Australian designer swimwear brand Salty Fox emerged from a beautiful daydream “whilst watching the shimmering sun kiss a sparkling turquoise sea,” founder Susan Alexopoulos tells Neos Kosmos.

Her up-and-coming Melbourne-based label includes handcrafted luxe one-pieces, bandeau and triangle bikinis as well as sheer pieces. Her designs are based on quality, and celebrate natural beauty and femininity.

Alexopoulos uses refined colour palettes that reflect the burnt and shimmering Australian landscape juxtaposed with the ocean.

Her next collection will be inspired by ancient Greek motifs, honouring her Hellenic heritage as she plans a new visit to the motherland.

‘Sun, salt, sea’; is the magical triptych that goes into every Salty Fox creation translating into distinctive prints inspired by the beauty and deep mystery of nature and the gift of life itself.

Style and comfort aside, Alexopoulos’ personal story is inspiring on its own considering she comes from a theatre background, giving Salty Fox its own personal signature.

What was it that made you venture into fashion?
Fashion is not my background. Acting, writing, and directing is. However, fashion is not completely foreign to me as my mother trained as a seamstress and worked in manufacturing for many years. I grew up with the whirring sound of a sewing machine. I also work for a fashion designer and my best friend is a designer too. I love everything about fashion and form; it’s all around me.

From an interest in fashion to designing your own swimwear line is quite a big leap.
In looking to take my life to a whole new direction, I started Salty Fox. I got married and my husband was unexpectedly dead within six months and one day of our wedding. He had cancer; a brain tumour. At the time I felt like everything I had done and known in my life till then was behind a door that closed on my life when he died. I felt like the only choice I had was to start a new life. Then I thought of what made me happy, because that was the direction I needed to head towards. The most obvious answer was being by the ocean in a bikini. That for me is as close to pure happiness as I can get; happy simplicity. The ocean for me is sacred. Sitting at the beach in a bikini won’t pay the bills though, so I thought to myself ‘why not start designing swimwear?’ It kind of dropped on me like a epiphany as if it worked, in some way, whatever I did, I would always be connected to the ocean.

Recovering from such a trauma is challenging in itself. How did you tackle the hurdles involved in building a new business? What kept you going?
Apart from the heavy-duty death thing, I had an ongoing joke that the purpose of my life had always been about my search for the perfect bikini. Maybe I needed something to drive me through the grief, to learn new skills and have a shiny carrot to chase to distract myself through the pain and not fall apart. The other part that thrilled me was that there was an inner drive within me to build something tangible; to build a business.
I had spent my life being the happy wandering globetrotting bohemian artist, working and creating intangible art forms, living off the smell of an oily rag and seeking the next creative adventure.

I now wanted something tangible to hold and grow with. To create a business that my creativity could bloom within. I also had a young daughter to support from a previous relationship, so it was time to knuckle down and get serious. I wanted to show her that you could be strong and chase your dreams and create whatever you want out of your life. Maybe experiencing death altered my needs or maybe I was now finally listening to my needs that I had been ignoring for years because adventure, life and love had gotten in the way.

How did the name Salty Fox come about?
I love words. I have to say I played with different words I loved for months. Then one day these two words ended up together and ‘BAM’. I had it.
I wanted to find a name that resonated strongly with me. That was strong in presence. That was memorable. It only occurred to me a little later that the name Salty Fox is like an analogy for a gorgeous beach babe.

What is different about your brand?
Every part of my design and manufacture process is done here and I will do my best to keep it that way. I believe in Australian-made and I actually think it is a great thing is that there are so many more swim brands manufacturing here in Australia. There are a lot of swim designers and labels in northern Australia. The hot tropical places. They are obviously influenced by their environment so I guess you’d say my swimwear is very Melbourne. I describe my swimwear as having the heart of a beach girl encased in a signature Melbourne aesthetic.

My materials are sourced here in Australia, but the fabrics used are mainly Italian Carvico lycras. My focus is on designing beachwear that allows women to feel both beautiful and comfortable no matter what their age or body shape and have created fluid, feminine designs that compliment the female form adding unique quirky details – like pockets – to give it my own little signature twist. I use refined elegant colour palettes, yet colour block to create unusual and striking combinations. Salty Fox swimwear is elegant edgy designs combined with high quality fabrics and craftsmanship.

What kind of customer do you have in mind when you design? Can you describe the Salty Fox woman?
She understands the meaning of natural beauty and loves fashion that makes her look and feel unique. She wants to feel comfortable in her clothes and her skin because she’s old enough to realise that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable to look good. The Salty Fox woman appreciates quality but loves a little bit of magic and mystery.

Is your source of inspiration always the ocean?
The ocean is my happy place. There is a sacred affinity there for me. It’s mysterious and magical. Maybe it’s the constant movement of the water. But the ocean has stories to tell.

I have tried to take a story, and put it within my collection and this is the reason I like to use pockets in my swimsuits.
The pockets are keepsakes for your beautiful memories. Moments spent on the beach. A place to put that magical shell you found walking, your $5 note for when you go and get your favouite ice cream.

It is not just the ocean that my ideas stem from. So many different things inspire me; everything inspires me. Music, art, books, movies, mythology, love, loss pain, nature . . . and people. Always people.

Life is a moving piece of artwork that always has some snippet of inspiration for you. Whether it be from a beautiful cloudscape or a lyric from a song. The names of my swimsuits all stem from a character that has inspired me from real life, a book, or a movie.

My late husband also inspires me as he was brave and altogether an amazing human. I can feel him egging me on to be brave and amazing too. He is not here in the physical world helping me as he wanted to but he is definitely helping me now from wherever he is. He makes me smile everyday and the thought of him fills me with love. That calms me and strengthens me; his love, his life and his death has grounded me and made me realise what is valuable in life. Stopped me in my tracks long enough so that my roots could take hold and I could grow as a person and flourish. That is what has helped me create this business; to be able to do the hard yards it takes to get to this stage.

Can you tell us a few things about your next collection?
The new print I am developing is inspired from the art of ancient Greek pottery. I’m very excited as I just got the art work back and it’s so beautiful. This is my way of connecting back to my Greek culture and roots and of course my love of story. Without stories in life we become lost. Stories are what hold us all together. All art reflects story, regardless of the form it’s expressed in. Photography, music, books, fashion, paintings. They all have something to share with our soul. Without art we might as well be robots. I was actually going to say – we might as well be dead.

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