Welcome To The Gypset

Swimwear designer Mara Hoffman on this summer's hottest beach look

Mara

Pack away the Lilly Pulitzer tunics and frumpy nautical stripes, because Gypset, a portmanteau of “gypsy” and “jet-set” is all the rage. From Miami to Montauk, this look—a modern update on Boho—is glamorous, sexy and slightly exotic. More of a style than a totally store-bought phenomenon, it is great news, according to New York native Mara Hoffman, for those who subscribe to the “more is more” school of vacation dressing.  

“For me, it’s all about going for the full look when I hit the beach or pool,” she told The Observer. “I love having a printed towel with a matching beach bag. I usually strip down the jewelry for purely practical reasons so I don’t lose anything when I swim, but sunglasses are a must. I am currently loving the Pamela Love for Selima Optique collaboration—super cute styles.”

With a long, lean body practically built for bikinis, Ms. Hoffman, a former dancer, has been conjuring up Bohemian-inspired swimwear since 2000. Using hand-dyed fabrics to interpret her colorful, multi-cultural inspiration  from the start, Ms. Hoffman built her company on a foundation of  free-minded creativity. But it was her 2008 collection of dashiki (short kaftan) cover-ups and sexily-cut swimsuits that became her fashion calling card. Mara Hoffman swimwear became a hot choice for celebrity stylists and helped re-ignite the late 1960s Gypset look that dwells permanently on the Mediterranean islands of Mykonos and Ibiza.

 Gypset relies heavily on accessories; the actual swimwear of the original look was usually simple: a white crochet bikini or a daring cutaway-and-lace-up one-piece. Exponents of this style included legendary stylist’s muse the “Boho Contessa” Talitha Getty and hippy-ish chicks Kate Moss, Nicole Richie and Gisele Bündchen have helped the look take root in the 21st Century. 

The biggest difference in Ms. Hoffman’s take on the Boho-inspired, Gypset look is color. Summer 2015’s collection features vivid prints and high-tech fabrics that won’t fade or disintegrate on the beach. “I’m a fan of making things people will bring to their happiest places, like on vacation,” Hoffman said. “Usually when you’re in a bathing suit, you’re somewhere you want to be. I like being part of people’s happiest moments.” 

Ms. Hoffman’s artistically printed cover ups have graduated from the beach to day and evening-wear choices for stars including Kim Kardashian, Freida Pinto, Jessica Alba and Katy Perry. More than just garments, each Mara Hoffman collection features romantic, Gypset inspiration for stylists and clients alike with body and belly chains, henna tattoos, tinkling ankle bracelets and upper-arm bangles. 

New Yorkers in particular turn to Ms. Hoffman for vacation inspiration. The line retails from $110 to $525 and is a top seller at Barneys, Bloomingdale’s and Intermix. The designer said her New York customers love to experiment with swimwear trends even if one look is particularly flying high. 

“Women in Los Angeles and Miami, on the other hand, are all about the teeny, tiny two-piece,” Ms. Hoffman explained. “Miami is total skin, it’s all about the sex.” She added that New York women keep an eye on fashion as well as sauciness. They will go away and take more risks with print and color in swimwear than  they do in everyday dressing at home,” said Ms. Hoffman, whose clients seek styles that are fashion-worthy but do not require hours of styling in front of the mirror . “They enjoy the beach. It’s great to see them let loose a little bit!”

Although Ms. Hoffman sells in stores, she recommends online shopping for swimwear if you want to experiment with your look. “When choosing swimwear, don’t get bogged down by the idea of your ‘body type.’ I’m not into rules! I’d say you really have to try different styles and not be afraid to experiment with shapes.” There is no doubt Ms. Hoffman understands her clients.
“At home you can show the person closest to you and try everything on in your own setting. You don’t want to be that weirdo in the dressing room with your pants around your ankles or your socks on.”

Last month, Ms. Hoffman partnered with Anthropologie on a home collection including bedding, patterned curtains and rugs in exotic prints and feather motifs.  Similar designs can be found on her flip-flop line for Havaianas, towels for Pendleton and a girls’ swim assortment with J.Crew. Last year, the designer launched a whimsical bridal collection designed with the laid-back beach bride in mind. 

Marrying on the beach, surely the ultimate Gypset move. 

 Mara Hoffman’s Top 5 Beach Tips

1. I love messy mermaid hair. Bring on the humidity I say! The messier and bigger, the better.

2. Spritzing with Weleda sage deodorant keeps me feeling glamorous, ditto patting my face with little oil-blotting sheets.

3. Use a sarong as a turban, beach blanket, a skirt or even a tent. There are so many uses for a sarong! 

4. Lots of water and sunscreen, a good pair of sunglasses and  a good lip balm with S.P.F. are all  crucial. 

5. If I’m feeling extra ambitious, I might bring deep hair conditioner for the ends of my hair. Also some good reading. Don’t forget a gorgeous bag to carry it all.