Tell us a bit about yourself/your background.
I have always been creative; my interests have focused on the art world, from fine arts to fashion since I can remember. As a child, I used to find any excuse to draw, to sketch, to write, whenever and wherever I found inspiration. At University I studied Art History, where I developed my eye in new ways – critical thinking, interpreting texture, application, tone, and colours. I take such pleasure in the art of design, especially in swimwear. This story starts on the beach. As the sun set and women went on to their next venue, swimwear was completely covered up and became uncomfortable underpinnings for a new outfit. The freedom and spontaneity that should encompass a holiday was restricted by their wardrobes. I began to re-imagine swimwear from a new perspective as a transitional – and – transeasonal garment, not just for beach days but designed for the everyday.
Did you always see yourself designing swimwear? And had you always wanted to start your own business?
I always envisioned working for myself or doing something different, something unique and special. Entrepreneurial traits have always been an intrinsic part of my personality; I think mainly it came down to trusting my intuition, taking a risk and going down the path of swimwear design. It wasn’t such an easy journey; I faced a lot of negative responses from people when I shared my ideas. I think they perhaps thought it could be a phase, like so many young women have. But, people attempting to instill this fear in me, only generated stronger feelings of passion. Yes, I knew it was going to be terrifying, at times difficult, but I knew I had to succeed; to make a difference in the fashion world and feel that immense sense of achievement once success had come into fruition. I knew whole-heartedly that this was my journey (especially after hours on end for months, slowly creating life through sketching all the ideas I had in my head).
I often reminded myself, when times got tough, of Van Gogh’s wise words. He said: “Normality is a paved road, it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow”. I was determined to build my dream. I didn’t want to attempt to generate someone else’s and always think: What if? It’s now or never, I used to tell myself. Go for it! And so, I did, and it was the best decision I could have ever made. No regrets.
Who is the Arabella London woman?
The beauty of having started with e-commerce is the ability to learn about the woman who’s visiting, browsing or buying. My customer base is global – alongside the hub of the UK, I’ve been shipping to Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, USA, Israel, Hong Kong and Australia.
The woman? She’s the new mother looking for something to shape and sculpt her, the bride-to- be lusting after that must-have honeymoon bikini, a mother buying for a daughter… Interestingly, the buyer can also be He; a man treating his partner. The Arabella London woman appreciates excellent quality, a good investment, and enjoys a taste of luxury.
What inspires your designs? What is the brand about / what inspired you to do swimwear?
My determination to build a brand lay far greater than simply my deep-rooted love for the beach, sun, European summers and life spent in a bikini. Being a bandeau, longline bra and bodysuit enthusiast –whatever the weather – I began to re-imagine swimwear as an extension of my own wardrobe. I stripped it aside from its traditional context and wanted to create swimwear designed to function “beyond the beach”.
To design a collection of wardrobe staples, rather than seasonal styles. The more relaxed pieces can be worn as “swimtimates”, layered under the everyday. The more sophisticated styles can be worn right through the evening. Sourcing fabrics with combined swimwear, activewear and ready-to- wear properties really brought this dream to life and the brand captures a new space within the swimwear market.
What is the best part about owning your own business?
Working on something I’m absolutely head over heels about every single day (and night!)
What are your goals for the label?
I see the brand becoming globally recognised and held by the iconic luxury retailers around the world – opening a store of my own is another [day] dream! But for the time being, I’m moving the brand into retail, and continuing to create swimwear that makes women feel sensational. I’ve had requests from customers around the world, waiting with anticipation when the new lines will be introduced. It’s an amazing feeling! All is looking very promising, so as we grow, I will be excited to expand my determined team so we can share the exciting journey!
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming designers?
1) You don’t need to be an ‘expert’ to begin – you just need to have the vision, passion and persistence. Early on, I felt inferior as I didn’t have a fashion degree. But, I came to realise many people who study fashion never become fashion designers. And, vice versa… Life is what you make it, and if you are self-taught, you acquire immeasurable knowledge – you don’t stick to strict rules, and you are flexible to be creative and innovative – to do things the way you see them. The world can be your oyster when you believe in yourself. Nothing’s impossible.
2) Good things take time. Don’t rush. I started the business at 23 and launched it at 25. If my brand had launched earlier, I’d have an unrefined first draft. My advice would be to wait until it’s polished and perfected and you are proud of it. Then, you are ready. Those two years are the best times, and they were the life investment I made. Be patient: delayed gratification is something I live by.
3) Don’t dig up in doubt what you planted in faith. As the Founder of a start-up, the first person who has to believe in your idea is you. You will be your first backer, support system, defender, mentor and cheerleader. People will grill you, knock it and criticise, so develop that tough skin and in those moments of doubt, remember why you started.