In This Issue
Founded by Ryan Horne in June 2021, Gonza swimwear has become a fast favorite for its inclusive ethos, trendy styles and mission of representation. The line is so fire that EBONY's April 2023 cover star Jodie Turner-Smith can not get enough of it and brings the pieces everywhere she travels.
EBONY chatted with the team behind the sexy swimwear line—comprised of Horne, it's CEO, and JTS's bestie Fancy Gomez, the brand's creative director—about their inspirations and being featured in EBONY April 2023 digital cover story.
How does it feel to have Gonza featured in EBONY’s April 2023 cover shoot?
Ryan Horne: This is like a childhood dream for me. I grew up with the publication. My family would attend EBONY's Fashion Fair shows every single year at the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel. My aunt used to walk in the show. You have no idea how huge this opportunity is for me and my family. This matters so much more to me than I can explain to you. It's next level.
What was the experience of styling the pieces for the cover like?
Fancy Gomez: Jodie has been my friend, my sister, for over a decade. We have always been doing this type of work together. When we had absolutely no money, we would hop in my car, drive like two or four hours away and take photos. Now the adventures are different, but we are the same. For this trip, she was on vacation and packed nothing but our swimwear pieces. We were literally just vibing, going to the beaches that we were supposed to be at that day, listening to music and hitting up the jerk spots. We were just doing what we do and it turned out to be so amazing and magical. It was honestly effortless.
What is your experience being BIPOC business owners in the swimwear space?
Horne: This brand for me is extremely special and important because the starting point was when I had my child who is half Black and half Colombian. Although I've been in this space for well over a decade—15 years, actually— I haven't seen very many brands that truly opened themselves up to women of color. Granted, I see even from my own angles that we do make a good chunk of our money from the Caucasian demographic, which is why swimwear brands appeal to them so much. But that's not what I was trying to do. I wanted to be something that my daughter could look at and feel proud of.
Also, I wanted to create a business that she was included in. I wanted to make my daughter an owner of something from the time she was a little girl. This mentality was instilled in me by my father. He's passed now, but he always imparted wise financial advice on me and others, like get your child a credit card so they have a good credit score when they're older. With that in mind, I wanted to start a business for my baby. That was the impetus for Gonza, a brand where women of color can really look at and see themselves reflected. They can look at our site and think, this model looks like me or she could be my cousin. We want our pieces to appeal to all shapes and sizes that reflect 95% of the swimwear market. Building this out has truly been one of the greatest passions and successes I've had.
What does the ideation process look like when developing new collections?
Horne: It's a lot of fun but it can also be stressful. Our thought process on building a collection has changed meaning. When I started off in this business, it was very focused on the wholesale aspect on what stores you're selling to and everything you do is matched to their rules. Also, the traditional design method for the swimwear market is to design two or three collections ahead of time so that you can habit produced at the same time and show them all in July. We don't do that anymore. Now we use more of a direct-to-consumer model. We listen to our customer and try to get a vibe for what they are feeling so that we have a better understanding of their lifestyle. Because I own all of our facilities, I have more tools at my disposal than other companies do. That being said, we love to test things and see how it does.
Gomez: We also started a program called Creativos, in which we are actually seeking people outside of our office space to contribute ideas. We wanted to give a platform to creatives of color like graphic designers and photographers and letting our community inspire us. We want to find and work with people that reflect representation. So our design process is no longer this old traditional model where we're designing this one collection based on a mood board. We're doing capsules collection and letting the world inspire us.