The devastating effects of the covid-19 pandemic essentially brought the world as we know it to a grinding halt in 2020. But while the rest of humanity collectively went into hibernation, one NYC-based creative never stopped his gears from turning. Amidst all this adversity, Rocco Valentine launched his debut swimwear brand, Inez Valentine, during the summer of last year, thanks to hard work and perseverance.
After years working as a stylist in the fashion industry, Valentine was deeply inspired by dressing models every day in such close quarters, putting them in lingerie and helping them feel beautiful both on set and off. Harnessing this feminine energy,Inez Valentine was born with Valentine’s muses always in mind as he embarked on the next step in his creative journey.
The swim line was dreamed up and co-founded with Valentine’s dear friend, Bianca Ubeda, who he met while studying in Boston. As both were raised close to the sea, the duo found common ground seeking to bring the beautiful serenity of their childhood memories into Inez Valentine. The team also desired to infuse a sense of their own personal identities into the swimwear, with Valentine focused on bringing in his perspective as a queer man and his expertise from years in the fashion industry into the line. For Ubeda, incorporating her Latina heritage was a huge focal point, while likewise promoting diversity and sustainability throughout the collection.
While the two first sparked their plans in November 2019, their search for a manufacturer was dealt a huge blow when the covid-19 pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020. Never ones to give up in the face of hardship, Valentine and Ubeda pushed through and eventually found a completely women-led manufacturing studio in Los Angeles ideal for the Inez Valentine ethos, which Valentine cites as the pandemic’s blessing in disguise.
As the bikinis and one pieces finally manifested in physical form, another roadblock hit: all of Valentine’s beloved model muses had left New York City in the wake of coronavirus’s grip on the world. The girls were set to be key collaborators on the brand’s photos, but Valentine took the setback in stride, instead shipping out pieces to his inspirations instead.
After months of covid-19 madness, Inez Valentine finally launched in July 2020, to resounding success. The brand’s sustainability efforts earned the line widespread praise, as every single piece in the collection is made with recycled water bottles and shipped in completely sustainable packaging. Even beyond the all-important eco-consciousness aspect, Inez Valentine has committed to giving a portion of their profits to a new charity every month, giving those more philanthropically inclined something to be majorly excited about.
Inez Valentine likewise garnered attention for its selective array of designs, focusing on two different styles of tops, two types of bottoms and a one piece in its initial collection, ensuring full attention to detail and quality craftsmanship in every single item. The swim line’s variety of delicate and stylish colors are eye-catching without being overwhelmingly bright, and the tastefully designed cuts are appropriate for any occasion.
Despite all the struggles along the way, Inez Valentine has certainly made a splash in the swimwear industry since its debut last summer. As the brand approaches its one year anniversary, it looks to continue expanding with a larger range of bikini designs, and hopes to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation in sustainable swimwear.
As for Valentine, the multi-talented creative looks to continue his work with Inez Valentine and keep elevating brands through his styling by day, while embracing his true self and coming into his own by night. With huge plans set in store for the future, keep your eyes peeled on Rocco Valentine for plenty more to come from the jack-of-all-trades extraordinaire.