Starting a swimwear company can seem a daunting task if you don't know where to start. Although having said that, starting a business has become a lot easier in recent years because of globalisation and the growth in e-commerce and technology alongside it.
Social media has enabled small businesses to scale really quickly with a very little upfront cost. This means you don't need huge amounts of money to start creating your business idea.
Although we are a very very small swimwear company we still know a little bit about how to get started and the different options available if you are looking to start out.
1. Most companies use the same fabric suppliers
There are a few major suppliers of swimwear fabric around the world and most of the major swimwear brands use them to varying degrees. The main fabric suppliers we have come across in our time are Carvico. They are an Italian company that has been around for a long-time and has. great pedigree in top quality fabrics.
There is a company in the UK called Funkifabrics that are a reseller of Carvico fabrics that's worth checking out.
2. Managing returns can be tricky
One of the hardest parts of any e-commerce business is managing the returns process. Especially in the fashion industry. Swimwear can be particularly difficult because, as with many clothing ranges, the sizes vary from brand to brand.
This means consumers can't always tell which size to buy, once they have bought from you before this can become easier but when you are a new brand on the market this can be difficult to manage.
Try and provide as much sizing information as possible for your customers. Making it as easy as possible for them to buy with confidence. A useful way to do this is by comparing your sizes to other well-known brands. This is something larger e-commerce companies are doing with the software but it's not really viable for a small start-up.
3. China is not always cheaper
I think the world of fashion is starting to move away from Chinese manufacturing. Especially for quality products, there are plenty of options within Europe and for Australia, I know there are a few swimwear manufacturers around.
The difficulty when starting a swimwear company is looking for a reliable manufacturer that has a small enough MOQ (minimum order quantity) so you don't have a place a big order for the stock you don't know will sell.
In my opinion, although you can produce top quality products in China, you then have to contend with import duties and shipping costs etc. It can be a good place to get some bits to begin with but you can get top quality products made from within Europe with small quantities too.
Outside of Europe and China, there is Baliswim based in Indonesia. They are a company we have come across before but we have never used ourselves that can help with more fashion-based swimwear manufacturing.
4. Try custom swimwear for your designs
There are a few companies out there that can produce custom swimwear based on your print designs. So if you swimwear company idea mainly revolves around the prints on the swimwear rather the cut we would recommend ordering some custom printed swimwear as a bit of a sample.
Turbo provides custom swimwear along with a company called Zena. Try your prints out on their costumes as a starting point so you don't have to go through the hassle of the whole manufacturing process.
5. Look for CMT factories
CMT stands for Cut, Make, Trim. A CMT factory requires you to provide them with the fabric and all the other elements of your swimwear and they will essentially put it together for you.
Usually, they will charge per piece, so, for example, each piece may cost £5 - this can get expensive when you compare it to a factory in China that could provide you with the fabric and make it for the same price.
6. Make printed inside labels using heat transfers
We decided to get rid of annoying fabric labels on some of our swimwear so we had to go on a bit of a mission to find out how to do that. Basically you can get a company to produce a special type of heat transfer designed to work with stretch fabrics that won't break when stretched.
7. All-inclusive vs individual sourcing materials
A lot of your decisions will come down to whether you want to hand-pick all of the materials that go into your swimwear or if you want someone to take care of that for you (to some extent).
Getting your swimwear made by a factory that provides all the relevant materials can save a lot of time and effort and is the best choice if you are not particularly fussy about what type of fabric you use etc.
If, however, you are very keen on a certain fabric or finish then you may be the best sourcing all the individual parts yourselves and then arranging them to be sent to a CMT factory to made into a sample initially and then possibly a production run afterwards.
8. You won't get it right first time, or even second
One thing we learnt very quickly is that no matter how much research and work you put into putting together your first sample or product line - you won't get it right the first time around, and probably not even second time around.
The key is to keep producing samples and small runs and continually improve the product without investing too heavily. Get swimmers to test out your products and use their feedback to improve on the next version - and never stop learning.
Just like any other industry, there are always new types of fabrics and methods for printing that can improve your products.
9. Men's swimwear is cheaper to make than womens
As you might expect, manufacturing men's swimwear is much cheaper than manufacturing women's swimwear. This is down to the fact there is much less fabric used and the pattern is usually pretty simple.
Women's swimwear can have lots of different cuts and come in all shapes and sizes whereas men are pretty straight forward.
10. It's very competitive
There are thousands if not tens of thousands of swimwear brands around the world. It is very very competitive, so make sure when you are launching the brand that you have found a specific niche within the market. Otherwise, you make find it difficult competing with established brands.
There are many sub-categories of swimwear such as training swimwear, casual swimwear, open water swimwear, maternity swimwear, eco-friendly swimwear etc. So think about where you sit within these categories, or, better yet create a new category of swimwear for which you are the first brand.
We make training swimwear and our difference is the investment we make in the patterns on our costumes, we invest a lot of time and money finding talented illustrators for our designs, what will your edge be?