January’s – ‘The Positivity Issue’ – Download Now
Creating well-considered cuts in sustainable materials; PALM is the ethically made-to-order brand crafting the swim essentials you need to know.
What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?
To be completely honest, I am not really a morning person. I am usually most creative at night and tend to be the most productive. Therefore, I like to start my mornings slowly by taking my dog Reggie for a walk to the park, whilst listening to music or a podcast. I then have my first coffee of the day at my favourite cafe before heading into the studio for the day.
What is at the heart of PALM’s DNA as a brand?
The focus for me has always been to develop PALM as a luxury sustainable brand. This means that ethical and sustainable principles are at the heart of everything we do. This is carried out throughout the design process, material selection, manufacturing and packaging as well as ensuring our staff and sewers are working in safe and fair conditions with a good living wage. Our core fabric is made from recycled Italian ECONYL® fibres which is a material regenerated from waste plastics and old fishing nets to create a nylon fabric that is fully and endlessly regenerable.
Your pieces are super flattering yet still supportive. How complex is it to achieve the perfect cut?
Thank you for your kind words! I am very happy to hear that. I spend a lot of time working with my team to find the balance between the perfect cut, support and just the right amount of coverage. When I create a new design, I work tirelessly with my team to sample, refine and perfect the fit. It’s a very time-consuming process but I want my designs to feel amazing on every woman, regardless of shape or size. We now have our own expert in-house production team who are dedicated to perfecting my designs. This has helped to make achieving the perfect cut much more attainable.
What has been the biggest hurdle since starting your own brand and how did you overcome it?
The biggest hurdle was finding the time in the day to manage all different aspects of the brand. Because we source all of our own materials and have our own in-house studio where all of our pieces are made to order, there is a huge amount of work to do. In the early days, I had to manage all of the different aspects of the brand myself with the support of my partner, Ben and my family. As the brand has grown, I have been able to build my team and find more time to focus on what I love best: design.
Do you have any mentors or guides and how does this help navigate the right path?
I haven’t had a ‘mentor’ as such. I would prefer to say that I have had a number of partners and collaborators whom I have learnt a huge amount from. Being an independent designer, a lot of what I have learnt has been through my work on every aspect of the business. Over the last seven years, I’ve developed close working relationships and friendships with photographers, models, graphic designers, artists and other independent designers. Creatively, this has been a huge source of support and inspiration and it has helped me to refine the concept of PALM. My biggest support has always been my partner Ben. Whenever, I need support I can rely on him to be there for me. I am also very lucky to have the support of my family and friends, as well as our amazing customers.
You operate a made-to-order approach- was this part of the business strategy form the outset and why?
When I started PALM, I saw first-hand, the huge amount of waste generated throughout the production process and was shocked. I discovered the huge environmental implications caused by fast, disposable fashion largely due to over-production, fabric waste, toxic dying processes and end of season deadstock that ends up in landfill. Not to mention the human cost of the fashion industry where workers in low-income countries were often subject to poor working conditions. I wanted to tread as lightly as possible on the environment and have a more positive impact on the people ‘behind the scenes’ who construct our designs. So, I decided to move towards a ‘slow fashion’ model that reduces our environmental impact. This led us to start producing our swimwear in-house with our own team of technicians to ensure that our designs are ethically manufactured, produce minimal waste and enhance our design process and quality. All of our swimsuits are only made upon order, allowing us to minimize waste by not making more than we need to.
You’ve partnered with the likes of Moda Operandi, Luisa via Roma and Bloomingdales. What is your approach to scaling the business?
I’ve always wanted PALM to be a natural choice for leading luxury retailers who appreciate high-quality garments and impeccable design. Our approach is always to focus on our core values. That means embracing ethical and sustainable practices to develop elegant, timeless pieces that are made to last. I am thrilled with the response we have had to the brand so far and am excited about the future. Our main objective is to keep pushing sustainability in the luxury sector.
Which colourways / designs have been most popular the globe over and was that a surprise?
