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En Route: STILL&SEA

STILL&SEA

VISIT: 2110 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Shop Still&SeaPhotos by Katie Jameson

STILL&SEA is championing the conversation around

real beauty. Enter the shop’s one-woman founder Brigitte Pentecost. Staying true to her nautical roots and while simultaneously staking a claim in Austin, Texas – which is a thriving city in its own right – STILL&SEA has become a celebrated lifestyle destination among the city’s locals. Perhaps even more importantly, STILL&SEA prides itself on the ability to connect with a community of dynamic women who value a simplified approach in all that they do. In our initial conversation with Brigitte and STILL&SEA’s buyer Jewlie Williams, they both stressed the importance of curating product that caters to an active lifestyle without compromising a refined-meets-retro aesthetic. “The collective style in Austin is very relaxed- it’s all about comfort and functionality. The culture of the city is based around being outdoors,” Jewlie explained. “Austin women are fun and quirky and we definitely try to reflect that by buying bright colors, fun patterns, and interesting details…”

Brigitte’s nomadic roots have contributed to her ability to remain open to the possibilities when it comes to making decisions about STILL&SEA’s greater mission, part of which, is fostering sincere connection and confidence among women. “Women are genuinely excited when they walk into the store and encounter such different designs than they might expect from swim or products they’ve only ever seen in their social media feeds,” she shared in our interview below. “…and that unadulterated enthusiasm and vivacity is exactly the feeling that this industry should be developing and instilling into the conversation surrounding real beauty.” A recurring theme in this interview speaks to the idea of swimwear laying the groundwork for something deeper, and as we continue to explore the impact personal style has in our lives we were thrilled to learn more about Brigitte and Jewlie’s insights on the matter and how their working relationship embodies these values. Discover the full story below which includes sartorial inspiration and professional wisdom that will last far beyond the summer heat.

*THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN AUGUST 2015 AND REFLECTS UPDATED CHANGES TO THE INTRODUCTION AND LAYOUT

I’m Brigitte!

I was born and raised in Hawaii. Despite being from one of the most relaxed places on earth, I am nothing if not kinetic. I graduated from high school early, moved to California for college, went on to finish my graduate degree there, and then moved to Austin without knowing a single soul or having a job. STILL&SEA and my identity are pretty intertwined, but if I’m not at work or working I’m definitely somewhere near the water or on a run. I love being surrounded by people and projects that challenge and inspire me to do more and be more, and I find true happiness in a good bikini, a good sunset, and a cold beer.

I’m Jewlie Williams.

I’m a Midwesterner at heart, I’m a transplant from New York City, learning to love the ease and relaxed pace of southern living.  You can often find me at brunch, standing on a chair trying to get that perfect Instagram shot. I’m a daydreamer and enjoy indulging in a little wanderlust. I could live off of guacamole and carrots with hummus. I’m a secret Pinterest addict. I live for finding the next great book (especially if it’s YA) and I love to soak up the sun on my days off.
One of my favorite things in the world is to make people laugh and I usually achieve this by breaking out into random song and dance. I dedicate a lot of time to keeping in touch with my friends who have scattered across the country post college- I’m always snap chatting/Facebook messaging/texting my best friend and soul sister Alyssa Coscarelli. I value my friendships and relationship above everything and nothing makes me happier than having people to give my love and energy to. I do my best to go above and beyond when it comes to loyalty and I truly put my heart 100% into every endeavor I take on.

How would you describe the STILL&SEA community?

Brigitte: We have hands down some of the best customers ever. As I’ve mentioned, women here are so excited to walk into the store and find products they’ve only ever encountered on social media, and that sort of enthusiasm is totally infectious. Being the first to market in Austin with most of our brands has pooled an enormous following in the area because STILL&SEA is an exclusive retailer of many of the lines we carry, and yet there is definitely a commonality between each of our unique customers. These women are bright, full of life, friendly, and extremely social—many of them have become actual friends, some of them have modeled for us, and, without fail, every time I see a woman outside of the store in one of our suits she’s come up to say hello and to tell me how many compliments she’s gotten on her bikini and how much she’s enjoying wearing it.

