Arabella London is reinventing what swimwear means with carefully constructed pieces designed to be worn far beyond the beach. We spoke to the team about brand DNA and designing for women.
What do your first 30 minutes of the day look like, your morning routine?
I kick-start the working day with a strong cappuccino and one of the first things I’ll do is share a beautiful image on our Instagram @arabellalondon to inspire and excite our audience. I like to think this provides a little virtual vacation and light relief from the everyday. It puts me in a summer mindset – whatever the weather – dreaming of the better times and energised for the day ahead with a clear vision for the brand right from the get-go.
Selling swimwear online is not a simple operation – morning priorities for us involve working closely with customers to provide detailed fit advice and product suggestions depending on their body type. Maintaining a great brand-consumer relationship is paramount for us. Alongside this, as a small team we tackle all areas of the business in-house – from sourcing and product development to the marketing and PR activities – shipping and sales. Those 30 minutes are crucial in mapping out the workflow and priorities for the day.
What is at the heart of Arabella London’s DNA as a brand?
Swimwear that is as cleverly constructed as your finest lingerie. Our styles combine couture-like craftsmanship with ultra-sophisticated silhouettes made to go effortlessly from day to night (just add wide-leg pants or your favourite jeans for after-dark glamour). We are on a mission to instil every woman with vacation-ready confidence, and create swimwear that is exciting (and not nerve-wracking!) to slip into.
What has been the biggest hurdle since starting your own brand and how did you overcome it?
I’ve learnt that running a business never gets easier and ongoing challenges are part of the process. I used to think – as soon as you reach X, Y and Z – you’re sorted, but this isn’t the way it works. In the startup phase, I had every hurdle to contend with – creating a brand and business from scratch without any formal background in the industry – grappling with development issues, quality control, finding factories, multiple trial and error moments compounded with the stress of being a solo founder with all responsibility entirely on my shoulders. This was a passion project I was determined to make a success. Fast-forward a few years and we’ve secured world-famous retailers and we are growing so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. With every stage of growth, new challenges arise – now we have immense pressure to meet retail deadlines, scale production, keep innovating and keep our finger on the pulse whilst balancing a social life and getting a little sleep on the side!
Do you have any mentors or guides and how does this help navigate the right path?
People with a long-term mindset are worth listening to. Success doesn’t happen overnight and businesses take time to build. I’m fortunate to have a supportive family to turn to, along with other entrepreneurs I have met along the way for advice and direction. It is important to surround yourself with the right people who offer invaluable guidance and a new perspective.
Innovative design, close attention to detail and soft fabric choices have created pieces which bridge the gap between swimwear and ready-to-wear. Was this the goal from the outset? My university years at St Andrews were spent defying Scotland’s sub-zero temperatures which had me forever in a summer state of mind (I’m a beach girl at heart) – wardrobe staples like delicate bralettes and bodysuits paved the way for the sculptural bodies that bridge the gap between swimwear and ready-to-wear, transitioning from day to dance floor, beach to bar, spring to summer and autumn to winter.
Every piece in the collection notably has been crafted to have a transitional and transeasonal appeal. How do you achieve this and was there some trial and error?
Completely. It took two years to search the globe for the finest fabrics and ensure the designs were as functional as they are beautiful – we created more prototypes than you can imagine!
The fabrics are quick-drying, chlorine-resistant and woven from super-opaque microbes to protect you from harmful ultraviolet rays. However, these fabrics can also be used for activewear and ready-to-wear purposes thanks to the unique structure of the knit. They are ultra-light, allow for total freedom of movement, retain their shape and feel incredible against the skin. The fabrics are also special enough for after-dark including textured fabrics from France and Spain, metallic silver and plum lamé sourced from Como and the most striking glitter midnight blue that shimmers from every angle.
Defining details also make the pieces versatile. The scallop-edge detail on the Contour Swimsuit is ultra-glamorous and fit for evening wear, as is the Modern Bustier, which is perfect layered under a tuxedo jacket. More relaxed styles such as the Plunge Crop or One80 function equally well as T-shirt bras or comfy ‘swimtimates’ – underpinnings for the everyday.
What is your approach to scaling the business?
The goal is to continue to break into more and more luxury department stores worldwide. There is a huge market out there and potential for our product which is so exciting as we have only just scratched the surface. Our e-commerce business is going from strength to strength. I also consider Instagram as another store-front for us. This is growing exponentially – we recently reached 20K followers and we have never paid for a sponsored ad. The growth is entirely organic.