We have a few key pieces that have been most popular and come in season exclusive prints. The viper is always a season bestseller, as well as the string Talise bikini and Cenit underwire. This season, our new Kelly bodysuit has been very popular. This has a beautiful rouched bra maillot and looks beautiful styled with a long wide leg pant or a printed silk skirt. Our hand-smocked pieces are also very unique. The fabric for our smocked pieces is carefully constructed in-house through a time-consuming process. No two pieces are ever identical making each one unique. My favourite new style in this fabric is the petite Kya triangle.
Which key PALM pieces outperform season after season sales-wise?
Overall, I would have to say the Viper bikini set is our current bestseller. Although it is one of our smaller pieces, it is versatile and comfortable and fits well on many women. Our long-term bestseller is the Maya Bodysuit. It is our modern take on the classic one-piece with clean lines and a scooping neck and back. We recently introduced a detachable Italian belt feature which has been hugely popular.
You have clients the globe over – do you see any buying patterns based on regions or countries?
Different styles tend to do quite well in different countries. In the US, Europe and Persian Gulf countries customers opt for more elegant and classic pieces such as the Cenit underwire top, Bruna ring bandeau and the side wrap Bella high-waisted bottom. Australians tend to gravitate towards our designs with less coverage for minimal tan lines.
What in this market is luxury?
In swimwear, it is the design, fabrics, accessories and construction that set luxury brands apart. At PALM, we prefer simple, elegant pieces with exceptional attention to detail and unique features. Many luxurious swimwear fabrics and accessories are manufactured in Europe. We are very selective about our fabrics and materials and we source all of our fabrics from Italy, choosing only those that are of the highest quality and are responsibly sourced.
How do you approach client engagement and retention?
At PALM, we offer a unique experience by producing our swimwear in-house and made-to-order. As we communicate this to our customers, it allows them to engage with our slow fashion and sustainable principles. Our aim is to engage our customers and to allow them to reconnect with the “making” process. We believe that our ethical and sustainable practices, alongside design, should underline a garment’s value. In the world of fast fashion today, we forget that clothes are made by people and that they utilise the earth’s resources in the process.
How has social media affected building PALM?
When we started PALM, social media (Instagram in particular) was becoming more and more popular for brands and advertising. I have always been quite digital-savvy so have always found these platforms easy to use. They have been pivotal with building our brand profile as we are able to directly communicate and engage with our customers all over the world.
Which Instagram accounts do you follow for inspiration?
I love following travel accounts, as well as interiors, conceptual florals and anything colourful. I find myself scrolling endlessly through @viancasoleil who lives on the beautiful Puro Island in the Philippines. Another one I recently discovered is @_mue_studio. Their images are surreal and other-worldly. I find them a little haunting, yet serene.
What advice would you give to your younger self starting out?
First of all, never underestimate the value of experience. Before I started PALM, I studied in design and worked in many different areas including marketing and administration. I was also open to any opportunity that I could intern within the fashion industry. I learnt skills from all of these industries that I can now apply at PALM. It is also very important to not rush the foundations of brand development. Take your time (even if it takes years) to really develop the essence of the brand, research your materials and suppliers and refine your designs. Having these strong foundations will set you apart.
If you had not launched PALM which other role would you choose career-wise?
When I started the brand in 2013, I had just started studying my Applied Science degree. I am particularly interested in environmental science and sustainability so I guess this would have led me to a role in environmental biotechnology or textile science. I have since been working towards my degree whilst simultaneously building PALM and am due to complete next year. As my knowledge in science has deepened, I have been able to integrate this into our sustainability practices.
This issue is ‘The Positivity Issue’ – how do you stay positive?
For me, exercise really clears my head as well as hiking outdoors or simply walking my dog in the park. Life in lockdown this year was tough and a real shock to the system. What it taught me was to be grateful for life’s simplest pleasures. It’s allowed me to look at the future with optimism and hope, knowing that I can reconnect with family and friends.
January’s – ‘The Positivity Issue’ – Download Now
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