Thanks to the creativity of Desiree Morffe, the Wishes of Venus swimwear line is considered one of the hottest things to hit Costa Rica’s beaches. The Venezuelan-born designer first came to Costa Rica in 1998 with no more than a dream and an antique sewing machine that had belonged to her grandmother. After watching countless surf films, Morffe, 25, settled in the central Pacific beach town of Jacó, where she began surfing the powerful waves of nearby Playa Hermosa.
At that time, it was almost impossible to find swimwear for women that was both fashionable and durable enough to withstand the pounding surf, Morffe says. The limited selection soon had her sewing her own bikinis out of scraps of material, experimenting with various colors and styles. Before long, her designs started catching the attention of other Jacó residents.
“Women would stop me on the beach and ask where I had bought my bikini,” Morffe recalls. “When I told them I made it myself, they couldn’t believe it. Suddenly I realized that I could make a living from my talent.”
In short order, Morffe was no longer creating bikinis only for herself. A small handful of requests turned into an expanding clientele. In her first year,Morffe filled more than 100 orders. Today, with the help of Morffe’s three employees, Wishes of Venus produces nearly 20 bikinis per day.
“Most of my products are marketed by word of mouth,”Morffe says. “The majority of my clients are North American tourists who are looking for styles they can’t find at home. I also have a client base of locals who return regularly to check out my newest creations.”
Typical of these satisfied customers is Hanna Arias, who has ordered six bikinis from the Wishes of Venus clothing line.
“I first heard of Desiree’s bikinis while I was learning to surf in Jacó,” Arias recalls. “Desiree took my measurements and within 24 hours she had custom-made a bikini that was designed specifically for my body.”
Morffe says she has been able to add to her client base through promotional fashion shows as well as word of mouth. Last year, Wishes of Venus was featured in four fashion shows at Jacó’s School of the World (TT, Dec. 8, 2006). In November, more than 200 guests gathered at Docelunas Hotel in Jacó, where international models paraded the catwalk wearing Desiree’s beachwear.
“Sales have increased as a result of these fashion shows,”Morffe confirms.“I have also been able to market my products in several boutiques throughout Costa Rica.”
In addition to Morffe’s location in Playa Hermosa,Wishes of Venus beachwear can be purchased at boutiques in the Pacific beach towns of Montezuma, Nosara and Malpaís, on the NicoyaPeninsula, and in Puerto Viejo, on the southern Caribbean coast. Morffe plans to begin her first international venture in February with a partnership in Hawaii that will debut the export of her products to the United States.
Morffe says her clients are drawn to Wishes of Venus for various reasons. “Some people buy my bikinis because they make great gifts, while others buy them because they are unique,” she says. “They are reversible, fashionable and durable in heavy surf. I like to mix colors such as espresso with pink and green, or use fun patterns such as polka dots, stripes and flowers. For $60, clients can have a bikini custom-made in less than two days, or they can select something from our store in Jacó for about $50. I never repeat a design, so my customers always know they are getting a oneof-a-kind product.”
Morffe recently spent three weeks in Florianopolis, where she was able to gain fresh insight and inspiration from the fashion world of Brazil. In addition to swimwear, some of Morffe’s most popular items include beach wraps, summer dresses, flowing skirts and colorful halter tops. This year, she hopes to introduce a line of board shorts for men.
“When I first started bringing suitcases full of material from Venezuela, some of my friends and family thought I was crazy,” Morffe recalls. “Personally, I never had any doubts that I could make it as a designer.
Once I got started, I knew there was no turning back on my dream. I’m just glad that I listened to my heart.”
Morffe’s store is attached to the Backyard Hotel in Playa Hermosa, just south of Jacó. For more information, contact her at [email protected].