Published: October 27, 2022Updated: January 27, 202312 min read
Some of the most popular conscious fashion brands center around swimwear. Seriously, more than half of the phone calls I get are from individuals with that same vision wanting me to help them find bikini manufacturers to bring their designs to left. And, this left me wondering, why is the world of swimwear so popular?
I came to find out that, thanks to Insta ads, there are many swimwear manufacturers out there marketing how to"Be Your Own Bikini Boss.” The ads depict influencers jet-setting to exotic locations to show off their latest skimpy swimwear line. They all make the idea of starting a swim line seem like an easy way to fund a travel addiction or something. They leave most of us wondering – if they can do it, why can’t I? Who doesn't love a beach trip, or a weekend spent lounging by the pool?
Unfortunately, many people believe that making vacation clothes will allow them to live the vacation life 24/7. Spoiler alert - it won't. Or at least it won't be as easy as ads from bikini manufacturers would like to make it seem. I get to travel all over the world and experience some amazing places thanks to my job in fashion. But that’s not without a lot of hard work. For example, my latest trip to Italy was about 80% business, with sightseeing and some amazing eating squeezed in between. And starting a conscious fashion swimwear brand could be equally as incredibly fulfilling for you too.
But, before we get started...
But before we get started. Have you heard about the super secret document that everyone in the fashion industry uses, but no one is talking about? Probably not. That is because you can't find it on Google or TikTok (believe me, I've tried).
It's a form I have used for over 13 years at every job I have ever had. Literally everyone from brands to fabric suppliers use it, but you can't find it anywhere publicly.
The best part?It can cut your sourcing time in half, and save you tons of money in product development! This is the kind of info consultants charge the big bucks for. And, I'm giving it away for free until the end of the month.
THE 2 THINGS EVERYONE ASKS ME ABOUT SWIMWEAR MANUFACTURING
Before I get started telling you all about my 6 tips. Let's get these two things our of the way...
CAN MY BIKINI BRAND BRING ME "PASSIVE INCOME"
Starting any type of clothing company is hard work. So be prepared to, you know, work.
Bikini manufacturers would love you to think starting a swim company is the easiest thing in the world - because that means more business for them. And, while starting a brand can give you both financial freedom and flexibility with your time, ultimately, it is still a job.
At virtue + vice, I work 365 days a year. I am not kidding. Xmas? I work. New Year’s? Still on the phone with factories. You get the idea. I am up early in the morning (usually around 7 am to talk with my Indian factories), spend the day talking to clients, and then I am up late in the night (usually until at least midnight with China partners). Yes, my Insta is filled with travel photos and yummy foods pics shot in exotic locations. It looks like I'm living the life. But in between those snapshots is a lot of (I am going to stress this again and again) really hard work!
The work is different. It doesn’t have the stress of a boss breathing down your neck or micromanaging you. You don’t have to spend time worrying if HR will grant you time off to make a friend's wedding or your kid’s dance recital. When you call your own shots, set your own schedule, and are your own boss, believe me, the work just feels better. I don't want to scare you away from starting your dream swimwear company. But, I do want you to be realistic and prepared to put in the hours that will make your brand successful. And, I believe in you.
HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I REALLY MAKE?
You can make some serious cash with a swimsuit line. Swim is probably a close second to "luxury" t-shirts when it comes to the best margins in the fashion industry. Once you start talking to suppliers and getting initial rates, you will probably be shocked at how much that $200 swimsuit actually costs you to make. We are talking $5-$25!
The other thing is that swimsuits don’t last. Have you noticed you need to buy new ones constantly? Unlike electronics companies with their planned obsolescence, when it comes to quality swimwear, there is really no way around this. Swimsuits are constantly exposed to harsh elements like chlorine, sun, sweat, and sand. The materials wear out quickly. There are some materials that are better than others, but ultimately there is no technology to make swimsuits last as long as that sweater passed down for generations. Swimsuits are something that people need to keep buying and replacing.
And that’s why everyone wants to be in the industry. It’s a great business opportunity. It isn’t an accident that every celebrity is starting a womens bikini line or workout company – it’s strategic. But because the secret of how much money to make in swimwear is out, the market has become extremely competitive, almost to the point of oversaturation. So, if you are serious about starting a line, you need to stand out from all the other brands out there. Let me teach you exactly how to do that.
