While many kids look forward to Christmas or their birthdays to play with new presents, young Anielka Louis (née Mercado) had a different goal. She wanted to expand on her craft: designing clothes for her new Barbie dolls.
This passion for fashion became a form of expression for 5-year-old Louis after she fled Nicaragua’s military regime with her parents and two brothers and moved to Miami Springs in 1991. The family left behind a comfortable life in their native country to start from scratch in a country where they didn’t even speak the language.
“We foresaw the trouble that was coming,” said Maritza Mercado, Louis’ mother. “We had a perfectly good life in Nicaragua but its political instability forced us to move here.”
As her family adjusted to the new life, Louis never lost sight of her dream to create a fashion brand. Even though she faced many obstacles along the process of creating her brand, she never lost hope or motivation.
Since she didn’t go to college, Louis resorted to the Internet to learn everything she needed to know. She watched YouTube videos and searched on Google while attending workshops and networking events in the city.
“It was imperative that I educated myself as much as possible to better understand my vision and execution,” said Louis.
When it came to choosing what to focus her brand on, swimsuits were a no-brainer due to Miami’s weekend life.
“Swimwear was my first choice because I knew it was the most popular to wear in Miami since we are a city surrounded by beautiful beaches with top-rated pool parties and yacht living,” said Louis.
Louis initially struggled to find the right pattern maker. She ended up looking overseas for someone that could create her vision and found success in Colombia.
“My first failure was not knowing the industry I was entering, causing me to lose money throughout the process,” said Louis.
Inspired by vintage ‘80s fashion trends like shoulder pads, Louis launched her first collection, Anie Louis Lux Swimwear in July 2017 at Raleigh Hotel.
“She’s really a pioneer in cutouts, straps, and zippers,” said Jessica Anderson, fellow fashion designer and close friend of Louis’. “She was ahead of her time with her designs, and she’s always on trend.”
Anie Louis Lux Swimwear collection includes 13 swimsuits, four of which include one-pieces. Her least expensive items include the Medusa striped bikinis and the STAR bikini, all usually worth $145, but currently on sale for $50.
The most expensive item in her collection is the Irene’s Paradise-White mesh two-piece, often called her “wedding suit,” worth $196.
The fashion designer accomplished another goal when she opened her own boutique, D&A Shop, in CityPlace Doral in 2019, with the goal of bringing a unique style into Miami’s fashion. The store is small but welcoming, surrounded by shelves and clothing racks showcasing all types of items from classic dresses and jumpsuits, to swimsuit coverups and some of Louis’ own pieces.
While Louis names her mother and late uncle as her biggest influences, her own drive was most critical.
“She’s one of those people that, if she doesn’t know how to do something, she’s gonna figure it out and she’s gonna do it,” said Anderson.
When her collection first came out, she drove around her area, knocking on doors to promote her events and new swimsuits. While many people initially closed the door on her face, this only fueled Louis’ desire to accomplish her goals.
“Being an immigrated Latina without any college credits has made it incredibly challenging,” said Louis. “My experience has been unique because others underestimated my qualifications and creativity.”
Louis has over 8,000 followers on her personal Instagram account, and over 5,000 on her Swimwear collection and boutique pages combined. With her swimwear brand, Louis hopes she can help make women feel more confident, sexy and classy.
“I am designing for the women who seek unique trendy bold swimwear that is not commercialized and want to look different than most,” said Louis.