Anastasia White (FA ’96) can still remember the thrill of costuming an undergraduate production of Shakespeare’s Othello during her time at Washington University in St. Louis.
“There was no iPhone,” White said, “so I don’t have a single picture, but I remember to this day how much I enjoyed doing it.”
The passion for design she felt as an undergrad proved enduring. After earning a degree in fashion design from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, she moved to New York City to begin her career. She would go on to work as a designer in corporate fashion for more than 20 years before founding crescent bleu, a brand of premium sustainable swimwear, in 2019.
White’s experience in the industry set her on the path to starting her own company. “Throughout my career, I’ve often been on the initial teams for things launching,” she said. She contributed to the launch of the brand Context for the department store Lord & Taylor as well as Madison Studio for Belk Department Stores.
Experience in working with brands from the ground-up, collaborating with both merchandisers and upper management, was foundational to her career and gave her confidence to strike out on her own. “I always had that bug,” she said.
A trip to Tulum on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in 2013 served as inspiration for what that brand might be. “When I was doing my dreaded swimsuit search — I was a mom of two and recently of the second one — I just wasn’t having a lot of fun under the fluorescent lights in the fitting room,” she laughed. Everything changed when she came across a bathing suit made from regenerated nylon and landfill and marine waste.
The quality of the suit, she said, opened her eyes to the possibility of creating new products out of recycled materials. “As a designer in a fast fashion environment for big retailers, that’s just not something we were looking at,” White said.
Once she left corporate fashion in 2018, she got to work building her swimwear brand. Sustainability has remained at the core of it. “I believe sustainability is a lot bigger than just eliminating plastics,” she says. “To be truly sustainable, you must include people.”
To that end, she strives to ensure that crescent bleu offers a sustainable lifestyle to the people making the products. She also aims to expand her community involvement. “I make sure that my platform upholds companies and organizations that have like values,” she said. “For example, there are a lot of organizations currently promoting water safety and swim lessons in the Black community. I would love for the brand to be able to materially support those sorts of efforts.”
In the years since graduating, White has returned to the Sam Fox School to judge senior capstone collections in fashion design. Mentoring current students has made her realize that, if she could travel back in time, she would choose to embark on her fashion journey once more. “I would love to get my fashion degree all over again,” White said. “Coming out and seeing how the curriculum has evolved, I’ve been blown away.
“They are really pushing the envelope.”