How to Make a Swimsuit: From Concept to Cossie...
Fast fashion (the industry by which clothes are manufactured cheaply, quickly and in very high volumes) has made buying new clothes such an easy, almost thoughtless act, that many of us don’t even think about the process and the people involved in making the product.
However, as a brand which prides itself on making high quality products that both look and feel great, getting under the skin of this process has been really important. It's also allowed us to challenge standard industry ways of doing things to ensure our products are better, more innovative and more effective than anything else on the market.
So, how do you make a swimsuit?
Step One: Concept Development
Moodboards featuring colours & prints, style inspiration, vintage fashion pieces and architecture come together to form the back bone of the inspiration for our collections. Over multiple cups of tea, our Founder Rosie sketches our designs, annotating them with notes relating to fabric (colour, look, feel), structure and functionality (lift, support, stretch). We think extensively about the way we want you to feel in the products and the way that colour, shape, and style can affect that. These ideas are iterated and iterated until we have final working sketches of the designs we want to put into sampling.
Step Two: We pick our fabrics!
When making swimwear, it's not simply enough for us to select fabrics that are UV resistant, tested for chlorine resistance and durability in salt water etc. Whilst those things are important (very important), so too is look and feel. We want our swimwear to feel so comfortable that you look forward to putting it on, but we also want fabric that will work hard for you and give you good value for your money. So you can wash and wash and wash it, without fear of colour fading or chlorine resistance being impacted.
The fabric we've used for collections one and two is made from Econyl® yarn - a regenerated and recycled yarn made from consumer waste materials, such as fishing nets. We love the ocean-friendly dimension to this. But actually, this yarn also means your swimwear is twice as resistant to chlorine, oils, UV rays and more. So it's packing a punch.
Step Three: Pattern Making & Sampling
We work with a very experienced pattern cutter who transforms our sketches and concept drawings into a first draft pattern.
Once we have a pattern we begin the process of sampling and fitting – firstly creating a version of the product without the final finishings and detail, to check look, fit, hold and support. Details come later so we focus at this stage on whether the fundamental product is fit for purpose – do we like the shape and the style? Are the arm holes the right size? Is there enough support.
The sampling process typically goes through several iterations as we tweak the pattern and the products to get to the final, detailed prototypes that we are happy with.
Step Four: Grading
We've talked a lot about the process of grading in the past because it's one of the many ways that we differentiate ourselves from other swimwear and fashion brands.
'Grading' is the process by which a brand develops the different sizes offered in a range. In the fashion industry it is relatively standard practice to design products in the smallest size (so usually a UK 8 or an A cup in lingerie) and then for every additional size, centimetres of fabric are added to the different parts of the product to increase the size of the overall garment for the next size up. You can imagine that by the time the garment is a size 16 or an E cup it scarcely resembles the original product and certainly hasn’t been designed with a different body shape or size in mind.
Clearly this is a very cost effective way for large brands to ‘offer’ a wide range of sizes but it isn’t particularly intelligent and frankly, it just isn’t good enough. Instead we always grade in the middle of the size range, so for our launch range of products in sizes UK 8-16 we graded at size UK 12, and for our extended size range (sizes UK 18-24) we graded at size UK 20. This means that as we move up and down the size range, the design has been developed whilst thinking through the requirements of different size and shape bodies.
Step Five: Production
We produce all our swimwear in a small studio in East London. A happy place where Fleetwood Mac is usually playing, there's always a pot of hot coffee and where, thankfully for us as a small business, we are welcome to pop in on a regular basis to check in on how production is progressing. We pay a premium to manufacture in London (because London wages are still higher, despite Brexit, than equivalent factories in Portugal or Latvia or Romania) but we believe it's absolutely worth it because it allows us to guarantee the quality of the product as well as to know that the individuals who made your swimwear are well paid, working in a safe, controlled environments and treated fairly and openly.
Production is one my favourite parts of the process. When all the hard work comes together and finally you see the vision coming to life, at scale.
So, how do you make a swimsuit?
- We develop a concept and a vision
- We select the best fabrics for their look, feel and functionality
- We make patterns and samples, fit them and iterate
- We iterate, and iterate, and iterate.
- We grade the pattern to calculate the additional sizes needed
- We move to production and see the whole thing come to life.
It's a process that involves multiple parts and people and their skills. Whilst we manufacture in London and we're a British brand, we're proud too to use fabrics from Italy, elastics from Germany, to manufacture our products in a London-based factory run by Canadians and to sell our swimwear across the globe.So the next time someone asks you "who made your clothes", you can tell them.