The Charlie Swimwear Challenge

The brand's top designer talks about his '70s inspiration and what bikinis best suit Amanda.

I actually cover swimwear at Marie Claire, and I don't often find new brands that catch my eye. I think that's because the big boys — Eres, Norma Kamali, and Calvin Klein — are so good at what they do whereas the rest seem to be catering to either a Kardashian or a 15-year-old surfer-girl from Cali. In other words, there's not much out there for a girl who wants to look sexy and classy.

And this is why I love Charlie! The suits flatter your figure in the right way and the designs are playful and fun. So, when looking at the collection, I felt confident enough to choose something I normally wouldn't: a multi-animal print string bikini (above, left). It sounds crazy and is a little out-of-the-box, but when you see it on, you realize that in its own unique way, the suit ends up looking fashionably modern but classically flattering.

Anyway, check out my interview with Charlie designer Matthew Zink:

How did you get into swim?

I have always loved bikinis, but I got into swimwear design a bit by coincidence. A friend of mine suggested me for a position at Victoria's Secret Swimwear and I instantly fell in love. That "love at first sketch" is why I decided to launch Charlie.

Where does the name "Charlie" come from?

Charlie is my muse. For me, the name is so sexy for a man and a woman. It's classic, charming, timeless, and iconic, all of which I want Charlie to celebrate. It also somehow holds an undeniable 1970s connotation that is both familiar and alluring.

What are your ideas about women's swim and the female form?

I want Charlie to celebrate the joy, beauty, and confidence that seems to define the decade of the 1970s. This combination lends itself to an impossibly sexy aesthetic, and that is forever inspiring to me. I want women to love the excitement of wearing a bikini. Women should enjoy their bodies, instead of focusing on how to hide their "flaws."

What are your inspirations? Do they stay the same or change with each season?

I am a very inspired designer, and I am always trying to celebrate the muses in my life. It's no secret that I am a slave to the 1970s and early 1980s. I am absolutely seduced by the joy and sexual celebration it represents. There is definitely a level of constance in my inspiration, but each season I always start with an iconic woman who has helped define and shape me as a designer. For my first collection, I paid tribute to Barbara Hulanicki, Biba, and Jerry Hall. For 2012, I'm looking to Stephanie Seymour, '70s denim, and the "the scarf."

Who is a "Charlie" girl?

The "Charlie" girl is any girl who enjoys the empowerment of feeling sexy and confident. She loves the magic of feeling beautiful. She loves to smile. She wants people to notice her, not her clothes. And she probably loves gold.

Why did you pick that suit (above, right) for me? And why do you think the other suit (below) is a best-seller for summer 2011?

You have an effortless, natural beauty that also has an innocence. I wanted to put you in the black suit because it is a very sensual suit. The way the fabric sort of seamlessly wraps around your body is crazy-sexy to me. I also love the strength of a blonde in black. I thought pairing your classic beauty and killer smile with that provocative black bikini would be an amazing combination.

I think our "Andie Bikini" in our "Charlie Baby Leo" is a best-seller because it follows a golden formula:

You can enjoy this bikini season after season and always feel like a kitten.