Updated: Apr 10
With a foundation in upcycling and sewing as a child and skills fueled by YouTube videos, designer Hanna Salzberg began to dig deeply into clothing construction at the age of 18 when she started making festival wear and costumes. After graduating from University of Oregon where she studied textile design with a focus on screen printing, she created her own mini fashion collection out of her own screen printed yardage and her passion for a design career was born. Salzberg rounded out her education by studying technique at the Portland Fashion Institute. By then, this self-starting designer was ready to dive into her next big venture—swimwear
Inside Fashion Design interviewed Hanna about her swimwear line Mahina Luna Swim. She shares how social media was key to launching her brand, talks about her collaborative design process, her unique — fully reversible! — designs, and shares her five tips for designing swimwear. Let’s dive in.
IFD: How did your swimwear line, Mahina Luna, get started? Why swimwear?
Hanna: After graduating from the University of Oregon I started making myself swimsuits. I am from Hawaii which is probably the reason I love swimwear so much. I spent my entire childhood on the beach, and I’m inspired by all of the beautiful colors of nature that were around me growing up on the big island of Hawaii.
As I would share my swimsuits on my social media people became super interested in buying them from me. It all started very naturally but took off quickly. I sold my first quantities of suits at a backyard house party hosted by my friend. That was the point at which my brand name started to spread by word-of-mouth.
IFD: Tell us about your design process.
My design process starts with the fabrics I choose. I let them speak to me in terms of the silhouettes I design with them. Bright colors and patterns are the forefront of my design aesthetic. All of my swimwear is fully reversible so the client has the opportunity to pick two coordinating fabrics, that way you get basically two different outfits out of one swimsuit.
Everything is custom-made to your measurements. I sew everything myself in my home studio. My business is completely run solely by me.
IFD: What’s behind the name Mahina Luna?
The name for the brand came from my fascination and obsession with the moon. Mahina means moon in Hawaiian and Luna is moon in italian. I studied italian for 4 years and I was fluent at the time I created the brand. Sort of redundant but it stuck.
IFD: What are your goals and vision for the brand?
My purpose and goal for my brand is to create individuality in each suit that I make. I want to empower women to feel confident in what they’re wearing because it’s something we make together and really hone in on the details that they’re either concerned or excited about. I encourage even some of the most shy people to step out of their comfort zone and embrace their true potential and beauty. It’s all about self empowerment over here! I strive to build a community of people by collaborating with other artists, photographers, and makers.
My vision for my brand is to see my swimwear sold in boutiques all over the country. And maybe the world! Plans for the future include expanding into kids swimwear.
IFD: What’s the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
My biggest challenge at the moment is deciding how I want to expand my business. As a one woman show I will eventually need to hire a team to assist me in this endeavor. It’s hard for me to let go of control but I know that if I want to grow I will need to make these steps and these choices.
IFD: What other design work are you involved in?
On the side I work as an Assistant Tailor for a costume designer. We create garments for TV shows and have worked on productions like Shrill, starring Aidy Bryant.
As a costume designer, there are tons and tons of drafts that go into choosing and making said pieces. The head designer does research and comes up with silhouettes that will flatter the character and us, the tailors design and sew up samples. Fittings happen frequently to ensure the next draft is a closer match, and we go on like that until the head designer and actress feel the pieces are perfect. As an Assistant Tailor I helped construct these garments pre-fitting and deconstruct post-fitting to alter the fit as needed. Season 3 of Shrill is out now where you can see all the beautiful pieces designed and created by our team for Bryant’s lead character Annie.
I dream that one day I will get my designs on a big-name actress or actor!
Hanna’s 5 tips for Designing & Sewing Great Swimwear
Use a 4 way stretch fabric — “I work with spandex nylon Lycra for Women swimwear and activewear as well as polyester microfiber for men’s swimwear, which I have just started releasing this spring 2021.“
Sew rubber swimwear elastic using an elastic foot
Use a serger rather than a single needle sewing machine “This allows for maximum stretch and durability in the seams.”
Choose designs both based on trend and how they will flatter the body — “For example try a high hip, with thicker waist band and thicker straps for curvier bodies”
Use a full body set of measurements for reference and best fit — “Bust, waist, high hip, and hip line.”
And one extra tip: For men’s swim make sure to ask about inseam length preference
Right now you can order by messaging @mahina.luna on Instagram where we can discuss in detail the designs and styles you’re looking for. My online ordering website is almost finished, but there is something I love about having those conversations over Instagram DM because it really builds a relationship between me and a client. We can work together to get you the right suit.
Thanks for sharing your tips and story with IFD Hanna! To reach out to Hanna, DM- her on Mahina.Luna IG account.
Happy Swim Designing!