One On One With Red Carter
Swimwear designer Red Carter makes a giant splash in the fashion industry, and it’s only the beginning.
By Katie Jackson/Photo courtesy of Ken Pao
In 2003, Miami gained a designing phenomenon when Red Carter left his native California to take his talents to the Magic City. After working for major brands like Esprit, Guess, Victoria’s Secret, and Oscar de la Renta, Carter was finally ready to break out on his own. Inspired by Miami’s glamorous Art Deco style, Carter created and developed his swimwear brand out of his Miami Beach apartment. Now, Carter’s fashionable and sexy swimwear has catapulted him to the top, with numerous features in leading high fashion magazines and a large celebrity following. Sadly for Miami, Carter recently relocated to New York City to continue growing his burgeoning brand, but will always have a special place for Miami in his swimwear and in his heart.
For Carter, the desire to design clearly pulses through his veins. As a young child, Carter was already creating sketches for what would soon lead to a career in fashion. “I started drawing sketches of naked ladies, and my mom was like, ‘you can’t have all these pictures of naked ladies laying around!’ So she said, ‘why don’t you put clothes on them?’ So I started drawing dresses and watching vintage movies, and that sort of inspired me to see the art of fashion in movement,” says Carter. He then went on to study at the prestigious Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. After his graduation, Carter gained extensive experience working for top fashion brands and designers.
But after taking a job with a start up company and being let go soon after, Carter decided it was time to take control of his career. “I found myself without a job, and I decided that I wanted to have my own message. So, I started my own brand,” says Carter. After moving to Miami 11 years ago, Carter says he was given a rare opportunity to “set the tone for luxury living.” Carter capitalized on the growing niche for high-end swimwear, creating polished yet glamorous pieces with a fun Miami edge for the fashionista with a flexible budget. “My customer is looking for a getaway, and they want to stand out. They definitely don’t want to wear what everyone else has,” says Carter.
Carter began designing his brand on his own dime and started selling his pieces out of his apartment. “We would do little shows, sell them out of little stores. I just paid my dues.” But it wasn’t long until Carter’s designs starting receiving massive attention. Popular retail stores started carrying his designs and magazines began giving him features. Then in 2004, Carter participated in the very first Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, launching him and his designs into an international spotlight.
Today, Carter’s designs have been featured in multiple high fashion glossies, and have been spotted on notable celebrities like Rihanna, Jennifer Aniston, and the Kardashian sisters. One of his suits was even worn by Beyoncé in her music video “Grown Woman” off her mega-hit self-titled visual album “Beyoncé.” Upon finding out about the video, Carter said he was ecstatic. “I was like, are you kidding me? It was a great couple of minutes. I did the happy dance. It was kind of the most funny, anxious moment, but it was really great.”
But even with the massive exposure, Carter stays humble. “I’ve never really taken it for granted. I’m always very flattered,” says Carter of the all the attention. “You’re only as good as your next design. So I’m very honored, but I always think to myself, what is possibly next? That was great, who else now? How else can I affect people?”
Carter has now relocated to New York City after joining the outerwear manufacturer Amerex Group. Joining Amerex Group has not only helped Carter grow his business, but also allowed him to be removed from the operations of the company and solely dedicate himself to what he truly loves: design. Carter is now able to work on multiple projects at once, including continuing to design suits for Jessica Simpson’s swimwear line, a project he was approached to do a few years ago.
As for when he’s back in Miami, you may catch Carter relaxing at The Standard or grabbing a bite to eat at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. “It’s so bad, but so good,” Carter says of the restaurant. While he’s not particularly into the party scene, Carter says he loves to people watch when in Miami. “I’ll definitely relax by the local pools and watch what people are wearing and what their lifestyles are all about. That’s my little secret weapon.”
Although Carter is no longer living in Miami, he will be returning this summer to participate in the MBFWS 10th anniversary, but will not be doing a show. “It’s kind of an honorary participation,” says Carter. Instead, he will be showcasing one of his prints from one of the last runway shows he did for MBFWS, which happens to be the piece featured in Beyoncé’s video.
While it’s clearly evident that Carter has made an enormous indent in the fashion industry, he remains the perfect balance of humble, passionate, and determined. “I’ve had a great journey. I’ve had great seasons and I’ve had seasons of struggle. I think in the end, persistence is a true reward. Persistence is what you have to focus on. And not being a flash, but being a constant. Just follow your dreams and don’t give up.”
You can find Red Carter designs at Nordstrom and online at Niemen Marcus, as well as shopbop.com, southbeachswimsuits.com, and Everything But Water Stores worldwide.
Photo by Imani Ogden
Click here to view this post in the July/August 2014 issue.