Aussies cashing in on $28b global swimwear market
It's how we sell ourselves to the world - the sun-soaked Aussie on the beach in a beautiful swimsuit.
Think Elle Macpherson in the high-cut neoprene one-piece on Sports Illustrated or Lara Bingle in a striped rainbow bikini for Australian Tourism's "Where the bloody hell are you" campaign.
In a bid to cater to this sun-kissed image, an entire industry has risen up around the Aussie swimsuit, with local brands working hard to capture a piece of the almost $28 billion global swimwear market.
Aussie model Victoria Lee, who wears Bec & Bridge on this week's BW Magazine cover, says homegrown designers know how to cater to our market and offer the perfect mix of being sun-smart, stylish and unique.
The model took to the runway in a bikini in August to help launch the David Jones spring/summer 2018 collection.
"When I'm looking for a new swimsuit, I always look for something that makes me feel supported and confident on the beach," she says.
"I love Australian swimwear brands as they understand exactly what women want.
"This season, I am especially loving a one-piece swimsuit with sporty low back."
Designers Becky Cooper and Bridget Yorston, the women behind the local label, are best known for creating the ultimate party dress.
But since announcing their first swim collection in 2015, they have gone on to achieve worldwide success.
"We saw a gap in the market for uncomplicated styles that flattered the female form," Yorston says.
"We wanted to introduce classic cuts in modern fabrics, interesting prints while also having fun with colour. It was also important for us as an Australian-made and owned brand to add a swim line to our offering."
Bec & Bridge Swim is now stocked by retailers locally and overseas, including US retail giants ShopBop, Revolve and Bikini Bird.
Yorston credits the global success of Aussie designers with our national obsession with all things summer, surf and sand.
"We are passionate about beach culture," Yorston says.
"Our social life and most recreational activities revolve around being outdoors, swimming and the ocean. It's a way of life, so it makes sense that we know a great bathing suit when we see it.
"During summer most Aussies spend more time in the water in their swimmers and in easy cover-ups than they do in any other outfit."
Cult brand Duskii has become a favourite of some of the world's hottest women. A few social media mentions and a smattering of magazine and newspaper articles helped take this backyard business, founded in 2014, to global recognition.
Thanks to a loyal following from some of the world's "It" girls, including models Kendall Jenner, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Elyse Taylor and Gemma Ward, the brand has become a major player in the swimwear market.
"We have many stockists around the world from Net-A-Porter, Farfetch, The Iconic and The Outnet, to name a few, and are stocked in 11 countries," founder Patreece Botheras says.
"We are based in boutiques around the world from the USA to Israel and even a store in the Ukraine.
"From Duskii's inception, we have experienced 50 per cent annual growth rates."
Just like Duskii, Fae Swim has received a huge boost from endorsements by serious
"Having girls like Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Sara Sampaio spotted in Fae … is one of the reasons behind our success," founder Bianca Bennett says.
"It not only increases our online presence but dramatically increases our sales … These celebrities are the epitome of cool in today's society and their fans/followers are so loyal to them."
Miami Swim Week, an annual US event that showcases the very best and latest in swimwear, earlier this year hosted a record number of designers from Down Under.
One of the biggest trends is to show a lot of skin - think visiting model Emily Ratajkowski who hit Bondi Beach recently in a floss bikini (the name says it all) or those uber high cut legs as worn by the Kardashians, or plunging one-pieces.
Among the visiting Aussies showcasing their wares were Bianca Elouise of Myra Swim and Tara Jane of TJ Swim.
"We ended up having the largest show of the week, with thousands of guests, which really boosted my brand," Elouise says.
"I went from launching a five-piece range in 2014 to having a more than 250-piece collection in 2018. Website sales have gone through the roof."
Jane says it can be tough to stand out in a saturated market (pun intended).
"The strong competition within the swimwear industry, especially within Australia, was initially a challenge for us as a new brand," Jane says.
And it's not about to get any easier. The multibillion-dollar industry has resulted in new brands constantly popping up and, in turn, the need for designers to think outside the box.
Saint Somebody founder and CEO Sophie Henderson-Smart's search for the perfect swimwear for herself led to her successful range.
"I had been struggling to find a swimwear label that was fashionable, made of quality material and looked good in all the right places," Henderson-Smart says.
"I couldn't find anything that catered to the curvier woman that wasn't loud and garish, unflattering or made from cheap and flimsy material.
"After realising that there was a huge gap in the market, I decided to create the product I had been searching for. Having already sold out of some styles and sizes, now we're looking at expanding into the global market with the US our first priority."
For Olga and Stephanie Harmat, success with their brand Gerry Can Active + Swim came because of their desire to be eco-friendly.
The mother-daughter duo wanted the beauty of handmade, ethical and lasting products without charging people an arm and a leg.
"Having spent almost a lifetime making our own swimwear and activewear, I've always looked for a certain criteria when sourcing fabrics," Olga says.
"Then we found Vita which is a sustainable techno-fabric, made of Econyl - it is a regenerated nylon that turns waste problems into fashion solutions.
"It is versatile, hyper-resistant, thin, elegant, stretch, soft and breathable: a unique mix of muscular compression and comfort."
Their bespoke, environmentally friendly pieces are now being snapped up by women in England, the US and Thailand.
"We went from home studio, to pop-up store and online," Stephanie says.
"Now we are online, have an office for customer service, a studio with three more staff, no more markets and Gerry Can is a full-time gig rather than a side hustle. We've noticed that some of our best clients are from overseas. Our clients are obsessed with the thought of our pieces tested out in Bondi Beach."