Evolution of the Swimwear market
From sweatshops to Ethical Swimwear manufacturers offering Sustainable and Eco friendly fabrics.
As I type these words, I pause for a moment. My attention turns to my daughter. She’s watching a movie on her smartphone. Her screen is smaller than the palm of my hand, which means I’d need prescription glasses to watch the movie. I’m 54. She says it’s a Korean detective series with english subtitles. She has a subscription to Netflix, an online platform that replaced television for 190 million people. I decide to take a break from writing. I look out the window. It’s windy with visibly dark clouds that suggest it may rain any minute now. It’s January 4th, 2021, the beginning of a New Year. I’m in a contemplative mood. I think of how things have drastically changed since I serendipitously stumbled upon the world of ecommerce and swimwear manufacturing almost 20 years ago. Two decades is a long time. I think I’m an industry veteran, or a dinosaur with a lot of experience. I’ll touch on the past but it’s the future that gets me excited because it’s becoming ever so clear with each passing day.
You see, I’ve had the privilege of serving hundreds of mothers, models, millennials and fashion entrepreneurs. I helped them navigate the world of wholesaling swimsuits, private labeling bikinis, and designing their own swimwear collections. Communication played an essential role in guiding them through this process. In fact, I estimate I’ve probably traded over 100,000 swim related emails over the years. But something significant has changed. The emails that arrive today are nothing like the ones I used to receive. I don’t have to look into a crystal ball to predict the future of the swimwear industry, it arrives in my inbox every day. It also arrives over the phone and through instant messages from potential clients. The future is never certain but if judging by the questions I receive is an indication of where the business of fashion is heading, I remain optimistic.
Here are some of the questions I often receive, but didn’t in the past.
- Are you a sustainable swimwear manufacturer?
- Do you offer eco-friendly swimwear fabrics?
- Are your swimsuits made with recyclable materials?
- Do you work with Econyl ® regenerated nylon or Amni Soul Eco® friendly fabrics?
- Do you recycle swimsuits and stock Eco Lycra®¹?
- Are you ethical in your business processes?
- Do you have an inclusive work environment and treat your employees with dignity and respect?
- Do you work with a sustainable supply chain?
- What are your working conditions like?
Values and Purpose
As you can see, the questions have a common thread. More than ever before, consumers vote with their dollars and shop more consciously. I see this with my daughters, their friends and of course in everyday purchases. People are fed up with the excesses and waste so prevalent in the fashion industry. A glut of global inventory left to rot and clothes so cheap they can be disposed of after wearing them just one time. It’s also becoming obvious how unnecessary it is for brands to produce multiple collections in the same year, also known as “fast fashion.” So there’s a shift from fast fashion to “ethical fashion.” This isn’t a new phenomena but it’s more pronounced today than ever before. Times are changing. People want to make a difference in the world, they want to stand for something and support a good cause such as protecting the environment or the wildlife. Of course, quality will reign supreme, but it’s now tied in with making a positive statement which becomes part of the brand’s ethos too. This is good. For instance, a brand’s image must evolve around having values or a purpose such as giving support to a disenfranchised community, highlighting the need for social inclusion or even position itself as the anti-brand.
Evolution of commerce:
From legacy brands to the brand called You!
Remember Victoria Secrets? Yea, they’re still around but their entire business model is in question. For one, they no longer produce and market swimwear. When news came out that they’d discontinue their swimsuit segment, it sent shockwaves in the fashion community and retail market. Nobody knows if or for how long they’ll continue to exist as a superbrand. Could they end up following the demise of other brands such as Gap, Guess and Playboy? Several reasons caused the shift away from superbrands but two factors played an important role, the rise of social media and access to thousands of manufacturers with just a click of a button, oh and at no cost. Because of this, new swim labels began popping up overnight, threatening mega-brands that have been around for decades. Some of the younger labels have attracted hundreds of thousands of followers on social media (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc…), and often have more fans than established and well funded brands. There’s truly a seismic change going on as we witness the decentralization of power away from superbrands to solo entrepreneurs. This is great because it gives more people an opportunity to express and monetize their creative abilities. I see this in the swimwear industry and it’s happening across all industries.
Above. Screenshot of Google organically ranking our swimwear offerings above Victoria Secret’s.
They no longer sell swimwear.
In 2015, I posted the following, “I have to thank the Internet whose power to connect and transform commerce never ceases to amaze me. Take for instance how my website appears on the first page of Google for the keyword phrase “Brazilian bikinis,” ahead of the largest American retailer of lingerie, swimwear and beauty products. Victoria Secret has sales of $6 billion and is located in 1035 stores. The Internet has essentially given most of you a microphone. Use it wisely and it can take you to places you’ve never imagined. I share this fact about the Internet because I’ll be embarking on a new online project that has no destination but a journey that has me super excited. Harness the Internet and it can serve you well. Go for it. Take the leap. It’s your turn.”
Of course traditional brands continue to influence fashion but their dominance and influence is waning as consumers question their ecological footprint, social commitment, ethical business practices and wonder what they do to make the world a better place. Times have changed. People now have the tools, knowhow and entrepreneurial courage to create their own brands which better represent their values and those of their friends and fans.
