Behind the Brand
Caitlin here - creator and designer of Ray of Light Swimwear. For the brand's first official blog post, I wanted to share a bit more about me and the story behind it all. To make this happen, my friend Jess interviewed me. Below is a transcript of that conversation :)
I know I know you, haha, but tell me about yourself!
I was born and raised in Miami. I have two sisters, an older and a younger one, Cuban parents, and a loud, crazy Cuban family - but the good kind of crazy.
What do you do in your free time?
I love to go to the beach, or sit in the sun even if only in my backyard. I enjoy cooking now; that’s a new and surprising hobby since I couldn’t even fry an egg. I want to say I read a lot but I don’t; I used to though and still dream of reading more again. Of course, I'm always looking at clothes; window shopping is definitely a hobby of mine.
So how did you get into fashion?
Honestly, I just always liked it. I liked looking through magazines. I liked shopping. Clothes came naturally to me.
Around 15, I decided I wanted to pursue fashion professionally. That’s with, mind you, no artistic background. So I enrolled in art classes and sewing classes and began my real development to get into design school.
Aside from all the obstacles, I was and still am dedicated to fashion, and I'm lucky to have met people along the way who helped me get to where I am now.
How was the process of getting into design school?
I was 17 and I was one of the few in my high school class who actually knew the direction they wanted to go. It was tough because I had to decide between doing fashion extra curricular things or doing things that I wanted to do as a kid. I remember there was a program that I actually didn’t do because I didn’t want to let down my soccer team. Looking back I should have done the program, but I guess you have to be kid. It all worked out and was worth it in the end.
Were you worried about getting into design school?
I don't remember being worried, but I must have been.
And did you get into the school you wanted?
Yes, my dream school: Parsons the New School for Design.
Tell me how design school was like! I’ve heard some horror stories.
Looking back I can tell you honestly and openly that it was really challenging. My foundation year was really hard for me because I didn't feel like art and design came naturally to me. I actually got to the point where I questioned what I was doing, but there was just no way I was going to give up.
My third year in, I even had a teacher who wanted to fail me and told me to switch careers. That sucked. But design school is also very subjective, so you have to learn to take the critiques and use them to help you grow and be a better designer.
I worked really hard and continued to learn and practice those skills and I eventually found my aesthetic and became the designer I am today. I am proud of where I am today.
So what is your aesthetic?
Full of color, fun, playful, eclectic. Overall happy.
How did you find your aesthetic?
In studio courses there are about three big projects per semester, each with different themes, in which students develop a collection from concept to final looks. They teach students to develop their own creative process.
I remember there being one project in particular where my teacher really helped me explore that more playful, cheekier side. Up until then I was afraid to create looks like that and just wanted everything to be on trend and modern and beautiful, but that just wasn't me.
What happened after design school?
Ah, when I learned the reality of fashion! I stayed in NYC and I got a standard 9 to 5 job designing intimates for private labels and licensed brands.
That sounds fun, even if it was a “standard” job! How was that?
It was fun. I learned A LOT. I never intended to go into such a specialized field but it really worked out because it's what led me to swimwear. I learned more about how the business of fashion really works. I loved researching what was on trend and finding ways to make it unique for the company and something our customers wanted. Also, I always loved prints but working was when I perfected creating my own - that was my favorite part.
Then what happened? How did you end up back in Miami?
After seven years I was really burnt out from New York, I felt like I got all the opportunities I was going to get from the city and I was itching for change and a new challenge. I missed my family and I missed home. I had no idea what my plan was but I took the plunge and moved anyways, trusting that I would figure out what was best for me.
What did you end up doing once you moved back?
I took some time for myself during the holidays. I wanted to go back to creating things just for fun. I didn’t know if that would be portfolio prep or something else. The thought of starting my own business was already there, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready. It had always been a far-off dream.
But before I knew it, what I created ended up becoming Ray of Light. I was fortunate enough to have the support and encouragement from my loved ones and to meet someone along the way who made embarking on this new venture a little less scary.
And how is it going now?
Swimwear or Miami?
Swimwear in Miami?
It’s challenging, as anything is; there's a lot of brands out there. But I love it. It’s the new challenge I wanted and it's mine. I’m learning so much and having a lot of fun. If I weren’t having fun, I wouldn’t be doing it.
What's your biggest inspiration?
Color. Definitely color.
Tell me about the meaning behind the name Ray of Light.
Without it sounding depressing, I was unhappy my last year in NYC. I missed Miami, I missed home, and I missed the sun. I hated winter - I wouldn’t see the sun for 6 to 9 months of the year. Ray of Light represents that change, that hope and love for the warmth of the sun - the warmth that I was drawn back to.
What’s been the biggest obstacle with ROL?
Starting out. I call this phase "being in the trenches." Now is where the real work begins.
But I (and others) remind myself everyday to not give up and push through the trenches.
And what’s been your greatest surprising success?
I’ve received a lot of good responses. I’ve seen comments on social media of people loving the suits and the branding. I know I like it, but to hear strangers say it is really rewarding.
What’s your greatest strength?
Persistence. I go for what I want.
What is your dream with ROL - what does success look like to you?
Being able to make a living doing what I love and creating great quality swimwear that women feel confident, comfortable and at home in.
And finally, what is the best all time beach song?
Going to go with a classic - Surfin’ the USA by The Beach Boys.
I hope you've enjoyed the story of how Ray of Light came to be and feel more connected to who we are.
Design school memories, my Senior thesis collection.
Photos by: The Sugar Cottage