Synchro Suit Design – From Concept to Performance

Most synchronized swimming teams order just regular swim suits for everyday wear and for portraying a uniform look during meet warm-ups.
Routine suits, on the other hand, can be much more creative and actually help tell the story of a team, trio, duet, or solo performance. Depending on the budget of the different groups who will be wearing them, routine suits can be simple, ready-to-wear suits with a cool and music-appropriate pattern. Or, they could be more intricately-appliqued, custom-made suits. Either way, all routine suits get a nice dose of sequins, glitter, and sparkly gems to wow and dazzle the crowd!
“Our senior team suits are typically professionally designed, ” says Head Coach Leah Pinette, “but it’s always special when we can call upon the creativity and expertise within our own team to design a suit.”
Today, ANA Synchro talks to Candace Ju, a 2012 graduate from ANA Synchro, now applying her artistic talents in architecture school at Carnegie Mellon University. Candace designed the suits for both of ANA Synchro’s senior soloists this season as well as the 13-15 age group “Russian” duet suit. Designing the Russian suit was particularly meaningful because the duet features her own little sister, Sophia.

ANA Synchro: Candace, you must have worn many suits during your 10 years on ANA Synchro. Do you have a particular favorite?



Candace Ju, far right, poses with her teammates in her favorite performance suit.


Candace Ju: My favorite suit was probably Slumdog Millionaire. It was just so flattering on everyone and looked very clean and professional.
ANA Synchro: How is it that you got asked to tackle the Russian duet suit design this year?
Candace Ju: My sister told me they were going to use an old sketch of mine for Russian. However, when I looked back at it, I thought the design wouldn’t do justice to the girls’ current level of swimming. So I asked Leah if I could come up with another design, and she said yes.
ANA Synchro: The design is gorgeous! How did you come up with it?
Duet partners Grace Alwan and Sophia Ju show off Candace's design for "Russian"
Candace Ju: For Russian, I had an idea of what I thought it should look like because I’ve seen that routine done many times before. I got my inspiration from the Russian Olympic uniforms, specifically the jackets their athletes wear to awards ceremonies. And I suggested the Russian suit be self-decorated because it only involved a few colors of glitter, and I think the pattern itself stands stronger without added clutter.
ANA Synchro: What if you’re designing for a routine you’ve never seen before?

Candace Ju: Then it’s a bit harder. I will always listen to the music and use any context of the music for inspiration, such as whether it’s ethnic music or from a movie soundtrack. I also look at the Age Group and Collegiate national championship suit galleries and collage together aspects of suits that I like and that fit the music.

Graduating senior Gloria McNamara in her solo suit.
ANA Synchro: How long have you been sketching synchro suits?
Candace Ju: I think I have been sketching since 7th grade, our “Italian” year. I don’t think my design was picked that year, but it was still fun to design and think of what cuts and fabrics and patterns would look good.
ANA Synchro: Do you think synchro suits can be too fancy? There’s been some talk recently about competing in plain suits to emphasize the athleticism of our sport.
Kate Quinn in her solo suit, another beautiful design by Candace Ju!

Candace Ju: Synchronized swimming is a performance sport. Both words accurately describe what we do. While there are pros and cons to both sides of the argument, I think nicely designed and decorated suits make it more exciting to watch as well as perform. What would it be like to see a Broadway production where everyone just wore black unitards?
Would the performers feel as if they were performing or just rehearsing? While it would push the performers to compensate in their swimming for the story that is not told in their suits, I don’t think having well-designed suits detracts from the athletics of synchro.

ANA Synchro: What would you say to younger girls who are interested in sketching out designs for suits?
Candace Ju: Go for it! You have nothing to lose! I always got really excited when the coaches brought in the big binders of fabric samples for us to pick colors and swatches. The more personally invested you are in something, the more fun you’ll have with it!
Duet partners Alwan & Ju placing gems and conferring on decorating ideas for the "Russian" suits.

ANA Synchro, to Head Coach Leah Pinette: Leah, what should girls do if they are interested in sketching out some suit designs for fun?

Leah Pinette (Head Coach): To go off of what Candace said earlier, go for it! I can give whoever is interested a blank suit design for starters. This gives swimmers an opportunity to become more involved in their routine (or teammates’ routines) and synchronized swimming in a different way than in the pool.