Suddenly this novelty of creating something and selling online was not only fun and doable, but could provide an additional source of income. People started designing their own swimwear collections. After all, why would they want to promote someone else’s brand when they could promote their own, especially when influencers had more followers than some of the recognized brands. And so the “selfie economy” started gaining momentum, solidifying the “me” or “selfie brand.” Now anyone could become a brand. Manufacturers had no choice other than to heed market demand or risk losing business. The market dictated a move away from the manufacturers’ superbrands to support their customers’ brand. This was particularly evident in the fashion industry. More and more manufacturers across all industries were beginning to offer white labeling, non-branded or private labeling options. Even grocery stores, mega chains and retailers jumped onto the bandwagon of offering private label alternatives that were cheaper and more profitable than carrying the big name brands. It hit critical mass around 2015 as social media and mobile usage grew exponentially. Today every aspect of our life is somehow touched by an online experience such as personal banking, remote learning, and Internet shopping to name a few. And of course, this includes my daughter watching a Korean drama series on her smartphone.
Higher Purpose. Support a cause and do good
Manufacturers had to adjust their manufacturing processes in order to accommodate their customers’ desire to do good for the planet and give back in their own little way. It became critical for manufacturers to implement sustainable business practices into their operations and processes from sampling to production. Take for instance the demand to source environmentally friendly textiles. Swimwear manufacturers had to seek fabric mills that offered eco-friendly options, fabrics that decomposed faster than traditional synthetic fibers or offer fabrics that were made from recycled sources. They turned to Fabric mills located in the US, Europe and South America such as Santa Constancia, Unifi, Carvico, Digitale Textile, Aquafil and Rosset. Sustainable processes and transparency became a selling point and if you didn’t offer that option you were no longer considered an attractive option to supply whatever you produced. I see this every day in the emails I receive and communications I have with prospective customers.
Further proof of how important it is for manufacturers or suppliers to offer sustainable options can be seen from what people search for online. Online searches for “responsible fashion brands” and “sustainable fashion” is up dramatically compared to previous years. And as all marketers know, anything we type into a search engine is an intention. Prospective buyers are making their intentions clear with words like eco-conscious brands, regenerated nylon, organic cotton, Econyl, or recycled polyester. There are even apps and websites that rate how ethical a particular fashion brand is. One such app is called “Good On You.” They’re a great example of how companies are and will be rated and reviewed by consumers- not just on quality of product, but also on their ethical business practices. They’ll be given scores on how kind they are to the planet, people and animals. This is the direction in which it’s all going. This isn’t a passing trend. This is the way forward and it leaves me hopeful.
People don’t just buy into the brand, but support the people behind the brand. I’m often asked what I’ve learned having played an integral part in the design, production and marketing of swimwear for almost two decades. It’s an easy question because I always reply with the same answer; that “people don’t just buy a product, but also the people and company behind the product.” You can’t have one or the other and be successful. In fact, clients are more demanding than ever before. It’s not enough to just offer an outstanding product. You have to offer way more than that. Customers expect you to provide fanatical support, be socially and ecologically responsible, adhere to ethical business practices, be transparent, and back your product with an awesome team that an employer compensates and treats fairly. I’m proud to say Mar Egeu Swim fulfills the above criteria in every way. With more than thirty years experience, we’ve designed and produced hundreds and thousands of glamorous swimsuits adorned by women of all ages and demographics.
More About Mar Egeu
Mar Egeu® is a family owned swimwear manufacturer based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, one of the top fashion capitals in the world. We have 30+ years experience in the fashion industry and specialize in the design and production of swimsuits and sustainable bikinis using eco friendly fabrics. You can expect turnarounds of about 8 weeks depending on the size of the collection. Join others who entrusted us with their project and successfully launched their own swim label. We’ll help you every step of the way like we have for 100s of startups. You can choose to wholesale our ready made swimsuits, private label our bikinis or custom design your own swim label. Partner with our full service capabilities, from design to prototyping (sampling) to production and qualify for reasonable MOQ’s (minimum order quantities) compared to most in our industry. We’re transparent, fanatical about customer support, and ethical in how we work. These factors in addition to sourcing the finest fabrics in our industry make us a perfect choice for those thinking about starting their first swim collection or even for more experienced designers. Let’s get started.
Mar Egeu®. Born in Brazil. Revered World-wide
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Sustainable companies and fabrics mentioned in the article.
The Econyl® regenerated nylon is made from ocean and landfill waste such as industrial plastic, fabric scraps, and fishing nets. Reusing nylon to make Econyl reduces the global warming impact of nylon by 80% compared to materials produced from oil.
Amni Soul Eco® technology is part of a new generation of sustainable yarns manufactured using environmentally-friendly processes. Amni Soul Eco ® polyamide (nylon) yarn is recyclable and biodegradable. It enables garments to quickly decompose when they are discarded and left in landfills. Its unique composition allows bacteria to gain access to and digest waste materials, thus accelerating the biodegradation process. Amni Soul Eco® is eliminated from the planet in about 5 years, whilst other fibres can take decades to decompose. It has a short synthetic life and therefore more eco friendly.
SantaConstancia® Ecologically friendly fabric mill with decades of experience.
Santa Constancia: Eco tags that affirm responsibility towards the environment
and good environmental practices in the supply chain.
Digitale Eco Super Microfibers made with 100% post-consumer recycled PET bottle yarn. Certified by GRS (Global Recycling Standard).
¹Lycra®. Is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity and shape retention. It goes by the name of Spandex in North America and Elastane in many parts of Europe.
The Rosset® Group is the largest textile company in Latin America that produces Lycra® fabrics.
²OEKO-TEX ® Santa Constancia has its fabrics tested for harmful substances and if approved, certified by OEKO-TEX, an international and independent research company.