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NYC Style: Patricia Brett's Swimsuits for Survivors

by Kimberly Rae Miller

Name: Patricia Brett
Borough/Neighborhood: Manhattan, Upper East Side

Profession: Designer/Founder Veronica Brett Swimwear For Breast Cancer Survivors, mom, former architect, breast cancer "pre-vivor" (a woman who has had risk- reducing surgery after testing positive for the BRCA1 genetic mutation and/or with a strong family history).

Originally from a small town in Ohio, Patricia Brett moved to NYC in August 1990 after completing her Master of Architecture at Yale University. After working for  renowned architects such as Hariri & Hariri, Gwathmey Siegel, and Deborah Berke & Partners, Patricia turned her design attention to a greater cause: designing swimwear for breast cancer survivors (like her sister Regina, a 12-year survivor) and pre-vivors (like Patricia herself and her niece Gabe).

After a successful launch event at the Elie Tahari boutique in East Hampton, N.Y., this past May, Patricia and her collection of Veronica Brett swimwear have been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Hamptons Magazine, Daily Candy and - just to name a few.

How would you define your personal style?

My personal style is classic minimalism with a slightly relaxed edge.

Favorite item in your closet?

My camel colored Prada bag. It's part briefcase, part tote. It's pure classic minimalism with a wonderful pebbled texture. A bit serious for a swimwear designer but was perfect as an architect (or when you want to be taken very seriously!)

Are there any trends that you wish would just go away already? Styles you wish would come back?

One style I wish would go away, pants barely hanging onto men's bottom's on the subway, pull 'em up guys! On a more positive note, I'm thrilled that the shift dress has made a come back (thank you Michelle Obama!). I think it is a fantastic look and one that I can wear pretty easily since I don't have many curves. Sometimes I feel that wearing a great dress is a simple as wearing a t-shirt, you just put it on and forget about it.

What design process goes into designing your swimwear line?

It's a fairly rigorous design process. Not only do the suits need to look great, they are meant to solve the issues faced by women who have had breast surgeries. So in addition to the regular design process, I do a lot of fittings on real breast cancer survivors and pre-vivors to perfect the fit and cut of the suits. Some styles go through over a dozen revisions to get the fit and the details just right (must be the architect in me!).

What differences are to be found in a bathing suit for those that have survived cancer, than a regular run-of-the-mill bathing suit?

All of the Veronica Brett styles have an interior pocket that can conceal a breast form. In addition, they are all cut a bit higher under the arm for support and to cover surgical scars that are common in that area.

Do you envision your line geared toward those who have survived or pre-vived cancer expanding to other clothing types? Bras? Dresses?

What really sets the Veronica Brett collection apart from other swimwear, it not only meets the needs of women who have undergone a mastectomy or lumpectomy, but it is really stylish, great-fitting swimwear that all women can wear. I am thrilled to be expanding to bikinis in the Spring/Summer 2011 collection. For now, I plan to concentrate on making beautiful swimwear, but you never know what might be down the road.

For those women out there who have survived or undergone procedures to reduce their risk of cancer, what style tips should they keep in mind?

You are still the same, sexy, beautiful you, breasts or no breasts. You should find clothing that helps you feel great again; that was really the idea behind the Veronica Brett collection. Also, you've done so much to rid yourself of breast cancer or reduce your risk of it, be careful of skin cancer. Always wear a high SPF and find a really great beach hat to protect your face. Not only will you look fabulous, you'll be thrilled you stayed out of the sun and avoided wrinkles!

Favorite Five in the Five Boroughs?

Calvin Klein and Bergdorf Goodman for great shoes (I shop the twice yearly sales at both!), Jurlique for amazing skin care that makes me feel fabulous (without any chemicals). For clothing, I prefer to stick to small boutiques, like Tango in Brooklyn Heights, where I know the selection has been well curated. Jewelry, I only wear two designers: Marissa Alperin, in Brooklyn, and Ted Muehling.  My collection of both has grown over the years thanks to my husband!

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