Wearing gold frilly earrings, a long, over-sized blue sweatshirt and high-waisted mom jeans, Jennifer Mota loves to experiment with bold fashion statements.
At 26-years old, she is the owner and fashion designer of Hu-Huako Custom Apparel. Mota takes her business very serious; especially when it comes to making other women feel beautiful in their own skin.
“I embrace textured hair, I embrace dark skin, I embrace all body types,” said Mota confidently.
Growing up, she never felt like her curvier body or culture was represented in fashion, media, or in her neighborhood.
Finding a way to be comfortable in your own skin is something many women struggle with, and Mota wanted to change that by creating personalized bathing suits for her clients.
“Women will still have anxiety about finding the perfect bathing suit,” said Mota. “It really frustrated me how it was so hard to find a bathing suit for the average sizes in America.”
A lot of her inspiration comes from other fashion, music and her neighborhood. One of her former sewing teachers, Ms. Green, allowed Mota to experiment and be free with her clothing ideas.
Her desire to be inclusive with her bathing suit line also comes from a time she didn’t feel accepted herself.
As an alumnus of St. Hubert’s School for Girls, Mota recalls being one of the few students of color in her class. The lack of diversity allowed her to understand that education and conversations about other cultures was important, especially through art and fashion.
“I didn’t feel accepted,” she said. “When you go to a school where you’re the minority, you just start noticing things that people say and the differences in the way that people treat you.”
If you were to step inside the bedroom and workspace of Mota, you would see how much passion and hard work goes into the business she runs.
The walls above her work area are covered in magazine clippings of the latest bathing suit trends, and the many different colors and styles that go along with them.
“Mood boards are so important to me,” said Mota. “Every season I create a new one because I like to look for different colors, different eras. Once you’re seeing that every single day, you can really bring that to life.”
Mota shoots her own photos for her website and social media outlets. She enhances her business by doing it all herself and by staying true to what she believes in – making women feel beautiful.
“I know for myself and a lot of other women, it was hard finding swimwear because it was European sizes only made for one specific type of body,” said Mota.
Most of her bathing suits range up to a size 14. The cost of a piece ranges from $40 to $80, depending on the style and fabric. She remembers a woman she created a piece for who had recently given birth and felt insecure about her body.
“She is a beautiful woman and to think that she was trying to avoid going to the beach because she couldn’t find something to wear made me emotional,” said Mota.
New customer, Lenny Corasko (above), recently bought her first bathing suit from Hu-Huako.
“I have never worn a bathing suit before,” said Corasko. “Although I’m going to feel weird, I will be excited to see how it looks.”
Corasko’s parents work long hours, so she serves as the care taker and leader for her younger siblings. That doesn’t leave her much time to go out and find bathing suits.
On the website, Hu-Huako models are typically women of color embracing their natural beauty.
“Jenny really makes you feel that bathing suit is made for you,” said Solange Mota, Mota’s sister and Hu-Huako model. “She really takes her time making sure it’s just how you want it.”
Flaurii Hernandez modeled her bathing suit piece for the first time (below).
“I feel prideful being able to have the opportunity to show off her talent,” said Hernandez.
Sahory Valdez has modeled for Mota many times. When asked about the bathing suits, her face lit up.
“Oh my god it’s so soft! That was really my first thought,” Valdez said. “Usually when you go to buy bathing suits, it’s too loose here, too tight, I don’t like the fabric. But Jennifer’s is soft, cute and amazing.”
Although Mota can only run the business in the spring and summer due to scheduling, she eventually hopes to expand her line to include women and men’s clothing. Until then, she wants to embrace and represent all different women as much as possible.
“I saw being a minority as an opportunity,” Mota said. “There was a whole community that was being ignored that wasn’t being represented and I went for it.”
-Text, images and video by Megan DiVenti and Kaci Lewandowki.