Palmetto Made : A Lowcountry suit maker

Liz Chirles

By Dean

JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- It was an idea born out of necessity and humility, because what mother nature gives, she can also take away.

"I know a lot of women who are active in the water and I found out I couldn't find a suit that fit and couldn't stay on when I was surfing and realized I wasn't the only person with that problem," Liz Chirles said.

So with needle and thread Chirles went to work as she formed Coral Custom Swimwear.

"I started making them for myself and my friends loved it. I didn't anticipate it becoming a business," she said.

With five years of production behind her, Chirles isn't cutting any corners when it comes to being local.

"I'm working with local women who are helping sew and make the product. I work with a local bank, and shops I work with are locally based," she said.

McKevlin's surf shop on Folly Beach is one of those spots selling her suits.

"Having McKevlin's, a local surf shop interested in the product and having it in there last year, it had a great response. I think people were interested, because it was local. They tried it out, and it was a nice product. It was encouraging for me," Chirles said.

From the fabric to the finished product, Chirles James Island factory once served as her dining room. Now it's where she makes sure her product measures up.

"It's kind of a process that takes a lot of attention to detail," Chirles said. "From the elastic to the thread and the materials, it makes a difference to make something last from season to season."

In the process she's tied together is a local product that keeps the ladies covered when the waves roll in. Chirles sells up to 200 suits a year and will expand to other shops in 2012.

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