Why did you decide to design with cup-sizing and do you find this lowers the return rate?
Absolutely. Size abbreviations S, M, L provide no indication of the true size and there is no industry standardisation – each brand varies – making it even trickier to shop swimwear online. Aside from sizing the products in cup and dress sizes and our international size conversions, we also focus on design details to refine the fit, for example, tie-back fastenings on bikini tops which enable the customer to customise the fit (large cup, small body size or vice versa).
Which colourways / designs have been most popular the globe over and was that a surprise?
Our ‘Insta-famous’ styles such as the Modern Bustier and Contour Bra set in black paired with High Waist briefs are forever best-sellers. Customers are also loving the Bonbon baby pink and the Hyacinth blue at the moment which is a stretch-piqué base with a gorgeous honeycomb textured finish.
Due to the popularity of the Modern Bustier bikini, we developed the Bustier Bodysuit (a one-piece) as customers asked if we’d develop the design into a swimsuit. This piece is a new favourite – sculptural moulded cups and a dramatic peek-a-boo cutout are balanced by the signature wide, ruched straps. I wore this in London with my favourite Victoria Beckham flares and it was such a hit.
You’re stocked in some of the most prestigious stores such as Harrods and Selfridges – how did this come about?
Hard work and a great sales team – but also, having a relevant and in-demand product. Our sculptural designs offer customers with a unique perspective in a world of increasingly formless swimsuits. A buyer once described us as a ‘structured Eres’ which was an amazing compliment.
Which key Arabella London pieces outperform season after season sales wise?
The Contour Bra and Modern Bustier sets with High Waist Briefs in Ivory and Black can’t be beaten!
You have clients the globe over – do you see any buying patterns based on regions or countries?
Yes – it is really amazing seeing live views on the website from all over the world and shipping to new territories is so exciting. Outside the UK, the USA is our largest market. At the moment our pastel shades are selling really well for us, but we often find customers purchase a wardrobe-staple core colour such as black, navy or plum and come back for a splash of colour. The High Waist Briefs are more popular than our low-rise options and many customers try these for the first time and rave about the fit and feel.
What in this market is luxury?
Something special and rare. We have so many women come to us because they cannot find swimwear that is sleek, sculpting with sophisticated colours and patterns. They are tired of formless options and want something firm and flattering. Our pieces are thoughtfully structured, moulded and precision-cut to contour, support and complement natural curves. We combine exceptional quality and craftsmanship with unique design details and the finest European fabrics in order to create a product that will last and remain relevant season on season. I wore our dazzling glitter navy blue colourway in Ibiza and multiple women asked me over the course of the day, “Where is your bikini from?” With one woman commenting, “You look like a Bond Girl!”. That bikini made me feel just that! I hope others feel equally empowered in our swimsuits.
How do you approach client engagement and retention?
We have repeat customers year on year – often coming back for the same style in a new colour. However, we have exciting plans to bring exclusive perks and secret one-of-a-kind pieces to our Insta fans, customers and web subscribers.
How has social media affected building Arabella London?
It has been incredible for us. We have had style icons such as Negin Mirsalehi, Xenia Adonts, Lena Perminova amongst a multitude of others, wearing our pieces. We have had brilliant feedback on our choice of models which showcases our swimwear on a range of body types from size 4 – 16. Women can identify with the product they are buying.
Which Instagram accounts do you follow for inspiration?
Lots! But a few favourites are @Worldarchitecturedesign for incredible minimal and modern architecture, @Seehura evokes serious wanderlust and @Stuartcantorphotography who captures the mood and feel of the Amalfi Coast so perfectly.
What do you carry with you always when travelling?
My laptop (!) business never sleeps…
What advice would you give to your younger self starting out?
Good things take time. Trust your gut and look at the bigger picture.
If you had not launched Arabella London which other role would you choose career-wise?
Designing skiwear… perhaps.
This issue is ‘The Summer Escape’ – where would you like to escape to?
Santorini. I recently came across the hotel ‘Perivolas’ which looks truly gorgeous. An infinity pool, terraced gardens, epic sunsets and laidback luxury interiors incorporating the colour scheme of our 2020 collection – pastel pinks and lilacs. Super chic.
Pick up a copy of ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ or download it here.
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