Phoenix designer creates one-of-a-kind swimwear line

For women, nothing is worse than walking into a room and seeing another woman wearing the exact same outfit.

It’s not that we hold anything against the other woman — unless she looks better in it, of course. Heck, we wore it too, so it must be cute. However, it sparks that lingering question in our minds, “Who wore it better?”

As I sat across from 31-year-old Catrina LaDell with her vibrant blue and green hair, dangling pink crescent moon earrings and spike-studded black sunglasses, she began to tell me her story of how she makes this awkward situation preventable with her custom-designed swimwear and lingerie line called Pink Moon Prophecy.

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“There was this one day when I ate a lot of mushrooms and I came up with Pink Moon Prophecy as a name,” LaDell explained with no shame. “I don’t have any family. So one day, I did some research to find something to help me have as a sort of stability. I was born on the 16th of April and I learned that not only was that night a full moon, but it was the pink moon of April.”

LaDell’s creative and sexy swimwear line can be found in Misscontrued Boutique & Gallery, which is nestled among a hip collection of stores, bars and restaurants in Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. While she doesn’t personally own the boutique, her friend and mentor offered to take LaDell under her wing and promote her merchandise in her store.

You can see LaDell’s designs during Kaleidoscops Kove on Friday, Sept. 18.

“Growing up, I was really poor, so I would cut my clothing and make my own outfits all the time, so I always loved doing it,” said LaDell. “I’d make clothes for my dolls, gut my teddy bears and make them into backpacks It was psycho, but I just did whatever I could.”

In the beginning, LaDell tried out interior design, but found that was not her niche. “When it came to contributing to the art, it was too much of other peoples’ opinions and not my own. So it wasn’t really for me,” explained LaDell.

LaDell then decided to go back to her love of fashion. She began modeling full-time, as well as performance art that included burlesque and go-go dancing. Using the name Cataclysm, she became one of Arizona’s most successful alternative models and she enjoyed modeling and creating the clothing it desired.

“I would go-go dance and make sure that I had outfits that fit me,” LaDell said, “and if I booked another girl, I would make her outfit so we could match.”

However, after an injury, LaDell took about a year off and hid behind the curtain. She explained that she needed this time to focus on her art and figure out where life was trying to take her.

“I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously as an artist because my stuff was more for an alternative community,” she said. “With swimwear, I was able to get more of a stable type of fashion and more construction involved.”

Misscontrued owner and fellow fashion designer, , decided to give LaDell a little advice.

“She helped me become more girly, because I was more rugged and industrial with my fashion,” LaDell said. “Now I use a lot of pink, and pink is in the name of my label. Which in turn, has helped me sell more of my merchandise.”

Due to the kind of modeling LaDell had done in the past, she always had more of a male fan base. However, now that she has begun her swimwear line, she has found that her female fan base has grown exceptionally.

“Now, I have a larger female fan base that actually like what they see,” said LaDell. “It’s so rewarding. Sometimes, they put the suit on and cry. It fits and they tell me they’ve never felt sexier, and it feels so good. It touches me.”

LaDell prides herself on her handmade bikinis. All the way from measurements, to needle and thread, to the final product – LaDell does it all completely on her own.

“I can knock a suit out in a couple hours. And, yes, I’m the only one that sews them,” LaDell said. “Sometimes, my boyfriend will help me with the measurement math. I’ve tried to teach him to sew, but I don’t want him to touch my machine because I know he will break it.”

While LaDell embraces being the only designer, sewer, and mastermind behind it all, one can assume that her brand may expand due to its uniqueness.

“If I do expand, I’m going to hire people to sew for me, or a local manufacturer, but I want to keep it local, more on the smaller scale,” said LaDell “Handmade things are so rare. They have personality. They have character.”

Even though LaDell wants to stay local now, she said that California, Florida and even Australia could be in her future.

“I really want to have an Australian clientele because my off season here is their summer season. So that’ll keep me busy year round. But we want to wait and focus more on growing as a team. We will get there. California is probably our next step – Long Beach or Venice,” she said.

There are many rewarding aspects LaDell mentioned when it came to what she does for a living, but the most rewarding element went far deeper and more emotional.

“My most rewarding memory was with a friend of mine who does plus size modeling. I made her a suit that she wore in an online blog, so I was first noticed as a bigger suit designer. She got me a lot of attention and it’s when I make suits for people who have insecurities and can make them feel better about themselves, that’s what makes me feel amazing.”

While the rewards far outweigh the stress, there are still challenges LaDell faces.

“Getting a lot of orders in at one time gets extremely stressful,” said LaDell. “Especially between the months of March and June. I’m also trying to focus more on bigger sizes, but it’s a little stressful because I really want them to fit and I want these women to feel good in them.”

But LaDell doesn’t discriminate. There’s some love for the male gender as well.

“I like to make suits that anyone can wear. I want to be able to market to everybody,” said LaDell. “For my next fashion show, I’m doing my first pair of men’s bottoms, so I’m very nervous. Menswear will definitely be a challenge, but I want to make suits for anyone who wants to feel young and sexy.”

Since LaDell is a fashion designer and designer brands are typically known for their high prices, she said, “Compared with other designers, my merchandise is not that much. If I go out of my way to measure you — and depending on how customized it is — you can expect to pay around $200. But if someone comes in and purchases a suit I already made that’s on display, they start at around $80.”

If you visit Missconstrued, you will immediately notice the true uniqueness of LaDell’s swimwear. The patterns, the materials, the shapes, the accessories … it seems there is nothing she can’t do.

“So far, I’ve accepted all challenges and they’ve been a success,” she laughed. “I mean, if it’s short-term, I will probably turn it down. I just don’t want to dedicate to something and then not get it done properly, have to rush it, or have it not be to my or the client’s full expectation.”

With so many different patterns and materials out there, LaDell provides a link to her customers that allow them to view all of her different ideas to make it easier for both them and herself.

“When a client contacts me about fabric choices, I have a blog link that I’ll send out to them. We update all our fabrics online,” explained LaDell.

She then explained her style in three words, “Fun, simple, eclectic. Some days, I’m wearing all black. Some days, I’m wearing bright colors,” she said. “I get bored easily. I even had rainbow hair … like, bright rainbow hair. It’s fun to change things up.”

After hearing Catrina LaDell’s story of success, she offered advice to others who share her same dream.

“Research and practice,” she said. “Sew every day. Even if it’s something simple just so you can keep your mind sharp. If you stop, you lose momentum. It’s kind of like riding a bike, but there are also so many things you have to remember, and so many little mistakes you can make. It’s very tedious. Whether it’s videos on YouTube, or constant practice, don’t stop looking for inspiration if it’s what you love.”