Designer Spotlight: Bocachica Swimwear
From financial advising to motherhood and designing — the entrepreneur beach gal, Catalina Villareal took her ten-year hobby to a real life business and now lives that dream life between the Spanish coasts and her hometown of Colombia. Here's a glimpse her story and bikini brand Bocachica.
BIKINI: Bocachica in Spanish means "small mouth." Is there a story behind naming the brand this?
CATALINA VILLLAREAL: Exactly — that's the literal meaning of "boca chica," but we named the brand after a small fishing town in Colombia, which is only accessible by boat. This was the place where I used to spend vacations as a child, and it was magical for me because it has a historical fortress made of stones surrounded by crystal clear water and white sands. There weren't buildings or big houses — just the fishermen's houses. Besides this, I love all kinds of lip-, mouth- or kiss-shaped things: paintings, illustrations, key rings. And that's how the name came out.
BIKINI: Your bio mentions the brand was born in the seaside of Colombia — how so?
CV: I was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, a coastal city where it's summer all year round. Life there is very relaxed, and because of the hot weather, all the celebrations, plans or wanderings with friends are mostly at the beach or pool.
BIKINI: But you manufacture in Spain, correct? What are the ties with Barcelona?
CV: I live in Barcelona. It's a city with popular textile traditions, workshops, and fabric mills. It's also a coastal city and pretty close to great beaches.
BIKINI: How did the brand get started? Can you share some history?
CV: Back in my school years, I started to modify my own bikinis to make them exactly as I wanted. My friends started to ask me to do the same for them. As I studied law and international finances, bikinis and swimsuits were kind of a hobby. After a while, I started to work as a financial advisor, and that took me to Europe. Time passed — 10 years as a financial advisor was enough for me. The designing was always there: drawings, sketches, prototypes. Turning 35 years old was very significant for me, a point of my life where I needed to choose between my passion or continue working within the bank. I decided to follow my dream and passion and give myself the opportunity. I always wanted to run my own business and make it compatible with my way of living between Colombia and Spain, and one that also allowed me to express my creativity.
BIKINI: How were you able to quit such a steady job? What made you take that leap? Most people would freeze at the thought of leaping into their passion but you took that chance.
CV: Today everything goes very fast — professions change, and we have more means to develop in different areas, to reinvent ourselves. I have seen great people in things that they are passionate about, but they prefer the apparent stability of a good job and don't give themselves the opportunity to explore their talent or passion. I think that can lead to failure. In my case, I preferred to take the risk and at least try and get others to know my designs and work on my own, assuming my own risks and objectives. The experience in financial advisory allowed me to develop the business aspect necessary to run a business and also allowed me to save the money to start it.
BIKINI: You said there was a point you had to choose between your career as a financial advisor and your passion? What point was that? Why did you feel like you had to choose?
CV: I was 35 years old — 10 years working within a bank. It was very demanding and exhausting to accomplish corporate goals. It's a very competitive sector but not in a constructive way. Because of the economic crisis the country was experiencing, people were — and still are — keeping their jobs because they are scared to lose it — even if they don't like what they are doing. And I just wanted to see beyond that and have something of my own based in what I love — which is designing. Plus, I wanted to start a family, I couldn't find the time to do so with that job. I took the risk and here I am.
BIKINI: Do you have a team supporting you?
CV: I have the total support of my business partner and also my partner in life — my husband. He pushed me. I started by taking pattern design classes focused on bikinis and swimsuits from the basics, 'til we had our first collection two years ago. I'm the designer of all the pieces. We are a team of young people always searching for trends or new fabrics, testing new designs or trims, visiting trade fairs as well as creating content and promoting the brand. We need to do the best we can and continue growing.
BIKINI: What does it take to make Bocachica run smoothly?
CV: During summer here in Spain, we work in a place close to Barcelona, named Costa Brava, which is minutes walking to the sea. It is very useful if we have to create content or do a photoshoot. We start the week on Tuesdays, exchanging ideas. Each of us has our own responsibility within our areas: networking, buying, photography, sales. I spend most of the time with the pattern making, design and visiting trade fairs looking for garments, accessories or just ideas, and of course always taking part in the financial aspects.
Networking takes a big part of the time because we want to focus on positioning our online shop. Spain's summer season is short, so to be active the rest of the year, the internet is a great tool. I'm very involved with all the website work: SEO, Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram. The first year I was doing most of it on my own, but then I realized things were going too fast, so I started to involve more people. Now we are looking for a sales manager or brand agent, so we can continue to expand and grow.
BIKINI: Do you travel between Spain and Colombia often?
CV: Yes — all my family is still there and in the USA. I go two to three times per year, 10 days each between Miami and Colombia, just to recharge my energy and family bonds. Life is pretty different in both countries. Even from one city to another in Colombia, life changes — so between countries, it's quite a big difference. Within the past years, Colombia has changed a lot, and that's a good thing.
But when I go to Colombia I like to find what I left there and what I remember — so I try to go to the same places, beaches, eat the same, so that I return to Spain with a refreshed memory. Spain is a great country, and Barcelona, where I live, has great weather. It offers plenty of cultural opportunities, and with all the technology nowadays, it's very easy to keep the connection with my people. To tell you the truth, I don't feel the distance that much, since I have a very close relationship with my loved ones.
BIKINI: Can you talk about your designing style? You have a very relatable aesthetic — can you explain?
CV: In Colombia, women spend a lot of time, effort and money on looking good, while in Spain, women are more relaxed. I try to design something in between.
I design for a girl who likes comfort without abandoning style — who wants to look good no matter her shape, who's confident, who enjoys the beach. All girls want to feel and look good. We have clients with a wide range of age — mothers of 45 to 55 who wear the same swimsuit as their daughters, who are 18 to 20 years old.
After becoming a mother, my body changed, and that's why we care a lot about the pattern and fabrics. We look to find textiles that best flatter your body shape. The double fabric helps you with that. I have in mind the kind of thoughts that women have when buying a swimsuit. Young girls and women appreciate that, and you can see it when they feel good. There are many kinds of women I want to consider when building my collection.
BIKINI: What the best beach you've visited?
CV: I love Greece. It's full of clear-water beaches where you can find your own spot. You can go there and spend the entire day going from one beach to another. Go sailing to beautiful and small islands, with beautiful beaches and clubs. Ibiza is also a great place — but during summer can be so crowded.
BIKINI: What's in your beach tote?
CV: Sunglasses as big as I can get, a bracelet made of natural wood or a bead necklace, and any kind of silk or linen kaftan — I'm obsessed with them. A Panama hat. Two or three hair creams and skin protection, tanning oil, and a camera. Since I'm a mother, I need a couple of more things — so I have a huge beach tote.
BIKINI: What does a day at the beach look like for you?
CV: Watersports, reading, music, friends, shell scouting. Living so close to the sea gave me a lot of time to spend there, so I do a bit of everything. But I adore spending time just chilling and talking with friends at the beach.