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ZoŽ Bikini

More Choices than Just Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny and Yellow Polka-Dots

While riding my bike a couple months ago down 18th Street, I spotted a bikini store on the left hand side of the street. I really couldnít believe there was a bikini store in the Mission. Natives and visitors alike are well aware what kind of weather San Francisco is known for, and itís not beach weather.

When I saw the store, I thought it might be some art project/mock store front, but I didnít have time to stop and investigate. When I told a couple of my friends there was a bikini shop down in the Mission, they were as surprised as I was. But there it is -- a bikini store called ZoŽ Bikini located near the corner of 18th Street and Mission Street. In some ways, though, it makes perfect sense because the Mission usually has the best weather in the city, but I digress.

Youíve probably heard this before, but shopping for a bikini is an unpleasant task for most women. Finding something you like that fits you just right is about as simple as finding a parking spot in North Beach on a Friday night. The only time there seems to be a wide selection of new swimsuits is in those fleeting spring months when all the large department stores clear out all of the winter coats and make space for beach wear. In those cases, the selection is relatively homogenous and youíre at the mercy of whatever is on the pages of current fashion magazines at that time. ZoŽ Magee of ZoŽ Bikini has changed all that for San Franciscans.

Though ZoŽ has been selling bikinis at boutiques in San Francisco and up and down the coast for almost seven years, the ZoŽ Bikini store only opened in February of this year. ZoŽís journey into the fashion world has been one more of serendipity and necessity rather than a choreographed plan. As a kid, ZoŽ sewed clothes for her dolls. As she grew older, she would alter clothes sheíd bought to suit her style and flatter her figure. While working in Lake Tahoe as a young adult, she made pullovers that were sold in the ski shop where she worked. During a fateful trip home to Santa Barbara one summer, she went looking for bikini to wear to the beach. She scoured the stores, but couldnít find anything that worked for her, so she created one that did.

But her final jump into the world of fashion design was still to come. While living in Santa Cruz, ZoŽ thought she might like to be a dental hygienist. Luckily for us, she changed her mind and signed up for fashion design classes instead. Later, at the urging of an instructor in a garment business class she was taking, she decided to create an active wear line. But her friends kept requesting her custom made swimwear, and the idea of creating bikinis stuck.

Soon after, ZoŽ found a small studio space with a collective of designers in the South of Market area and started selling her designs in smaller shops throughout the city, like Minnie Wilde, Ooma, and Mollusk. Her designs grew in popularity and are now sold in shops from Marin to San Diego. Soon her designs will even be found in a shop in Park City, Utah.

ZoŽís workshop is now conveniently located behind the register in her store on 18th Street. The relaxed shop reminds you of a small house near the beach. A rack of bikinis lines either side of the light green room. The window seats are lined with bamboo and covered with a comfy cushion and throw pillows. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant. Isnít that how youíd like to feel while facing the daunting task of trying on a bikini?

In the back, there are rainbows of thread, beads, and such lined up against the side wall. The work tables are covered with fabrics in a myriad of colors and patterns. When I asked her about what inspires the designs, she said itís really about what the customers are looking for. She keeps up to date on the latest trends and fashions, but she wants the bikinis to be clean, classic and sexy, and at the same time, functional, versatile and practical.

ZoŽ offers both a ready-to-wear and custom bikinis. The ready-to-wear bikinis are sold piece by piece, so a bottom and a top together would likely run $100-$130 for the set. The day I came in, I found tops such as a black and piece by the name of ďBridgetteís BandeauĒ for $56, ďHeleneís HalterĒ in solid purple and black for $59, and ďBettinaís ButterflyĒ with a Pucci-like design in pink, peach and white for $59. Check the baskets on the left side of the store for sale items.

For custom suits, plan to spend $175. Itís best to make an appointment so ZoŽ can give you her full attention, but she wonít turn you away if you donít call first. In about an hour, ZoŽ will take your measurements, discuss what type of style of suit you are looking for, and help you pick a color and pattern that will work best for you. Your own one-of-a-kind suit will be ready in about two weeks.

They also offer bikini parties. Your friends can get together and ZoŽ will bring a selection of her ready to wear designs and help you and your friends pick out one, or she can make an order for a custom bikini. The host will get a $10 discount on each bikini sold which can go towards the hostís own purchase.

Though itís not often most of us would be wearing a bikini in San Francisco, if you are going some place where you swim and lay out in the sun, having a well designed bikini that fits perfectly on you is well worth the price.