Weekly Q&A: ‘Sports Illustrated’ swimsuit designer finds inspiration at the bingo hall

Brittany Kosmala’s swimwear company, Bellina Rebelle, was featured in Sports Illustrated‘s 50th anniversary Swimsuit Issue.
Photo: L.E. Baskow

Brittany Kosmala spends most of her days at the drawing board, dreaming up swimsuits plucked from a rainbow, bedazzled with chunky jewels and bright, funky patterns. Just two years ago, the Vegas native launched her swimwear company, Bellina Rebelle, with no business degree or previous fashion experience. She and her small team started drafting up suits to send to Sports Illustrated, hoping that eventually, something would stick. This year, a handful of her designs did.

In February, 27-year-old Kosmala received one of the industry’s highest achievements, and Bellina Rebelle was featured in Sports Illustrated’s 50th anniversary Swimsuit Issue before her debut collection even hit shelves. While Kosmala fields calls from people around the world wanting to purchase her featured designs, she dreams in Lycra, prepping her 2015 line for production and creating more bum-baring bikinis to submit to SI’s glossy pages. When Kosmala finally has a moment to come up for air, you’ll find her getting some sunny inspiration at the closest pool.

How did you get your start in swimwear? It started out as an idea. I was a makeup artist straight out of high school. I always loved fashion, and I would always go to the pools here. There was just something missing—styles, patterns, textures. It kind of inspired me. I ended up being super-fortunate ... and I was given an opportunity to design and start my own company.

Sports Illustrated just celebrated its 50th anniversary Swimsuit Issue, and your suits were featured in it. What was the process like? Every time they’re looking for something, they send a request. So I get to the drawing board and design 30 or 40 suits all within this request of theirs. [We] go source fabrics, we go to LA a lot or a lot of local stores here, whatever we can get our hands on, since it’s such a short turnaround, and we just bust out a bunch of samples and send ’em in and cross our fingers. Last year they said they got tens of thousands of suits. ... It’d be like heaven to sit there with all those suits from all these amazing designers.

And now you’re one of them. It’s crazy. It doesn’t feel real. Even when we got the email, it didn’t hit me. ... A friend texted me that there was a [Bellina Rebelle] billboard by the Thomas & Mack. All of a sudden I saw it and my whole body just went into tingles, and I just started bawling my eyes out. I was like, “This is really happening; this is really what we’re going to do now.” It really made it feel like it all was worth it.

Do you have a background in fashion—or a business degree? No, nothing. I was always the different one or wearing something weird. I became the assistant to this business owner who owns a ton of stuff and I just totally fell in love with the whole aspect of owning a business and starting this family. That’s, like, my calling.

When did you learn to sew? I don’t know how to sew. I don’t sew them. I have a team of girls that actually takes my ideas whenever we go into design. I get the fabrics and draw them all out, and then they bring them all to life.

How has living in Vegas influenced your designs? I was at the pool, I still am, like every weekend. Even at night, you’re in a bikini, and I love that. I think it’s so cool. You can take one of my tops and literally wear them out and you could go to a pool and go to dinner afterward. It’s all from day to night.

Is that what you mean when you say the swimsuits are for the “active woman”? I’m referencing the girls who aren’t just looking really beautiful laying in a chair all day. Especially here we dance and party all day. Most of the time you go out to eat afterward, or you find yourself at a restaurant in the hotel, and you can’t just lug around clothes.

What’s the creative design process like? The collection for next year is like Beetlejuice and Alice in Wonderland had a baby, if you can picture that in your head. I like stripes, I like floral. I’m that girl who wants to wear [something] pretty, but it’s going to be messed up somehow. I pull from everything. I was playing bingo one night and the daubers were these crazy colors, a color combination I would’ve never put together.

That’s very Vegas. I love bingo. I play bingo all the time. So stuff like that. And styles that some girls could wear and maybe some girls couldn’t; I’m trying to find that middle. I’m trying to find stuff that would look awesome on a curvier girl and on a slim girl and vice versa. I think it’s really good to know as a woman what you look good in. I don’t ever want to exclude anybody. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they can’t wear a Bellina Rebelle suit because it’s so tiny or because only girls with hips or big-breasted girls wear that. We have a Brazilian, we have a scrunch, we have a thong, we definitely go into those styles. I think in Sports Illustrated they picked [all three]. So if you’re comfortable, I’m here to give you all the tools.

Where can people buy the suits? Right now we’re online and we only have the Sports Illustrated stuff up. Our collection isn’t ready until next year. My collection for 2015 is all being manufactured as we speak in Colombia. We partnered up with the Hard Rock, so we’ll have Hard Rock exclusives. They’re having a bikini invitational all summer and we’re the bikini sponsor for that, and then we’re going to sell the suits in the competition. Anything Sports Illustrated or Hard Rock related will all be manufactured here in Las Vegas.

Have you ever thought about creating a men’s line? I have. I have a lot of men in my life. I played sports my whole life I was a total tomboy. I have a lot of male influence in my life, and the issues we have with bikinis, they have the same issues. Guys feel the same way. It’s definitely something that I’ve thought about.

What’s next for Bellina Rebelle? I think it will be really cool to see what happens next year. I have a lot of ideas. I love swimwear, but there are other things I want to do, too. I imagine growing the brand out into other things—all beach—’cause I love the beach. Put me in the pool or in the sun and I’m happy as a clam.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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