K-Belo-Feature

To Bikini Or Not Bikini – We Talk Swimwear and Fashion with K Belo Designer Diane Belgrod

Swimwear’s supposed to be fun and flirty – and designer Diane Belrod is doing her part to help you heat up the summer season.

The New York designer crafts her pieces out of Italian fabrics, the result being a revealing but classy look that is sure to turn heads by the pool or ocean.

We’re big fans of Diane’s designs. In fact, we’re featuring her Popsicle One-Piece in NewsWhistle’s Summer Catalogue.

And her mission statement is cool, as well.

Part of it reads: “It is Diane’s wish that all K Belo bikinis be swam in, surfed in, slept in, caked in sand, washed by waves and worn with love.”

In the interview below, we talk with Diane about her appreciation of the beach and her passion for fashion.

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DianeBelgrodimage

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Name: Diane Belgrod (pictured above)

Date of Interview: 6/1/16

Age (if you want to give it up): 37

Birthplace: Long Island, New York

Current town: Jackson Heights, NY (Queens, NYC)

Occupation: Owner/Designer of K Belo Swimwear

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1. Tell us a little about yourself:

I grew up on the beach in Long Island, New York and moved to NYC eighteen years ago. I started designing swimwear eight years ago. I love New York and am very inspired by the energy, the people, the artists, the musicians, the culture and the summer. There are parts of New Yor that I don’t love: the winter, the homogenization, and the cost of living to name a few. It’s important to take breaks from New York in order to love living here, so I like to travel whenever I can. I love visiting California.

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2. Why did you decide on a career in fashion?

I have always loved the beach and I have always appreciated the style of fashion. I was never that knowledgable about famous designers. I always loved going to thrift stores and new stores and putting something together. I love when clothes last forever. I love when swimwear lasts forever. It’s always so sad to say goodbye to broken clothes that are beyond repair. I always take my shoes to get resoled and reheeled. I like worn in things that have been loved. This is why I design K Belo swimwear to last as long as possible.

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Style: Popsicle ; Color: Jailbreaker

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3. Why did you choose your city as your base? Any tips or suggestions (hotels, restaurants, sites) for people traveling to your part of the world?

NYC is a great base for swimwear and also a weird one! I have the Garment District in my backyard and my production happens in Long Island, which is where I grew up and very close to where I live now. Also all of the magazines and most press are based out of New York and we have a ton of shopping and beaches. But the summer season is too short (and the winter is too long). California would probably make more sense for swimwear but I love that I’ve started my line here and being a self-taught designer, I don’t think I could’ve learned everything I’ve learned without being so close to all of these amazing, talented people (graders, cutters, sewers, pattern makers, boutiques, editors). It’s been a real gift. Tips for tourists? Come to New York and ride the 7 train to Queens. Go to the Garment Center at 3pm on a Friday and stand on a corner. This is New York. Ride the Staten Island Ferry and see New York Harbor (it’s free and has a great view of the Statue of Liberty).

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4. What’s the funniest or saddest thing that’s happened to you this week?

It’s been hot here and my cat has been in the weirdest yoga poses to get cool. He’s very entertaining. I think he’s really a dog in a cat’s body, I also had my first beach day in New York this summer at Rockaway Beach this week. I swam in the ocean and it was magical and inspiring. It’s so important to rinse off the winter with that first swim. When I got home I heard on the news that someone at the same beach, but much further away, a kid cutting school who coincidentally lived in my neighborhood in Queens, drowned in a riptide that day. That was very sad, surreal news to hear after the beach experience I had just had.

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5. What’s your favorite movie? And why?

I love all movies, great documentaries, and classic 80s and 90s movies the most. Back to the Future? Goonies? Ghostbusters. I love them all. Working Girl? I love movies that show old, gritty New York. Also Monterey Pop is a great live concert documentary. There is footage of Mama Cass seeing Janis Joplin perform for the first time, and her jaw literally drops open. So good.

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Style: Athena; Color: Posie

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6. What’s the biggest risk you took in life?

The biggest risk has probably been committing to being my own boss and running my own company. I had an eight year career in publishing and advertising and I couldn’t believe that I was going to do that for the rest of my life. When I walked away from that world I never looked back. This is not to say I’ve always completely funded K Belo solely from swimwear sales. I have been a bartender for many years to supplement my income and keep the line going. The hours work well for having a business of my own. NYC is a very expensive place to be a creative person without a 9-5 job (or with one)!

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7. If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would that be?

I don’t really have regrets because all of the things in my life that have turned out disastrously have led me to the things that have been the best parts of my life, so I think it had to work like that. I once had free tickets with VIP access to see Stevie Nicks and I went all the way to Atlantic City to see her and ended up giving the passes away. I wish I had seen her! Another time I had front row tickets to Jane’s Addiction in NYC and I just forgot to go. Also I could’ve gone to see Nirvana’s last NYC show before Kurt died and I didn’t end up going. So weirdly all of my regrets are concerts I’ve never seen. I didn’t realize that about myself until right now. Wow!

