Female Disruptors: Designer Leila Shams of ‘TA3 Swim’ On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
Ideas without action are worthless. I used to be very proud of my journal filled with amazing business ideas. Talent and creativity are great but without action they only lead to frustration Just launch it. Don’t try to create the perfect product. Make an acceptable product and then react to customer feedback.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leila Shams, founder of TA3 SWIM.
TA3 is the world’s most body sculpting swimsuit that doubles as a layering body suit.
The patent pending construction cinches your waist, flattens your tummy and lifts your bust. The game changing fabric is similar to a high-end sports bra; it’s ultra-matte & supportive so it works equally well with jeans & a blazer or in the pool.
There is nothing else like this on the market. Old school “tummy control” swimsuits hid your body with draped fabric & conservative cuts. TA3 suits are sexy and modern. They launched with two one-piece styles zippy & lacey and are available for $178 on ta3swim.com.
Founder Leila Shams developed a celebrity following with her first eponymous line. It was loved by mega stars like Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Katy Perry, Vanessa Hudgens, Kelly Clarkson & Nicki Minaj She also design directed multi million & billion dollar brands like DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger & Express.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
All I ever wanted to be was a fashion designer. After high school I went to Parsons School of Design in NY for fashion but I’ve always been a horrible student and never graduated. Once I started working though I really hit my stride. I worked as a design director for big brands including DKNY, Express & Tommy Hilfiger. At the same time I launched my own LEILA SHAMS line which was an immediate hit. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Nicki Minaj and Kelly Clarkson loved it and it was sold in the best boutiques & on-line retailers. But I got burned out on making so much crap. Eventually I decided I wanted to make one thing people were obsessed with instead of hundreds of things they liked for a season. I launched my shaping swimwear line this summer.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
The way we usually fit womens clothing is so backwards. You try everything on a tall, hourglass shaped fit model and then grade up or down from that. But womens bodies vary so much in length and shape and these differences become even more dramatic as you go up in size. And hardly anyone has an hourglass shape. So what most brands do is make their stuff very stretchy to make up for poor fit. My suits are not very stretchy. I try my styles on tons of different women: short, tall, size 2, size 22, apple shape, pear shaped… I’ve been tweaking the same 2 styles, in black only, for 2 years.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I love dying things and hand embellishing and distressing — generally making things that no one can reproduce on a large scale. The first collection I made for my own brand was all of that. When I showed it to my dream sales showroom they died over how amazingly over the top it was. One women screams and grabs this cropped t-shirt that I had tie dyed and then completely covered in jewels and she tries to throw it on over her tank top. But I had accidentally glued the front and back together. As she tried to shove her head through it the jewels went flying everywhere. The showroom still took the line! But I learned over the years that fashion isn’t art. If you are too creative you’re probably gonna go broke. So make stuff people want to wear and then do paintings in your spare time.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve always thought differently and, for the most part, no one wanted to hear it. Kym Maas, who was my boss at 4 jobs, was always like, “you’re a genius!” If someone wanted to schedule an early meeting she was like, “but Leila gets in late”. She knew I would be there all night. I worked harder for her than anyone and we had tons of success because she really saw me and appreciated me instead of trying to force me into a box.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Making clothing used to be expensive and slow. As a designer this was very annoying, we’d be over a trend by the time we finally got it on the floor. The idea of creating stuff quick & cheap was so exciting in the beginning. It was more fun to design, it was more fun to shop. But it turns out clothing should be expensive and making it should be slow. Or workers don’t get paid enough, companies create too much waste, people end up drowning in crap they wear once.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Do you mean the 3 best pieces of advice?
1 — Ideas without action are worthless. I used to be very proud of my journal filled with amazing business ideas. Talent and creativity are great but without action they only lead to frustration 2 — Just launch it. Don’t try to create the perfect product. Make an acceptable product and then react to customer feedback.
3 — People believe what you tell them about yourself. Don’t be self deprecating and expect someone to think you’re amazing. Tell them you’re amazing.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
Expanding into more categories focused on ultra flattering fits by body shape and length.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The confidence to refer to themselves as disruptors.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I recently read Limitless by Jim Kwik and it pops into my head every time I think “I’ll never figure this out”. He suffered a brain injury as a child and is now a world renowned brain coach. If he can do that I can figure out how to get sales from TikTok.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
There is nothing more important than growth mindset, I believe it should be taught in school. Growing up there is such a focus on talent and intelligence. It makes kids think that you either have what it takes or you don’t.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
How can our readers follow you online?
@leilashamsfashion on IG and @ta3swim on IG
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!