Bathing Belle: new Roncy shop offers suits for all sizes

Bathing Belle: new Roncy shop offers suits for all sizes


Most bathing suits are a bit boring. There are interesting ones out there, but few of them are made to fit real bodies.

Danica Salajko’s come with ice cream cones and doughnuts and kitty cats on them. And they’ll fit all shapes and sizes, and whipping up a custom size or pattern is no big deal.

Her newly opened shop, Bathing Belle Swimwear on Roncesvalles Ave., is all about fun suits made with the most transparent process possible. “We make them in the back!” she explains.

Indeed, while the main space of this second-floor showroom features racks of suits for women, men and kids, just stroll past the roomy changeroom and you can find a thread-strewn work space, complete with sewing machines and bolts of stretchy swimsuit fabric.

This is why Salajko, 39, and her seamstress will do adjustments on their suits free of charge. And if you want a custom suit, it pretty much costs the same as one off the rack. (They’ll even do repairs, for a fee, on old suits not made by Bathing Belle.)

Women’s one-pieces start at $169 for Salajko’s popular tank swimsuit in a colourful, fun print, or something more plain. There are also two-piecers, and you can mix and match styles and sizes.

Salajko started out making kid suits. They start at $49.99 and gems like a sparkly unicorn one-piece sell out fast. From there, it’s a dizzying choice of cuteness ranging from poo emojis or pineapples to chicken and waffles. (They do boys’ and men’s suits too, but only stretchy brief or boxer styles, no loose trunks.)

The shop just opened in February, but already Salajko has begun growing her non-bathing suit retail items, mainly from other artisanal companies. She’s got a few clothing items from Whitney Linen, Turkish-style quick-dry towels from Tofino Towels ($54.99 each) and sunglasses by Guild Eyewear. She’s also brought in Maui Babe sunscreen products from Hawaii.

Salajko grew up hanging around her mother’s swimsuit store, Coral Coast Swimwear (it was on Park Lawn Rd. and Lake Shore Blvd. and is still open, but located in Mississauga).

It was the 1980s, when neon and mesh were big, and Salajko recalls dressing her Barbies up in some pretty racy outfits. The staff eventually let her use the machines to experiment.

“I got tired of waiting for them to make me bathing suits,” she recalls, and soon was creating her own.

She studied fashion design at George Brown College and became a wardrobe stylist for music videos and then worked as a production assistant for photographers.

“I’d still be making things on the side,” she recalls.

In 2009, she started Bathing Belle, selling suits online that she made in her basement. She focused mainly on kids’ suits — her daughter was born in 2010, so she tapped into a growing network of other parents.

However, soon enough the moms wanted suits to match their child’s, so she began making grown-up bathing suits in pineapple fabric.

Her website and Etsy store grew gradually, and soon fabric was taking over her house and she became aware of the limits of online selling for something so personal. “I knew I could not showcase what I could really do this way,” she realized. “I needed a space where I could show my things.”

A retail location was the obvious next step. She lives near Roncesvalles, and always kept an eye out for a good space.

Last fall, the second-floor space above The Old Country Shop sprouted a For Rent sign. Salajko ran into the store saying, “You don’t have to rent it to anyone else, I’ll take it!”

Salajko was able to quickly land a loan and did a few renovations — she kept some of the original wallpaper and the vintage avocado-coloured fridge and stove in the little kitchen, but added some bright green, tropical wallpaper to greet her customers.

She brought on longtime friend Jennifer Fennell as a seamstress, and now the duo are sewing like mad for in-store and custom orders.

“I want it to be a fun place,” says Salajko. With these unique looks, that should not be a problem.

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