As a toddler growing up on a North Dakota ranch, Brenda West’s ultimate pacifier was the inches-thick Sears catalog, which her mom would toss in her crib to keep her happy. Enthralled, young Brenda would carefully turn each page and evaluate each item.
“My mom said it was hilarious to watch,” says West, whose childhood fascination with fashion transformed into a storied career in the swimwear business. She made her mark working 18 years at Manhattan Beachwear (seven as president) and now serves as the first nonfamily president of Tustin-based RAJ Swim.
West’s North Dakota upbringing in a tiny community (she was the only girl in her class from kindergarten to high school) provided her with an abundance of Midwest grit. “We all worked long hours as a family,” she says, “in sometimes unbearable winter conditions.” Today, the beneficiary of that upbringing is RAJ. The 50-year-old company creates and markets swimwear for such brands as Ella Moss, Nautica and Reef, and designs and produces its own labels, Luxe by Lisa Vogel, Next, Athena, VYB Swim and more. This spring, West helped launch a swimsuit line (priced from $30 to $120) that uses excess fabrics and turns them into eco-friendly fashions.
In her downtime, West retreats to her ranchlike home in Orange Park Acres, where she enjoys her husband of 23 years, three children, two grandchildren, a dog, a cat, a chicken named Buttercup and her horse, Hoss. “I still keep a little North Dakota with me,” she says.
God, the color green, blue jeans, blue skies, my husband
Rude salespeople, gray skies, traffic, fake news, sunburns