job?
A friend of mine was working at Patagonia, and suggested me for their new division, watergirl, which really inspired me to later use interesting eco-friendly fabrics in my own line. Then I got a call from Abercrombie & Fitch to co-create and launch Hollister's swim line.

If you were not a swimwear designer, what would you do?
Sleep! Or maybe I'd be a beach bum. Or a dancer.

Who's are your dream front row guests?
Sophia Coppola, Gisele Bundchen—and Chloe Sevigny, who wears Vitamin A!

Vitamin A is known as “the LBD of swim": what will we see on your runway tonight?
You’ll be seeing the new 2013 collections for Resort, Spring, and Summer inspired by "Summer Fever," as in Donna Summer. It’s still sleek and simple, but it’s a little more dramatic and theatrical than we’ve done in the past. Plus, I’m really excited to have Garth Trinidad of KCRW deejaying live for the runway show.

What's it like to be this season’s Mercedes-Benz Presents designer?
I’m so honored! There’s a lot more involved than I expected! We did a photoshoot in Malibu with the Vitamin A model, which will be their leading image for the entire summer campaign.

Have you ever driven a Mercedes before?
Probably. I’m from California!

True or false: You had a summer fling with Brad Pitt.
Yes, when I was 19!

How did you two meet?
I used to go to a bar with my girlfriends in Beverly Hills on Friday nights. Every Friday, I’d see him, and we’d always look at each other, but I’d lose my nerve and not talk to him. One day my roommate came to pick me up with friends. When they pulled up, he was in the backseat. I was like, ‘Oh, it’s you!’ He wasn’t “Brad Pitt” back then.

And then you started dating?
Yeah, we ended up spending the whole summer together water skiing and the like with my best friend and his best friend, who was a stunt double at the time. I used to drive him to his auditions, but he didn’t have any work then.

What happened when summer ended?
It just kind of fizzled when I left to go back to school. I actually forgot about the whole thing until a few of my girlfriends reminded me!

OK, back to business. What’s next for Vitamin A?
We’re expanding our Resort wear, and the plan is to also expand into accessories: bags, hats, sandals, and possible, sunglasses. Pretty much anything related to a beach lifestyle!

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