Jewlie: If I had to pick one word, I would say diverse. Our girls are all ages and all body types- it’s really inspiring! We even have customers that are pregnant or new moms who come in and are just ready to rock a cute bikini! I think Austin women are very confident and self-assured. Our customers are all really fun, and so friendly. A lot of the time when I’m in the store it feels like I’m just hanging out with a bunch of my friends. I think we’ve done a really great job at creating a supportive and loving community. Trying on bikinis can feel frustrating, but no one ever comes in feeling uncomfortable. Some of my favorite moments in the store are when one customer asks for advice and the girl in the fitting room next to her pops out and says, “I want to see!” Then you’ve got these two strangers giving each other compliments and helping each other find the perfect bikini… it’s a really beautiful thing.

As an authority in swimwear, what has working in this industry taught you about personal style?

Brigitte: I definitely wasn’t blessed with the super stylish, outfit-game-on-point gene, so I’ve always struggled with finding my personal style. I’m not a huge shopper and not great at putting together fancy outfits complete with layers and accessories (Jewlie can attest to this), and so I’ve always erred on the side of solid basics and simplicity.

One thing I’ve found, however, in entering into this industry is that I’ve been drawn back toward an earlier phase of my style evolution, something closer to the aesthetic of Hawaii, which I guess makes sense since this industry is rooted in tropical locales, and I’m originally from Hawaii. I’ve rediscovered a zest for light, airy, statement pieces, but ones that can stand on their own and don’t require a lot of work or extra decoration (sets and maxis are my fave). My everyday style, unsurprisingly, mirrors the way swimwear operates—with swim all you need to do is throw on a comfortable bikini in a print or color you’re drawn to, and boom you’re good to go.

Jewlie: Working in swimwear has just given me one more accessory to be obsessed with! Bikinis are all about the details and I love wearing a bikini top under a shirt with a low back to show off a detail, or underneath a semi-sheer white shirt to show a beautiful pattern. It’s also great because if a customer is looking at the top I’m wearing, I’m able to show them how it fits me. I feel like working in swimwear has helped me embrace my sporty side as well- not that our bikinis are necessarily active wear, but I’ve found myself drawn to racerback silhouettes and high neck tops, which surprises me. Still & Sea has definitely helped me embrace a more casual, relaxed style that feels more Austin than New York.

Talk to us about the collective personal style in Austin. How do you think the community’s personal style has influenced how you curate the store’s products?

Brigitte: Austin radiates a very hip, but laid-back ease that is fostered by both the environment (with it being over 90 degrees six months out of the year here, wearing shorts and tees is more of a necessity than a conscious fashion statement) as well as the community (Austin has been a longstanding mecca for the artistically-inclined). As buyers, we definitely lean more heavily toward brands that exude that sort of blithe, but edgy vibe. Another keystone of the community in Austin is that this city offers a ton of outdoor activities, and so seeking out pieces women can swim or wakeboard in that are still chic enough to wear poolside at a resort dictates a lot of our buying decisions.

Jewlie: The collective style in Austin is very relaxed- it’s all about comfort and functionality. The culture of the city is based around being outdoors. Whether you’re eating al fresco, going on a hike to a swimming hole, or seeing a concert at one of the many outdoor venues, chances are you’re going to be out in the heat and doing something active.

There is nothing fancy or frilly about Austin style, and I love that. There are definitely some specific things we’ve learned about Austin style when it comes to buying for the store- nothing pink, no florals or anything too feminine. The women here love sporty silhouettes and bikinis that offer support and functionality. Many of our customers participate in outdoor yoga, SUPing, kayaking, and hiking so they want something that is suitable for those activities, but also something that can show off their personality and elevate their style above a basic bathing suit from a department store. Austin women are fun and quirky and we definitely try to reflect that by buying bright colors, fun patterns and interesting details like cut outs and reversible bikinis.

What do you think swimwear and summer style can contribute to the conversation surrounding real beauty?

Brigitte: Oh gosh, I could write a 20-page essay based on this question! Currently, swimwear is a bit of a daunting subject since a heightened awareness of the idea of beauty, body image, and common aesthetic “standards” becomes inevitable when you’re half naked.

