Transforming the swimwear industry with Deakin and Blue at Pure Origin
This week we visited the Pure Origin/Pure London Trade Show at London's Olympia (February 9-11th 2020) to keep up to date with emerging and existing brands, and to dive into their selection of talks and workshops. As we were about to launch our Masterclass on Starting A Sustainable Swimwear Line, we checked in with a talk between Deakin and Blue founder Rosie Cook and The Trend Academy founder Marie Oakes: "Interview with a young designers: A successful first year".
Read on for a summary of the interview.
Rosie came to the Deakin and Blue brand as a consumer; She identified a gap within the swimwear market - styles were either sporty for an athletic physique, or were just for stylish flattery, never stylish and sporty together. Her background was within The City.
Making it work
From the beginning she was clear on her business model, the operation and pricing, believing that there was no shame to be found in stupid questions. As her background was not in fashion, she had to fake it to look serious - but did it with conviction. One example is being VAT registered.
To manage this side hustle Rosie took on contract work, but that made her more focussed and helped her prioritise.
Production, sales and fulfilment
Utilising the UKFT, trade shows and Googling then calling manufacturers, she found a London producer for which Deakin and Blue would be their first swimwear brand. They were also small batch, which was a first for that producer, but it's about building relationships.
Fundamental business principles were built in e.g. what the cash flow should be, being Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) from the outset. A background in business ensured Rosie understood the pricing.
Starting out with a swimsuit style and a bikini style with two pant options, both in a dark colour and a light colour plus one print. The cost was more per unit in the beginning, but as she started small the cash flow was reasonable. Selling out was actually good in terms of PR as it meant it was an exclusive product. Running a pre-order helped manage cash flow and gave flexibility.
Fabric was Vita from Carvico (made from 100% ECONYL), chosen for the longevity but the marketing message of eco came afterwards.
Initially outsourced fulfilment. They had 21 sizes per style, so it was a small batch to do stock and inventory management on, giving regular data updates to understand what top ups were required.
Marketing and PR on your own
Rosie placed a mailing list sign up on their landing page so that when they were ready to launch they already had a customer base, there were people “listening”. They used social media to galvanise desire. The product was an investment but not luxury: it was to be transformational. She looked to groups that would build the brand such as wild swim groups.
When you don’t have investment, running an e-commerce business takes you direct to the customer. Retailers then approached them, but this meant changing the margins for wholesale.
Visit trade fairs to look out for and work on your merchandising.
Go to the High Street to see if your product exists.
Check on what the landscape is for wholesale to cover all areas.
Follow journalists on Twitter in your key areas e.g. body positivity.