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Style Top: Basque; Style Bottom: Lola

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8. Tell us your favorite joke:

I would really love to because it’s perfect and short so I can remember it and just the right amount of offensive, but I don’t think I can tell it here. Also it has arm gestures so it wouldn’t work unless we were together in the same room. I wish I could think of another one! Oh well.

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9. What’s something that most people don’t know about you?

I’m kind of psychic and kind of a medium. I get messages from people who have passed away. It’s something that’s been developing over the past few years. It’s bizarre and moving and has been really special to see how the messages affect those who have lost people they love, and that I was able to bring them together again. I’m also an artist and I play the drums.

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10. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard?

Wow I’ve gotten so much good advice over the years. The thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is the idea that in life there are only two emotions: love and fear. I try to remember this when something is holding me back, or I feel stuck. Is it because I am afraid? I try to look at the situation with love and be kind to myself and take one or two steps forward to get unstuck. I’ve also come to realize that everything in life really starts from within, and not externally. My relationship with myself is very important because everything I do starts with me. I don’t mean this in a narcissistic way, but I don’t want to do anything anymore that compromises or sacrifices my own joy. If something is making me unhappy I try to speak up or walk away from it.

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Style Top: Basque; Style Bottom: Lola

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11. What’s been the worst fashion trend of the past five years? The best?

Ugh I am a very opinionated New Yorker and I could go on and on. Belly shirts? They are cute but you have to look really good. I hate to be judgmental! A lot of people are rocking this look who maybe shouldn’t be. Can I also say cell phones as an accessory? At this point I’m calling them an accessory because they are expensive and we carry them everywhere and are constantly admiring them. I like my phone too but it’s out of control. No one in New York is looking up. They are all on their phones. It’s depressing and boring. The best look? I love that everyone from all ages and backgrounds in NYC is mixing different styles in all kinds of ways; things that you’d never think to put together. I love it.

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12. What should customers ask themselves before buying one of your products?

They should ask themselves if they are ready to have happy, exciting beach adventures in their new swimwear!

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13. Who are your design idols? Why? Have you ever met them? If so, what happened?

I don’t know! I recently watched both the Dior and YSL documentaries. I love seeing how these houses got started, because essentially whether you are a house or an independent designer, it’s the same challenges and the same triumphs but on a different scale. It all comes back to one person (or a team of people) who is inspired to create beauty and art through the expression of fashion. Diana Vreeland.

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14. What colors will be the trendiest later this year and in 2017?

I think fall colors will feel very autumn like this year, rust, burnt orange, mustard, cream, muted greens. Washed out blues. Very 70s Working Girl type influence. For spring 2017, I am feeling cream, gray, slate blue/gray, light pink, and a good yellow.

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15. Who’s your favorite celebrity? And why?

Oh that’s tough. Off the top of my head I’m going to say Diana Vreeland and Kathleen Hanna. Two very different women but both very inspiring. Also Andy Warhol. He got the joke. And he made the joke.

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Style: Popsicle; Color: Jailbreaker

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16. What’s your strangest phobia or superstition?

Spiders. Probably not that strange, but I don’t like them. I’ve tried, but they are just not for me.

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17. What’s your favorite outfit (currently and all-time)?

I have this houndstooth fabric and leather Winlet jacket I found at a Goodwill in Virginia that I wore all winter. I also have all of these great worn in flannels that my Dad gave me. He has a maximum shirt policy so every time someone gives him a new flannel as a gift, he gives me the old ones. We’ve had that system since I was about five. It works well for me! Now that it’s finally getting warm in New York I realize I need some new summer clothes! I’d like to get a few new long dresses. I love Reformation. I’m thinking I will treat myself to a few new pieces.

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18. Where was your best meal, and what was it?

I live in New York and I love pizza. I could say all pizza, anywhere, anytime. Probably the best meals I ever ate were in Florence, Italy when I lived there for a few months in college. And of course my mother’s chicken cutlet parmigiano. I was a vegetarian for about 20 years and I really missed that. I eat everything now. This question is making me hungry.

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19. Last, but not least, is there anything you want to pitch, promote or discuss?

Yes, but it’s a big topic to tackle. Retail, the fashion industry, the supply chains, the labor issues, the disconnection between the image of fashion and the reality of fashion. I feel the system is pretty broken. I’d like to see more transparency in the fashion industry. I’d love to see a department store that sells only sustainable, fair-trade products so it takes the guesswork out of the process for the consumer, like a Trader Joes for fashion. I think it’s really inspiring to see so many independent designers making things locally and sustainably, and in general talking about these issues. It’s a good start. The downside is no one is really making any money. It’s the little secret of the fashion industry. Everyone is pretty much breaking even. Of course that’s not true in every case, but I would like to see more support for independent designers, that’s not necessarily in the form of a buyout from a larger conglomeration. We still have a long way to go, but I believe it possible that the industry can get better.

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All images courtesy of K Belo.