SIX TIPS THAT WILL HELP MAKE YOUR SWIMWEAR STAND OUT
1. BIKINI MANUFACTURERS NEED TO HAVE THE RIGHT MACHINES
I found the same factory that Anthropologie works with, but my product is a disaster. Please help me!
I get this type of email all the time. The easiest way to prevent this type of situation is to understand the different manufacturing capabilities your supplier needs to make your specific product. While the person may have found one of Anthropologies's manufacturing partners, they may not have found the right one. Anthropologie works with thousands of fabric suppliers and factories. And all of these suppliers tend to be highly specialized. Meaning, they might just make t-shirts, just dresses, just jeans, just leggings, or just swimsuits. If you reach out to the Anthropologie factory that usually makes their t-shirts, wanting to make swimsuits, it might not go so well. Those would be two totally different products with different supply chains.
A good sign is when bikini manufacturers have flatlock machines. A seam made with a flatlock machine has a very distinct look. Flatlock seams are perfect for swimwear because it's a type of seam that allows for a lot of stretch. Stretch is important in swimwear because swimsuits should be snug and secure, yet comfortable and moveable with the body. Like a second skin. If you try to sew a swimsuit with a regular sewing machine, the seams will burst and rip apart when a person tries to move.
There are special settings that can be used on regular sewing machines to fak a flatlock stitch. They perform just as well, but they take longer to sew, meaning your price will probably be a bit higher.
And, one last thing when it comes to sewing. It is also important to keep an eye on the tensions the machines are set to. Tension is how tight the stitches are. If they are too loose or too tight, your garment could fall apart or have a sloppy-looking wavy effect. A professional swimwear manufacturing partner will have the right machines and know-how to use them to create the best product for you.
2. TRUST IN YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN PARTNER’S EXPERTISE
A lot of the time, new brands don’t want factories to know they are new because they are worried that suppliers will only want to work with established brands. Speaking as someone who partners with factories all over the world and has a consulting company that manages development and production for brands, we know you have no idea what you are doing. But don’t let that get you down! Lean on people like us for our expertise. We have seen it all before and can help you make decisions that will create the best product possible.
For example, fiber content is the only legally required textile information that needs to be included on a garment care tag. And because of these tags, new designers think it is the most important ingredient in getting the perfect fabric. But this is a common mistake. It’s not. A lot of components go into making a fabric. Things like yarn size, knit construction, needle size, stitch density, fabric weight, and elastic quality all play a part in the final fabric. So, five fabrics, all with 92% nylon and 8% spandex, could be totally different.
It’s not your fault that you didn't know this. But instead of telling bikini manufacturers what you want, try asking them what you need based on your designs. Let them guide you to the right decisions. When you do this, your product development process is going to go a lot smoother and probably end up costing you a lot less in quality control issues.
3. PICK UP ON TRENDS
Garment suppliers are also a great place to pick up on trends. If your bikini manufacturers truly specialize in swim products, then, that is what they do all day, every day. If they are fully in an industry like this, chances are they see the newest trends long before you or anyone else.
For example, when I worked in kids apparel one season, I noticed that every factory, mill, and supplier I visited had something with butterflies. I told my sales and design teams, and we quickly followed the trend as well. We created our own butterfly products. And guess what? They were top sellers a year later when butterflies started to become popular.
Now, remember, there is a difference between asking for trend forecasting advice and straight-up copying. We didn't knock off or copy any other brand's styles. We created our own. There is nothing wrong with asking suppliers for trends like colors, cuts, etc. But it is totally unethical to knock other brands off and copy what they are doing exactly.
Fabric suppliers usually have trends in their showrooms that you will be seeing in stores in 1.5 to 2 years from now. So, create a good relationship with the suppliers, and ask them for tips on what is trending. Analyzing what textile suppliers are working on now is like looking into a fashion crystal ball.
4. THE SECRET TO THE PERFECT FIT
Think about it. Would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who has only done a few surgeries in their life, or by a surgeon who has done thousands? Obviously, you’d want to go with the surgeon who has done thousands. Because generally, the more people do a thing, the better at it they become.
And, chances are if you are reading this because you want to make your own swimwear line, but you aren't an expert. So, you are going to want to be sure you hire one to do this one thing.