Since opening the store, I’ve become hyperaware of the sort of lifestyle and image that I want to communicate from our brand in order to counteract that sense of trepidation, but also what sort of construct of beauty I’d like for STILL&SEA to contribute to the swimwear industry and, on a greater scale, a woman’s own appreciation of her self.

Tethering swimwear to an ability to encourage this idea of real beauty and a self-awareness of your own brilliance is not as antithetical as it might sound. There has been a massive shift in swimwear recently where bikinis have grown from being practical summer necessities into apparel that is fashionable as it is functional, and that has really given swimwear new life. Women are genuinely excited when they walk into the store and encounter such different designs than they might expect from swim or products they’ve only ever seen in their social media feeds, and that unadulterated enthusiasm and vivacity is exactly the feeling that this industry should be developing and instilling into the conversation surrounding real beauty.

How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations and what role is Still & Sea playing in this shift in thinking?

Brigitte: There is no denying that each industry and community feeds off one another to be better, to do better, to grow bigger, and to become more incisive. While I think individuals commonly approach others in their fields as “competition,” I believe it’s more motivating to view what others are doing as watermarks for a creative edge. Appreciation of the creativity of others within our industry pushes the degree to which I’m comfortable accepting new challenges to foster growth, which in turn is pushing STILL&SEA to do the same. I think STILL&SEA is bringing an element of fresh design to the marketplace in that it’s not simply imitating what’s already working for others. While there is common footing between STILL&SEA and other brands within the industry, the business itself was created to fill a void in our local market and, on a wider scale, the way the brand publicly represents itself is also built on situating it within what I felt was lacking on the retail side of this marketplace—an original and authentic voice.

Jewlie: I believe creativity is the source of new ideas and originality in the world. I think that most change comes from creativity, whether it’s a physical manifestation or just a new way of thinking. Right now the world is grappling with all these ideas about race, gender equality, sexual preference, and identity…all these conversations are stemming from creative or new ways of thinking and they’re bringing about change. I think that at STILL&SEA we embrace those things, and we’re trying to push out the old ideas of “who can wear a bikini” and make the answer to that question everyone. Sometimes women come into the store and say “Oh, I have children, I’m in my 40s, I can’t wear these bikinis, I have to hide my body!” It’s our goal, and almost our duty, to tell these women, that’s not true- you should be proud of your body and if you want to show it off- that’s your right!

How has working together redefined or re-inspired your definition of discovery?

Brigitte: Having started the store on my own and subsequently running it for a year on my own, I definitely got into the habit of relying on myself for knowing or finding answers for absolutely everything. Add that to the fact that I’m already naturally a control freak, and you can understand my initial uncertainty about the introduction of a new person into the business. While “discovery” originally meant a very heavy, internal and systematic approach to absorbing knowledge to bring STILL&SEA into fruition as a business, in this next step of maturing the company it’s become much more about realizing that symbiosis and learning from others are essential to growth. Jewlie is so in-tune with herself that she can’t help but exude a confidence that is truly enviable, and because she is so aware of and comfortable in her own skin she has this magic ability to highlight and remind you of your own importance. Her approach to the world and to the store reflects this ease of self, and she’s helped me to exit out of my own headspace and to remember how important it is to allow others to help you grow and to approach everything with a kind heart and poise.
Jewlie: I actually found Brigitte and STILL&SEA through Instagram before I even moved to Austin- how’s that for discovery! A couple of months after I moved here, she posted that she was looking for help, I applied on a total whim and now look where we are! I can’t imagine my life in Austin without her. She’s taught me so much about being a small business owner and she always keeps it real with me. Honestly, Brigitte has introduced me to the world of designer swimwear. Swim is such a fun part of the fashion industry and it’s been amazing to learn about all the incredible women behind some of the biggest brands out there. I find it very empowering to know that we’re working with and supporting all these women who are total self-starters, and most of them are so young! And to be clear – I count Brigitte as one of those amazing self-starters!

“Real beauty, to me, is not as much about adhering to a specific or “preferred” aesthetic,  as it is experiencing an authentic, visceral happiness that contributes to a true appreciation of the self.”