Aquatic Couture

In the beginning of her career, part-time Wellfleet resident and fashion designer Karla Colletto didn’t set out to design and manufacture swimwear. Her goal was to create innovative clothing with the fine dressmaker details that she learned from her grandparents and during her apprenticeship after fashion school.

By Lisa Leigh Connors

“While I was designing custom pieces for clients,” Colletto says, “I became intrigued by stretch fabrics and realized that swimwear was overlooked in the world of high fashion.”

Today, Colletto’s high-end swimsuits are produced in a facility in Vienna, Va., where 40 employees make up the Colletto team. Colletto, who grew up in Wrentham and studied fashion design at Endicott College in Beverly, started the company with her sister and business partner, Lisa Rovan, in 1981. Early on, the pair worked in a 250-square-foot space in the basement of an old house. Colletto designed sportswear to bridal gowns and Rovan headed up production, planning and marketing. Their relationship continues to this day. “Our brand would not be where it is today without her wisdom, business sense and underlying support,” says Colletto.

The company produces two collections per year: a cruise line shown in July and a spring/summer collection shown in January. Her swimsuits, made of a microfiber that offers chlorine resistance, UV protection and quick-drying fabrics, have been featured in Vogue, InStyle, Sports Illustrated and Elle over the past 25 years. What is hip and trendy these days? The popularity of one-pieces continues to grow, says Colletto. Gingham, one-shoulders, rash guards, and styles with cutouts are also very popular.  Inventive styles that play with cutouts and have fun, whimsical details best represent Colletto’s brand.

Fan letters from customers, says Colletto, provide inspiration for her designs. A customer recently wrote that she had never worn a suit that fit as well as ours and that she didn’t even recognize the gorgeous woman wearing it. “It’s happy customers like this one that move us all the time,” says Colletto. “What could feel better than to make women feel good about themselves and their bodies?”

Growing up in the area, Colletto visited the Cape often. After traveling to Wellfleet a few times with her husband, they both fell in love with the town and decided to build a place of their own. “It has a peaceful way about it; pristine beaches, the smell of the air, and relaxing, beautiful sunsets to end each day,” she says.

During her visits to nearby beaches, Colletto says she loves wearing the “Swim at Your Own Risk” one-piece graphic tank. “We put a creative spin on the typography trend, bringing a sense of humor to our collection.”

Karla Colletto’s bathing suits are available in the Boston area
at Everything But Water and Beachfront Property.
More information is available at

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