Montgomery’s Molly Russo Launches a Sustainable Swimwear Company
By Melanie Zhang l June 14, 2021
Montgomery Township native Molly Russo created VAI Swim as a passion project in 2020, taking advantage of downtime during the pandemic. A 2014 graduate of Montgomery High School, Russo says she was influenced by her father, Vincent Russo, who is now retired but had co-owned and operated Accutest Laboratories, the third largest full service environmental testing company in the United States.
“I always admired his entrepreneurial mindset,” she says. “I knew since I was little that one day, I wanted to own my own business in the fashion realm.”
The most important facet of VAI Swim is its sustainability, which is something that Russo has “been passionate about for a long time,” citing sustainable swimwear brands such as Vitamin A as major inspiration. Russo uses a luxury nylon fabric made from recycled plastics. To be more sustainable, VAI Swim uses recycled packaging, tags, swimwear bags, and poly mailers.
Russo earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising and management in 2018 from Philadelphia University, one of the top fashion schools in the world (ranked in the top-25 by Fashionista.com.) The university, where she also was dance team captain, merged with the well-endowed Thomas Jefferson University in 2017.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit while Russo was working for Anthropologie in Philadelphia as a merchandise assistant in the footwear and belts department. Russo decided to leave the city in July 2020, and move back home to Belle Mead with her parents.
Living at home during the lull of the pandemic gave Molly the time and opportunity to launch VAI Swim LLC. "My parent's are so supportive," she says. "They have always influenced me to live my dreams and are very proud. They are happy to see me being so passionate and creative—just loving what I do."
“I will be moving to Hoboken soon to be closer to my vendors and manufacturer, all based in New York City. I am happy to be working locally so I can get to the city easily. Still, the pandemic definitely affected having in person meetings and lead times for ordering materials,” she says.
In addition to creating a sustainable fashion product, Russo says she is most proud of her company’s emphasis on uplifting women. She often works with all female-owned businesses, stressing that women “can own their own business and support each other.”
The brand is also influenced by Russo’s love for travel. VAI means “to go” in Italian. She says the name is indicative of the sense of movement, adventure, and exploration.
After a year of extra hard work, Russo’s dream has come to fruition. “The photo shoot, and seeing the vision come to life, was my favorite part,” she says.
As summer arrives and COVID restrictions lift, Russo is excited to see what is in store for VAI Swim this summer and beyond.