Alumna making a splash with her own swimsuit company
May 23, 2017
Less than three
years into her career as a businesswoman, Melissa “Missy” Isaksson knows she
has a long way to go to realize her dream of creating one of the leading
swimsuit brands in the world.
For now, the 2012 University
of Wisconsin-Stout graduate of the apparel design and development program still
mostly is a one-woman company. She designs the suits — mostly bikinis — and
makes them by hand. She fulfills orders, arranges photo shoots for models and maintains
her website and social media sites.
At the end of her
busy days, however, she’s seeing encouraging signs that her designs are more
than good enough to compete well on a world stage. More importantly, she’s
doing what makes her happy. “I love what I’m doing, and I love the swimsuits. I
really like the challenge of creating these pieces,” she said.
The name of her
company, Iztali Swim, means
reality is the dream, a reflection of how she wants to live her life.
“It’s kind of a wanderlust
idea. There are so many amazing, beautiful places in the world. They’re almost
dreamlike and unreal. I want people to have that feeling when they travel the
world and wear my swimwear. Create the life you want to live, and make it your
reality. It’ an inspiration I like to remind myself of every day,” she said.
Success in Sports
already have been to many beautiful places, courtesy of Sports Illustrated
magazine. She previously was a swimsuit designer for the company Kate Swim,
with several of her pieces appearing in the annual Sports Illustrated magazine swimsuit
issues, shot in exotic locales, in 2013 and 2014.
She has continued her success with Iztali Swim. In the 2015
SI issue, one of her suits was worn by a model in a full-page spread and five
other designs were featured online. In 2016, she had two bikinis in the
magazine and eight other photos online. In the 2017 issue, with business
picking up, she wasn’t able to submit as many designs as usual but still had
two bikinis featured online, one worn by model and TV host Chrissy
“The SI exposure really
creates a major flow of traffic to your website,” she said. “As a small
company, it really helps because people don’t know your brand. It gives your
Illustrated impact — it’s estimated more than 70 million people see the issue —
is undeniable, with about 60 percent of Iztali’s orders being placed by men.
They see the Iztali designs and buy them for their wives or girlfriends,
Isaksson said. International orders have come from Australia, Bali and France.
guys send me photos of their girlfriends and ask me if they think she’d look
good in (that swimsuit in SI). It’s so endearing. They see a model and see
their wife and think they would look killer in that,” said Isaksson, originally
from Eau Claire.
Designing for all women
Although most Sports Illustrated models wearing Iztali and
other swimsuits are svelte — the magazine this year featured women of various
sizes — Isaksson says her designs can be worn by women with many body types. She
also can custom-fit the woman who isn’t equally proportioned on the top and bottom.
“Robyn Lawley, an Australian model, size 12, wore three of
my pieces in her 2016 photo shoot posted online, and she looked incredible. The
average woman can definitely wear my swimwear,” she said.
Isaksson designs her swimsuits to stand out in a crowd. “You’ll
rarely get basic pieces from me. I like to do really interesting, unique and
some edgy pieces. I feel a really interesting swimsuit will make people look
your way while drawing their attention away from any body issues you may feel
you have,” she said.
inspiration for her designs from everyday things she sees and experiences.
“I’ve been doing a lot of macramé. A piece based on that turned out to be one
of my best sellers,” she said. Another of her best sellers was based on a
T-shirt she cut up and knotted.
Skills learned at UW-Stout
The skills she
learned in the UW-Stout apparel design and development program, along with a
minor in photography, have helped Isaksson succeed.
did so much pattern-making. All the edits we did to the patterns really help me
in my business now. I can just look at a pattern and do what I want to, and it
almost always turns out,” she said.
Kathryn Kujawa noted that Isaksson focused on swimsuit design while earning her
degree. “Missy was a unique student who lived with swimsuit designs
swimming in her imagination all day long. I never encountered a student with
more passion, knowledge and downright obsession for swimsuits,” Kujawa said.
Along with Sports
Illustrated publicity, Isaksson has been building her brand through Instagram,
with more than 24,000 followers, and other social media outlets.
One of her
swimsuits also appeared in Seventeen magazine.
“You really want
people to see what you’re making,” she said, citing a social media campaign she
worked on with the Coachella music festival and efforts to get celebrities to
wear her designs.
from a photo shoot this spring in Hawaii, she still hopes to do photo shoots in
2017 in Thailand and Australia — a few of the dreamlike places she loves to
visit and that inspire her to create new Iztali swimsuits.
Sarah Elainna wears an Iztali swimsuit, designed by UW-Stout alumna Missy
Isaksson, during a recent photo shoot in Miami. Christopher Brown photo
Iztali bikini called Sky’s the Limit, worn by model Samantha Hoopes, was
featured on a full page in the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
model Robyn Lawley wears an Iztali design in the 2016 Sports Illustrated