Religion Magazine

The Hassidic-designed Bikini

By Gldmeier @gldmeier

About a year ago I posted about some frum women who had founded a company making modest swimwear for women. Frumqinis, as some might call them.

They made major press with interviews in the Wall Street Journal and Fox News and other major media. Some called it a kiddush hashem, and perhaps it was.

Today the media outlets (or at least one) is writing about some frum men who have started a unique swimwear company for women that makes regularly bikinis but more stylish with whimsical fringes in a variety of styles that snap on and off. (link to article is posted here with warning of not-tzanua images in article).

Barry Glick is not your average bikini designer.
For starters, he has zero experience designing swimwear - or designing any wear for that matter. He's not particularly involved in fashion either. Oh, he also is a Hasidic Jew living in Brooklyn.
None of this seemed to deter the 30-year-old father of five from starting a bikini company, Beach Gal, a year and a half ago.
"It isn't a culture shock to me, I see it solely as a business opportunity and as a way to express my creativity," Glick says one recent summer afternoon. We're sitting in his office in the Hasidic neighborhood of Boro Park. The newly renovated space is inside an inconspicuous concrete building, and is situated across the street from a funeral home wailing eulogies over an outdoor loudspeaker in Yiddish, and down the block from a plethora of kosher grocery stores and bakeries. It also doubles as home to the medical supply business of Saul Samet, Glick's partner and investor, who is sitting with us as well.
[...]
Glick is tall and thin, and sports all the accoutrements of being Hasidic, with a big black yarmulke, long, curly sidelocks, and a bushy beard. Samet's look is less obvious; he's shorter, built, and has a clean, short beard and trimmed sidelocks. The duo hardly seems fit to be in the swimsuit market. But the story of how Glick and Samet are successfully building a swimsuit company from scratch - battling through all the complications of creating a business, only to be hit with more obstacles on the product end, like dealing with fabrics, sourcing, branding, and distributing - is as much about the power of the internet as it is about two Jewish guys from Brooklyn who believe so much in an idea that they're willing to tiptoe around some of the rules that define their strict, religious lifestyle in order to pursue it.
That idea is a bikini, with a whimsical fringe that snaps on and off. Each Beach Gal bikini comes with an accessory, including bands of seashells, beads, sequins, and ruffles that attach to the top and bottom. The suits come in five colors and sell for $150 on the site (but are half off on Amazon right now, just FYI). They look like the sort of thing that would be trendy in places with a strong beach culture, like in Miami, or pretty much anywhere in the Caribbean.
[...]
"The Hasidic community is very tight-knit, and there's a lot of business that gets done at synagogue because you meet each other three times a day," Glick explains.
Of course, the business proposals never went over too well: "It was pretty hard in the beginning. I would shop the idea around and say, 'I wanted to speak to you about a business idea,' and everyone would say, 'Okay, what is it?' and I would say 'Bikinis!' and they would go, 'Huh?!'"
[...]
As with so many situations in life, sometimes it's not just about what you know as it is about who you know. In a sheer spout of luck, Samet's brother had a connection to Cyn & Luca, a swimwear brand found in stores like Macy's and Bloomingdale's. They were introduced to Cynthia Riccardi, the brand's designer who'd worked for companies like Adrienne Vittadini and Liz Claiborne. She helped Glick perfect his swimsuit silhouette and interchangeable accessories. After her company was bought out last year, she agreed to share her sources for high quality production in South America.
From there, Beach Gal was officially born. A first batch of merchandise was created, Glick and Samet built a website, and photographers and models were hired out in Miami for a look book. Product was also listed on Amazon and Zulily at a discounted price (roughly 50 percent off). So far, the feedback has been positive, and Beach Gal has sold nearly all of the 2,500 pieces from its first collection.
Of course, being Hasidic and in the swimwear business is difficult. Last year, when the duo attended Miami Swim Week with the Cyn & Luca team, Glick - with his beard and sidelocks - was quite the spectacle. During a photoshoot a few months ago, a makeup artist working with the Beach Gal team took a photo of Glick helping a model with a swimsuit and leaked it to Instagram without fully explaining the scenario, leaving her followers to assume the scenario was scandalous. Overall, Glick and Samet are apprehensive people will get the wrong idea about them - the reason they requested Racked not take any photos of them.
On the other hand, though, why not? From Christian retailers to clothing boasting sadness to questionable tea products, internet shopping is peak eccentric. Today, truly anything is possible when it comes to people starting e-commerce businesses, and so trendy bikinis designed by people who put their fear in a power higher than Anna Wintour can certainly fit right in.
Glick and Samet maintain there is technically nothing wrong with what they are doing. While Hasidic lifestyle ascribes to that of seclusion and modesty - and not working with, or around, scantily clad women - the guys say they treat their jobs with respect, and are careful to not cross any boundaries or break any rules, like touching other women, for example. Is it uncharacteristic of Hasidic men to be designing bikinis and working in swimwear? Sure. Can they carry on with their business without violating Jewish laws? Certainly.
"I don't look at it as a bad thing. It's a piece of clothing and just because no one in our community [wears] it doesn't mean we can't bring something fun and funky to it," Glick says.

kiddush hashem? chilul hashem? I have no idea. I think these terms get thrown around a bit too loosely. I am not sure this is either. I wish them well and great success, and am happy they have found a way to express their creativity and turn it into a business.

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