From Baby Lock Serger to Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

July 19, 2011 in News

St. Louis РIt’s one of the most coveted spots in the fashion world – the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Designers dream of their suits appearing on the pages, among the most famous labels in the industry. Cat Thordarson, an L.A.-based bikini designer, decided to do more than dream of a place in the world-famous issue – she decided to go straight to the source and ask them for a spot.


With less than a month to prepare, Cat brought suits from her four-year-old line, MilkBaby Bikini Company, to New York City. The staff at Sports Illustrated were thrilled by Cat’s vitality as much as her talent, and thanks to her hard work, a MilkBaby bikini appeared in the most recent Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.


Cat started sewing with basic techniques in high school, but her skills took off once she began studying Apparel Merchandising, Design and Production at Iowa State University. Cat made her fist swimsuit “three generations ago. It resembles nothing like it does now,” she says. Cat didn’t branch out to bikinis until 2007, though she said the initial idea came to her in 2000, when she decided to name the line MilkBaby.


“It was my nickname for a while; it might actually be an East Coast name,” says Cat about Milkbaby. “It means a kind of natural beach girl. It seemed like a good name and I kept thinking, ‘This name’s too perfect; I have to make this a bikini line.’ I didn’t start the line until 2007 but the name came up in 2000. My friends and family were sick of me talking about this fictitious bikini line and I was like, I have to stop talking about it and do something about it.”


With so much energy, it isn’t much of a surprise that Cat was practically born on the go. Growing up, her family moved around a lot, and after some time in Missoula, Montana and college, Cat kept moving. Her first stop was in San Diego after college.


“I’ve done tons of traveling,” she adds, “I was really adventurous. Technically everything started in San Diego – first models, first photo shoot – then I had an opportunity to open a boutique in Missoula, so we moved back. Actually, our lease ran out right when the Sports Illustrated stuff was happening. We moved to LA about six months ago.”


Cat’s adventurous spirit played a huge part in getting the coveted Sports Illustrated spot. In fact, only a month after a television special and her husband’s encouragement inspired Cat to contact Sports Illustrated, she was on a plane to New York.


“I was stalking them for about three weeks. We had about a month to order specialty fabrics and start hustling them,” says Cat. “It was dumping snow in Montana and it was, like, 100 degrees in New York. The woman on the phone was like, ‘You’re calling from where?’ I think she gave me the appointment just because I stumped her.”


“I think everything just happened the way it should have. My assistant was running late; we were literally running through Time Square and checking in at the exact moment we were supposed to be there,” Cat recalls. “I was on this crazy adrenaline rush, so I was the most enthusiastic person you’ve ever seen. She seemed pretty impressed; I had all this extra steam and talked like I do this every day.”


 The staff at Sports Illustrated loved Cat and gave her style sheets with the color stories for the issue. Cat made as many suits as possible in the colors Sports Illustrated gave her. However, the suit that actually made it into the issue was a last minute addition.


“It almost didn’t make it in. The neons weren’t part of the original cover story – it was an email that came really late in the game. I didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare, and I wanted to send a total of four suits,” says Cat. “I ran to the post office right after I finished the bikini. They told me I had to overnight it, and the Fed Ex guy was standing right there.”


Cat received all of her suits back, but didn’t know which suit, if any, had made it into the issue. “Some were dirty or covered in makeup, so I had no idea.” However, the day the issue was released, Cat was thrilled to see her bikini in print, on the same page as suits by Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.


These days, Cat is enjoying her success and expanded credibility, while continuing to expand the MilkBaby bikini line.  Cat encourages every young designer to act on his or her ambitions.


“I tell all of my interns when they start that I wasn’t the wizard designer in college; they would probably be really surprised by where I was. It’s not insane talent, just serious determination. If people want to do this, just don’t give up. It’s not easy to do this; it just comes with time. In the beginning it was hard, but now I could literally take a nap and make a suit.”


“It’s going to be challenging no matter what,” she adds. “It’s not all that easy, but it sure is rewarding.”


Another reason Cat waited so long to make suits was that resources until 2007, when she bought a Baby Lock Eclipse serger. She uses the machine for all of her suits’ internal seams, including the suit featured in Sports Illustrated. When asked what she loves about using her Eclipse, Cat says, “Everything – honestly! I have four or five unpaid interns and they’ll be really scared to use it, but then they love it too! My sister had an old Baby Lock from the 70’s. I was worried about not having a technical person around, but it’s really easy.”

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