Name: Betsy Campos
Job title: Founder and owner, Unika Swim
Currently lives in: Toronto
Education: Diploma in fashion techniques & design, George Brown College; design certificates in lingerie & swimwear design and intensive fashion design, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London
First job out of school: Bartender and bottle waitress in the hospitality and nightclub industry
Bathing-suit shopping can be pretty brutal, something that Betsy Campos has both personally felt and witnessed her mother struggle through. Options in Canada, a country that’s not exactly known for beach weather, can be particularly limited. “Watching my mom’s self-esteem plummet as she looked through tablecloth bathing suits, I just didn’t understand why,” she says. Growing up, Campos spent her summers in Brazil and knew that a new swimsuit should spark joy. “I always say I was a mermaid in a past life,” she says. Campos decided to take matters into her own hands and, in 2018, launched Unika, her made-to-order swimwear line which has a retail location on Toronto’s chic Yorkville Avenue.
While she knew there was a need for this type of on-trend, made-to-order swimwear in all sizes, Campos says others needed convincing. “In Canada, people looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I wanted to start a swimwear company,” she says. But she tuned out the haters and followed her gut, devoting years to learning the mechanics of swimwear at George Brown College in Toronto and at Central Saint Martins in London while bartending in nightclubs. (“This was a huge help in saving and investing in my next step,” she says.) She also gained a lot of knowledge through trial and error, experimenting with different cuts, material and styles along the way.
A big part of Campos’s mission is to empower both cisgendered and trans women of all shapes and sizes to feel confident in a swimwear style they love. She sees many shoppers who like the look of a certain suit but assume they can’t pull it off, and with social media it’s all too easy to compare ourselves with others. With a little knowhow, however, that hurdle is easily crossed and almost any style can be tweaked to suit any body type. “The beauty about what we do is I can tailor something to mimic the look you want based off of your body shape. Maybe it’s just an inch or two that needs adjusting,” she says. “Once you find a suit that fits, it’s life changing.”