Cherry Harker always wanted to design bikinis. Her infatuation with the skimpy swimsuits began in the late 1950s.
Back then, she was a teenager who spent holidays at exotic places like Monaco and St. Tropez. Her father, Ronnie Harker, was Rolls-Royce’s first test pilot. When his work took him to these posh resorts, his family went with him.
During those trips, Harker had opportunities to watch glamorous people and observe what they were wearing, occasionally spotting celebrities (she bumped into Brigitte Bardot in St. Tropez). She also became familiar with the hazards of doing watersports in a bikini.
“I pretty much learnt how to water-ski one-handed – one hand on the tow-handle and the other holding my briefs up,” she says in this Mailonline article. “And I noticed that quite often some women lost their swimwear when they dived into a pool.”
Fast forward to almost 60 years later, when Harker retired and needed something to do. After contemplating possible projects, she chose her lifelong dream: designing a bikini line.
In 2016, Harker launched ZwimZuit at age 76. Her swimwear features four collections made from neoprene, a non-slip material that enables ZwimZuit customers to enjoy the water without worrying about a wardrobe malfunction.
As she explains in this article published in The Telegraph, the launch of her UK-based company came at the right time in her life. “I married when I was 30, then spent my 30s and 40s focused on family life, supporting my husband, John, in his business and raising our daughter, Tamarisk. I’d battled breast cancer in my 50s, cervical cancer in my 60s, so now I finally had time to do something that was just for me.”
While running a business isn’t easy for Harker, family support makes the challenges more manageable. Daughter Tamarisk, a costume designer, assists with the product design. Husband John, the founder of a classic car business, helps with orders and social media.
ZwimZuit now has customers all over the world. For Harker, one of the most rewarding parts of her business is turning on her computer and seeing women in Brazil or Florida wearing her creations.
“I never really thought of retiring, what do people do when they retire?” she tells The Mailonline. “My father died at 90 but he was fit and healthy and doing things right up to the end and he always said you’ve got to have a project.”
Looks like Harker followed her father’s advice. And what a project she has.