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Fashion Designer of the Year 2008: Anna Kosturova

Racy bikinis by our winning designer get tied on by celebrities,cover girls and beautiful people around the globe.

In a cavernous and cluttered studio, swimwear designer Anna Kosturova looks up at the poster of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on her wall and smiles. “It was such a surprise, I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” she says of cover model Marissa Miller wearing nothing but thick strings of tumbled turquoise beads and the bottoms from Kosturova’s Beach Goddess bikini. “This is the Holy Grail!”

Born in landlocked Czechoslovakia, this “water baby” was sidetracked by a state-sponsored quota system that shunted her into mechanical engineering. Kosturova emigrated to Canada after the Iron Curtain fell, settling in Vancouver. After nearly a decade working service jobs to pay for fashion studies, Kosturova secured a loan and, in 2002, produced her first swimwear line.

The cheeky, sexy aesthetic and the “crafty” handmade look of Kosturova’s crochet creations belie what is a deceptively complex design process. With a sculptor’s (and, no doubt, an engineer’s) eye for juxtaposing positive and negative space, Kosturova develops the stitches in conjunction with her Philippines-based manufacturer. “I want something completely different from a Lycra bathing suit. Crochet allows me to create my own pattern, one that is totally and uniquely mine.”

Kosturova’s vision was embraced by celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Mariah Carey and models Bar Raphaeli and Miranda Kerr. Elle, Cosmopolitan and InStyle featured her designs on their pages. New girls’ and resort collections are making waves.

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But all her triumphs to date pale next to the SI cover. When the issue hit stands, Kosturova fielded calls from anxious clients who believed the swimsuit was originally designed to be topless. “Actually,” Kosturova says, with a sly smile, “beads and bottoms: that’s not such a bad idea!” –WL

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