Most new brands get super obsessive about their tech packs (and the truth is, most of the time you don't even need a tech pack). But, what is really important is the pattern.
To be clear, there are lots of places to cut corners, and I will get to how to save money in a minute. But the one place you really want to make sure you are working with an expert on is the pattern.
Because the pattern directly impacts how the garment will fit.
And fit, IMO, is the most important thing. It's not something you can buy off the rack, or on an online sales page. Fit is a feeling.
And, that feeling determines if a customer will wear the garment over and over and tell all their friends about it, and order more every season, or if shove it to the back of their closet and forget about it.
You could have the nicest designs, and fantastic photography, and get your product on the best influencers, but if the fit is off success will be almost impossible.
So, make sure to invest in a good pattern maker.
5. BE PREPARED TO SAMPLE, A LOT
My friend, Isabetta has a background in swim fabric development. She is someone in the industry that is very well-connected and only works with the best of the best people. Even she made samples. Ten rounds to be exact. Now, 10 samples is a lot. But you should probably plan for at least three, as each of them will serve very different purposes.
Sample 1 - Fit Samples
The purpose of this sample is to get your fit just right. Fit samples are usually made in the same fabric you will be producing in. But they can be made in whatever color fabrics are available. Because, right now, all we care about is the fit. So your final design in your swimwear collection might be yellow polka dots (she wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny…), but your fit sample might be in solid black fabric because that is what the mill has available for immediate sampling. You might need a few rounds of fit samples to ensure it’s perfect.
Sample 2 - Revisions
If your first fit sample is pretty perfect but needs a few small changes, you will probably choose to make your next round of samples with the corrections on your own custom fabrics. This round of samples will be the first time you see your exact designs come to life. It can be super exciting. You should plan for the third round of sampling just in case.
Sample 3 - Final Edit
Only when you have an absolutely perfect sample can you move on to production. Sometimes, when you see your designs in real life, they don’t look as good as they did on paper. Don’t worry. This is totally normal. And when that happens, you can work out all your design changes in your third round of samples. Sometimes they can look better than you ever imagined.
I’ve said this before. It might be tempting to cut corners – like that viral TikTok video “who's going to know, nobody's going to know” – but everyone is going to know. Because when you cut corners, your swimsuit might look okay, but it’s not going to be someone's favorite that they get excited to wear and tell all their friends about. Invest in your brand and don’t let the branding fool you.
Buy the best quality elastic, for example. Think of elastic-like support beams inside a house. You don’t see them, but they are important. You wouldn’t want your home's infrastructure to be built with toothpicks. So don’t use bad quality supplies inside your garment either. Splurge on luxury construction techniques. Avoid binding and foldover seams. Even though these techniques are faster and cheaper, they do not make for a clean finish. An invisible seam creates a cleaner, higher-end product and a more comfortable swimsuit.
Not sure how to get your hands on the good stuff?
If you are working with good bikini manufacturers, they will be able to help source high-quality materials for you.
Where you can cut corners…
New brands think that to be taken seriously, they need to have their logos on beads, clasps, and even their poly bags. While all of these things are a nice branding touch, most customers don’t notice them. Custom design molds with your logo might seem like a small expense, but these specially branded pieces can actually cost thousands. So, if you are looking for a place to cut costs, just use generic market trim. There are some really nice, high-quality options out there with low MOQs per style and that will save you money.
It is much more important to invest in things like good elastic and good construction techniques than all the branding bells and whistles. If you are having trouble figuring out where to skimp and where to splurge, try asking yourself this question - Is this something that is for aesthetic or comfort? And always go for comfort. Because you can have the most beautiful swimsuit with glossy high fashion photos, and get all the clicks and buys online. But once the customer gets it, if it's uncomfortable, you are going to have all the returns too.
A FEW FINAL WORDS
I want you to succeed. That’s why I spend so much time creating free content to help people. Make sure to check out the resources below. Don’t just read the stuff specifically about swim brands. Take the time to read the startup advice too. Too often, new brands get so caught up in manufacturing their product that they forget to set their brand up with a good business foundation. That’s the number one reason I see new brands not succeed; they underestimate the business side of the business. You can learn how to work with me here, for more help getting organized and building a successful fashion brand.