Challenging the status quo and empowering people through fashion

“It’s easy to find someone who doesn't feel comfortable in their swimsuit,” says Saint Andro co-founder Leigh Ann Cobb.

Created by Michigan natives Leigh Ann Cobb and Hannah Yesmunt, androgynous swim and sunwear line Saint Andro is a self-described "creative experiment." The co-founders seek to address changing customer needs and demands as well as industry shifts within their company. Co-founders Cobb and Yesmunt also serve as the business’ creative director and designer, respectively.
seeks to address changing consumer demands, leverage ethical design practices and create products that are innovative, inclusive and empowering.
“The world seems to be rapidly shifting in terms of what people are looking for in a brand,” says Yesmunt.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement — especially considering the dominance of fast fashion and its impact on industry workers and the environment,” Cobb adds.

In response, Saint Andro is focusing on ethically-made wares and durable, recycled luxury materials, which fits in line with movement toward a circular economy for textiles to help reduce the fashion industry’s impact on the environment.

“Choosing recycled, ethically-sourced materials, working with fair-wage factories and doing our best to keep our suits in circulation longer are ways consumers are consciously updating their purchase requirements,” says Cobb. Their factory, which is based in Los Angeles, allows the brand to combine “Midwest construction with (LA) construction,” she says.

When it comes to their design aesthetic, Saint Andro is also looking to make their own mark.

“We come at (our work) from a creative problem-solving point of view. Including the term ‘experiment’ in our branding allows us to play. A big focus of our brand is exploration — exploration of gender norms, of practical apparel, of ethics and aesthetic offerings,” says Cobb who earned her BFA in drawing and printmaking from Kendall College of Arts and Design in 2011.

Saint Andro swimwear chooses recycled, ethically-sourced materials, works with fair-wage factories and does its best to keep its suits in circulation longer.

“Fashion is a powerful tool to express yourself and also feel seen,” says Yesmunt. To help all of their customers be seen and heard, a focus on inclusivity is at the core of their designs.

“We spent the last year prototyping multiple size runs and considering as many elements of comfort as we (possibly) could,” says Cobb. “So chances are good that when someone tries on our design —  no matter their size — they’ll like the way they feel in it.”

Understanding their ideal customer is personal for Yesmunt. “Having the personal experience of avoiding swimming when I was younger, because I didn’t feel comfortable with the typical options available in the women’s section, I believe there is so much room for innovation to develop new styles that move beyond the bikini,” she says.

For Yesmunt, the ‘experiment’ extends beyond their designs. “We have been ultra transparent with our process, showing many behind the scenes moments of what it looks like to build a start-up. This level of transparency also feels experimental.

Cobb and Yesmunt are optimistic about the future of their brand.

“We’re excited to lean into our uniqueness as a swimwear company based in Michigan — versus the coast or tropics — and hope to incorporate playfully different visual content as we grow,” Cobb says.

Androgynous swim and sunwear line Saint Andro is a self-described "creative experiment."

“On the product side, our aim is to continue designing and developing new products that challenge the status quo,” says Yesmunt. “We want people to feel empowered wearing our brand to express themselves in new ways and comfortably enjoy the outdoors.”

Looking at the industry as a whole, both consumers and businesses can have an impact, they say.

“It's easy to take for granted the skill and craft it takes to sew a garment. There are so many pieces that go into creating a high quality product — from sourcing the right fabric (to) creating a tech pack and drafting a pattern,” Yesmunt says. “I would love for there to be more transparency surrounding the process.”

As it relates to aspiring designers, Cobb and Yesmunt encourage continuous improvement.

“Output, output, output. There is so much power in consistently working on your craft,” says Yesmunt. “My goal has always been one hour a day [creating]. This dedicated time has allowed me to keep working on new projects even when life gets busy. With each new project comes new ideas, new inspiration and discovering your true style. It just all starts to build on itself.”

“Embrace fluidity,” says Cobb. “Setbacks can be a catalyst for success, and mistakes are only regrettable if you don’t learn from them. So cut yourself some slack, and just go with the flow.”

From furniture to shoes, from arts to education to even policy creation, design is everywhere you look. Designed in Michigan, a story series coming out of West Michigan, is devoted to sharing the expansive role design plays in Michigan's past, present and future. It is made possible through the support of Kendall College of Art and Design and Landscape Forms.

Leandra Nisbet, Owner of Stingray Advisory Group LLC and co-owner of Brightwork Marine LLC, has more than 15 years of experience in leadership, sales, marketing and graphic design. She helps businesses grow and assists with: strategic planning, marketing concept development/implementation, risk management and financial organization. She is actively involved in the community, sitting on several boards and committees, and has been recognized as one of the 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in Grand Rapids.

Contact Leandra Nisbet by email at [email protected]!
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