Strong women carve out swimwear niche

TWO LOCAL SWIMWEAR DESIGNERS ARE MAKING NAMES FOR THEMSELVES

TWO LOCAL SWIMWEAR DESIGNERS ARE MAKING NAMES FOR THEMSELVES – ONE AMIDST THE CHALLENGE OF A DEVASTATING MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS DIAGNOSIS AND INTENSIVE TREATMENT IN RUSSIA, THE OTHER INSPIRED BY A FAMILY BRUSH WITH MELANOMA.

Establishing a business as a new designer in the competitive swimwear industry is no easy task.

That’s why the Gold Coast Swim Fashion Festival’s (GCSFF) emerging designer program, with its extensive industry training and mentoring by the best is so important, as is the camaraderie amongst the designers who work to collaborate rather than compete.

Amongst the current crop of 15 designers being assisted by the program is one determined woman who really deserves and appreciates the helping hand.

With two young daughters, a devastating MS diagnosis in 2013 might have put an end to Robyn Surmon’s fledgling children’s swimwear business – instead her business and health are now going from strength to strength.

“I almost feel like I don’t have MS anymore, and the business is going along really well too,” says and upbeat Robyn.

Tayla-lu is motivated by my own two girls and wanting to design swimwear that is funky and fun, particularly adding the accessories to go with the swimmers to create a whole outfit.”

In February 2015 Robyn made the difficult and expensive decision to head to Russia for stem-cell treatment that is still considered experimental and won’t be available in Australia for several years, pending clinical trials.

A gruelling 5 weeks of treatment saw Robyn endure intensive chemo-therapy and lose her hair, and when she returned to Australia her totally depleted immune system saw her fall victim to a virus that put her in hospital for a further 3 weeks, before a slow and challenging recovery.

“It’s been a long haul, but it is a small price to pay for my health. My MS was progressing pretty quickly and I just couldn’t wait for treatment to be approved in Australia. It has halted the progression of the disease and some other Australians who were in wheelchairs before doing the treatment in Russia are now walking again.”

Now a single Mum, Robyn is hoping 2016 will be her year and is looking to the GCSFF’s trade fair to open up further expansion opportunities – finding stockists beyond the existing six Queensland and two Sydney based outlets who sell her product, and helping her build her burgeoning on-line business within Australia and overseas.

“Everyone has been very supportive (through GCSFF) and the social media training in particular was really helpful. I’m confident we have found our niche at a mid-point price range – all the swimwear is rated UPF 50+ for sun protection and the designs are stylish so girls, particularly fussy tweens, actually want to wear them.”

 

Sun-safety is the inspiration for fellow Mum Kate Davis-Steer, who is well aware of the dangers of the harsh Australian sun, with her mother having been diagnosed with multiple skin cancers.

Her own daughter’s questions about why she wasn’t wearing a ‘rashie’ were enough to motivate her business-brain and design savvy to establish SunSoaked, and to use the business as a vehicle for sun-safe awareness and fundraising for the Melanoma Institute.

SunSoaked is about providing stylish sun-protection for women starting with swim-shirts and branching out to full swimwear outfits,” says Kate.

With a design and fashion background, Kate set out to re-invent the traditional masculine and sporty rashie, turning her attention to what women wanted – that sense of style while being sun-safe, beautiful fabrics and a long-lasting product.

“We use fine Italian lycra which is lightweight but rated UPF 50+ and chlorine-resistant to reduce perishing over time,” says Kate.

Matching fuller, yet flattering swimwear as well as swim shorts help women feel comfortable and fashionable with particular appeal in certain luxury Muslim markets where the designs are being paired with headscarves and tights to create chic yet modest swimwear ensembles.

Without naming names, Kate was thrilled to have a member of the Dubai ruling family purchase several items from her collection. 

With stockists in every Australian state including in exclusive resorts like Hayman Island and Cable Beach in Broome, the US and Dubai markets beckon for expansion.

Closer to home it’s about continuing to support the sun-safe message and the local swimwear design sector. Kate helps organise the annual Melanoma March in Brisbane, amongst other fundraising initiatives for the sun-safe cause, and happily supports other designers as much as she appreciates advice from others.

“I like the idea of women supporting other women – there is more of a sense of community, particularly amongst the GCSFF designers,as in fashion generally people can be closed books,” says Kate.

“I’m really motivated by the reactions of some of our customers, particularly those who’ve survived skin cancer and melanoma and just ordinary women who are happy to have found swimwear they feel good in. That’s pretty special.”

Tagged: #goldcoastswimfashinfestival, #swimwear, #resortwear, #summerfashion, #bikini, #swimmodel, #goldcoast, #Australia, #moregoldcoast.com, #kidswear

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