Swimming in the Fast Lane
Valley-based Trunkettes scores the prestigious cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, putting the swimwear company in the national spotlight and boosting sales beyond one Encino mom’s wildest dreams.
- Written bySusan Spillman |
There was excitement in the air for Hilary Genga and her husband, John, when they parked themselves in front of the TV the Saturday night before Valentine’s Day. The Encino couple were hoping to catch a glimpse of Hilary’s designs on the first-ever televised reveal of Sports Illustrated ’ s swimsuit issue airing on TNT.
Hilary, creator and owner of Trunkettes, a boutique swimsuit company, was aware two of her suits had made the cut—selected from some 30,000 submissions for inclusion in the magazine. “They email you a tiny little picture of the suits without the models’ faces to keep that under wraps,” says Hilary, who’s had six suits featured in previous issues.
Minutes before the show’s credits rolled, SI made history unveiling Ashley Graham as the first plus-size model ever to grace its cover and—much to the couple’s surprise—she was wearing a Trunkettes purple and gold bikini.
“I screamed, cried and laughed all at the same time, then immediately called my kids who were spending the night with friends,” she recalls.
Son Jacob, 15, and daughter, Emery, 13, who attend Harvard-Westlake School, were quick to take credit for the coup, even though they almost inadvertently persuaded their mom not to send the winning purple and gold number in that last of several packages shipped to SI throughout the year.
“I showed it to my kids and they said the colors reminded them of the Lakers,” says Hilary. Not exactly the look she was going for, she considered pulling the bikini, then decided “what the hell” and mailed it anyway.
Hilary’s instinct, like her drive and business savvy, proved dead-on. Since scoring SI’s cover, Trunkettes’online sales have tripled, the entire summer 2016 line is sold out, and retailers are clamoring for a chance to see next year’s offerings, which will debut at Swim Show, an international convention held later this month in Miami. Currently Trunkettes items are available in over a hundred retail stores, the biggest outlets being resort and hotel boutiques, such as MGM Resorts International, Harrah’s, and Lumiere Place Casino and Hotels. Thanks to SI, the company is also hoping to soon close its first deal with a national department store chain.
Ironically it was soccer moms, not supermodels, who initially inspired Hilary to launch Trunkettes eight years ago.
“When my kids were little we’d go to all these swim parties and I looked around and realized that all the dads were in the pool having fun, but none of the moms were because they didn’t want to put on a bathing suit,” she explains.
Hilary herself found comfort pair – ing her husband’s swim trunks with a bikini top. “I could dive and swim without having to worry about a wardrobe malfunction or whether I’d gotten a bikini wax,” she says.
A former theater producer with zero interest in the fashion busi – ness, Hilary kept searching stores for a legitimate swim trunk/bikini ensemble made for women, but never found one.
“Basically, there were two types of suits for women,” she says, “skimpy ones that were cute and frumpy ones that weren’t.”
She mentioned the trunks idea to her kids’ babysitter at the time, Kristin Evenson, who happened to be a recent fashion school graduate. The sitter sketched some designs and the pair were off and running. In addition to providing more coverage, Trunkettes added functionality with tops that include built-in bras with adjustable straps; trunks come with built-in briefs.
The brand has continued to evolve since its 2008 launch in a spare office in Hilary’s husband’s Encino law practice. Nowadays, Hilary and Vice President, Tashia McIntosh, who started as a swimsuit model for the company eight years ago, preside over the Trunkettes empire in a 2,000-square-foot showroom in Reseda. (Kristin Evenson left the company to be a full-time mom.) Hilary continues to oversee all aspects of the company—from design to sales.
She also receives advice from Shark Tank mentor and clothing mogul, Daymond John. After coming close but not making it onto Shark Tank, Hilary sought out John’s help and the two have met a half dozen times.
Trunkettes has expanded its line to include cover-ups, and along the way has amassed a number of celebrity fans like Carrie Underwood and Julie Bowen.
For 2017, Trunkettes will offer three lines: its original conservative-ish cuts, a neon collection for younger customers and an upscale “glam” line—each with eight to 10 pieces.
“No matter how tiny the bikini top though,” assures Hilary, “we’ll always have at least two styles of trunks to go with every top. That’s what makes us different.”
Plus, the owners on their secret for success.
The power of positive thinking.