A Swimwear Odyssey: How boring patterned swimsuits helped me start a successful swimwear business
It can be very daunting for a young swimmer or diver's parent, to choose a swimsuit from the many brands and styles now available.
When my girls started swimming it was really easy to choose between Speedo and Speedo and more Speedo and Zoggs. Speedo had the Endurance suits even back then, but mainly solid colours, maybe a few coloured lines and if you were really lucky, a printed front. Those suits lasted forever, from one daughter to the other and then sold on Ebay "in good order"! But the patterns were very limited and boring! We tried pretty patterned Zoggs, but the suits I bought weren't chlorine resistant and they just lasted less than two weeks, and we never went back to the brand (as it happened, nothing against it, I am just stating a fact!). So we stayed with the boring pattern suits, that is until I came across the Korean swimwear, which was represented by quite a few brands at the time: Tornado, Rally, Nequin, X-Blue, Kayvis and others, some of them still in business and thriving. And they were bright, bold and beautiful, and although only Xtra Life Lycra, pretty long lasting! By this time, my girls were club swimmers, so in training or competitions, everyone was admiring their suits! SO I thought, why not! Let's bring these pretty suits to the UK!
...and the race knee skins from Korea followed (Tornado, Rally and Korean TYR), and that was just before the FINA approved stamps appeared! After that, I imported some swimsuits and knee skins from Japan, mainly Mizuno and Japanese Arena which were also amazing quality and bright patterns! Weren't my girls lucky?! They still have some of their training suits that still fit from back then!
As my girls got in their teen years, and swimming lost it's appeal when the hard work started, my younger one decided to switch to diving (she was an Irish squad trampoliner, so it made sense!). Our young diving club and still the only in the country, DANI (Diving Academy of Northern Ireland) was just formed, so she joined them. Between their head-coach, Joan and myself (there was no committee and we even terribly annoyed an official at that time from our governing body, by fighting for this club to be formed), we came up with a club logo and club colours which are still the same to date! The DANI colours are red, gold and black, and it is only because of our first club swimwear!
Our first competition as a club was looming, so we wanted something outstanding. I approached a new Korean brand I was really keen on, Jkuss, and managed to order from them a beautiful design, which still is one of my favourites. My old customers will recognise everybody's favourite, the "Mummy" (as in Egyptian) suit! We used the design for the kit, as there were only a handful of divers then (all now late teens and twenties)! Now it would just not work to order a kit that way; so we are offering the sport clubs customised printed kits (right hand photo)!
That was the turning point for my business, as I started selling, nationwide and worldwide, online and on Ebay, the beautiful and outstanding designs of the designer Korean brand JKUSS. The orders from divers started coming in and I am so thankful to them that their custom kept me in the swimwear business. One of my Ebay customers even thought of copying me and start a Jkuss swimwear business himself, ordered large quantities of a handful of designs and though it will make him rich. Four years later he still has lots of the suits he initially bought on his website, as it's a harder business than initially thought to break in, with so many brands appearing every week.
I am proud to say that I know what my customers want; I know most of them by name; I can remember some of the designs they bought and what sizes they wear; if they prefer thick straps or thin straps; and when I go to competitions with the swimwear, I feel I am with family! I am so grateful to them, as most of my customers from seven or eight years ago are still my customers to date! I might be doing something right!
After travelling to South Korea to visit manufacturers in 2018, I introduced my "diving family" to two new brands: Hoog and TSNine, but Jkuss still remains a divers' favourite brand! Since attending the Eindhoven Diving Cup last year, my swimwear is the new favourite of Dutch, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, German divers; and as this year's Eindhoven Diving Cup approaches, I cannot wait to meet my last year's customers; gain new customers and make new friends from the wonderful diving family!