Alexandra Grief stood on the shore of a Costa Rican beach and watched as a young woman glided across the waves. “All the guys were talking about her—‘Montce this, Montce that,” Grief recalls. “She was this little mermaid, surfer girl.” Grief had been searching for a name for the swimwear brand she was about to launch, and the way everyone kept repeating “Montce,” the girl’s name, felt like a sign.
It’s a good thing Grief was listening; since launching Montce Swim more than a decade ago, her pieces have been worn by A-listers like Jennifer Lopez, Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Chrissy Teigen, Kourtney Kardashian, and Gabrielle Union. But, in the beginning, the brand was a best-kept local secret, donned by those in-the-know who would stop by her Fort Lauderdale apartment to get measured for custom swimsuits between Grief’s bartending shifts.
Grief studied fashion design at The Art Institute and worked as an intern with a designer in New York City, but when she was entering the workforce in 2009, the economy was reeling in the wake of the recession. Moving back home to South Florida, Grief bootstrapped a swimline just “to stay relevant so that I could get a job in fashion and keep building my portfolio,” she says.
Grief never landed a job at a fashion house. Rather, she created her own. “I was inspired by the surf industry and smaller-cut, mix-and-match bikinis in Costa Rica that weren’t really a thing here yet; they were small, skimpy, fun, and kind of carefree,” she says. She developed a few signature styles, including removing elastic bands for what Grief calls “maximum flattery.”
As she booked more and more consultations with clients who wanted bespoke bathing suits, Grief was finally able to quit her bartending job and open an official retail store off of East Sunrise Boulevard in 2011. “It was really quaint and kind of like a little secret spot with this cool, old Florida vibe,” she says.
The storefront brought in a whole new clientele that extended beyond friends of friends, and the momentum continued to build as Grief attended trade shows and said “yes” to every invitation to present at fashion shows and local pop-ups. In 2018, she and her brother, Devin Grief, who had become her business partner, opened the Montce Swim storefront in Flagler Village on Northeast Second Avenue.
But, about a year from now, Montce’s address is going to change once again—this time to Northeast Thirteenth Street. Grief says she’s still conceptualizing the brand-new boutique, but her “raw idea” is to open the shop in tandem with a Mexican-style outdoor café/space for yoga or meditation classes. She’s also building the Montce collection beyond mix-and-match bikinis to include more cover-ups, activewear, and—now that Grief is a mother to a 2-year-old boy—bathing suits for little ones.
While plenty of brands are transitioning to an e-commerce-only business model, having a local brick-and-mortar outpost is important to Grief so shoppers can try on her designs in person. After all, playing with different fabric, pattern, and style combinations in search of that seemingly effortless aesthetic is the essence of Montce.
Flaunt your favorite features in a perfectly paired Montce swimsuit using these tips from brand founder Alexandra Grief
Bustier women will want a top that’s supportive. Grief suggests the Hayden top, which is both lifting and has “thick, buttery straps that don’t cut in.”
Smaller-chested women can opt for spaghetti straps or even no straps at all. The Tori bandeau top, for example, can be worn strapless and has a ruched material that creates the illusion of a larger chest.
Women who want to create an hourglass look can try the Uno bottoms that have ruffles on the sides or the Tamarindo bottoms, which “have a little skirt situation so it really adds volume and flair.”
To add extra length to legs, the Lulu bottoms can be pulled up over the hips and worn like an ’80s-style suit.
Meanwhile, the Paula tie-up high-rise bottoms or the Kim one-piece with a flattering belt detail can be worn to direct the eyes to the waistline.
How to Shop
When it comes to trying on swimsuits, Grief advises clients to “think about the things you really like about yourself” and look for the pieces that will accentuate those features. Trying on swimsuits can be a sensitive process, and Grief often sees women during their most vulnerable moments. Whether they’re in a hurry or having a low self-esteem day, Grief says a lot of times shoppers can become frustrated when trying on a bunch of suits. Her best advice? “Come back when you’re in the mood.”