Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wilder Style: 10 Quesitons for Designer Carl Cunow of Onia NY

Carl Cunow, designer of Onia, a men's swimwear line, answers The Wilder Things' 10 Questions. Carl, who used to manage operations at Steven Alan, designs timeless pieces that are perfect for any beach, be it in Montauk, Miami, or Maui.

1. What initially drove you to become a designer and start your business?
I saw a void in the market for well made swimwear—I never thought I’d be a clothing designer because I studied finance. I was running Steven [Alan]’s operations before I started the brand about 18 months ago, in May 2010. 60 [retail] stores picked up the brand at a trade show and then I just kept going, kept designing new deliveries and lines. I eventually got into Barneys and Saks and Bloomingdales. It happened very fast. [more after the jump!]

2. What inspires you to design?
I guess I’m really inspired by traveling to the seashore. Somewhere like Mission Beach in California, where where my brother lives. You can see how the lifestyle is so different in Miami from Montauk. Each beach has it’s own special textures and colors. And the water is different in each place--it’s blue, it’s green, it’s dirty. [I'm inspired by] seeing how I can make a product that fits all beach cultures; we have a strong business in Miami but also in California and New York, and it seems to work.

3. What’s your favorite place in the world?
Any place my wife is—which would probably be somewhere on a beach because that’s also her favorite place. I got married a month ago and we have an upcoming trip to the Maldives for our honeymoon. Hopefully that will become my favorite place. 

4. Where can you be found when you’re not in your studio? What are you most likely doing?
I’m most likely on the beach on either coast. If I’m lucky, I’m somewhere tropical. 

5. Describe your personal style and how it affects the Onia line.
The Onia line itself is a reflection of how I personally dress: down and basic. In part I started Onia because I couldn’t find the pair of swimtrunks I felt I needed. The brand is really for guys who have the same style and aesthetic I do. I dress very New York: black and navy and grey and white. [That color palette] is how the collection started out. I think my style is pretty evident in the pieces. 

6. Whom from history (personal or general) do you admire most? 
I would say personally my grandfather, who was an inventor, and professionally Steven Alan. [Steven] is the person who allowed me to learn everything from him before I was able to start my own business, and supported me when I started Onia.
8. What’s your favorite artist or song of the moment? 
Right now I’m listening to “Running” by Jamie XX. It’s up on our blog right now, actually. We put songs up there that we like and listen to in the office, because we've always got music on. But it changes—one day it’ll be the soundtrack from Fantasia, the next day Mobb Deep from the nineties. The other day it was the soundtrack from the Jungle Book.  

9. If you were stranded on a deserted island (you’ve got enough water and food to last a while) what one thing would you bring with you?
An Onia bathing suit. 

10. What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done? 
Starting this business! Yeah, for sure! It’s the craziest thing, quitting a job that was working out well; just taking everything I had and putting it all out there and seeing if it works. 

The verdict: I'm certainly glad Carl took that chance and started Onia, because a reliable, classic swimsuit is hard to come by. The suits are either 7.5 or 10 inches long and come in solid colors and fun patterns, like the Rock and Roll Rachel. The suits pictured here (photos I didn't take, sadly) are the suits that Onia made in collaboration with BASE, a store in Miami. Congrats to Carl on his recent wedding and this great line!


  1. so inspired! cant wait to see what else Carl comes up with.

  2. I definitely need those red shorts in my life. I always like reading Q&A's from designers


  3. So glad you liked it, Lee. I love his work, great suits!


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