Who cares, right? Consumers do. According to data compiled by the U.K.-based retail technology firm Edited, the 18-year-old’s fondness for posting photos in itsy bitsy black bikinis this past summer corresponded with a 27 percent increase in swimwear arrivals at 22 fast-fashion retailers, including Forever 21, H&M, Asos and Boohoo.
What’s more, full-priced sellouts of swimwear grew by 238 percent in July.
But what about the women who don’t feel comfortable shopping for two-piece suits in stores that sell them for less than $20? Even if they have no qualms about the low price, they oftentimes don’t trust that the material will hold up and offer the fit and support that they need.
“Swimwear is a very difficult purchase for a lot of women. It brings up a lot of emotions,” said Jen Resnick, founder of Wala Swim, an e-commerce site that launched last May to offer women a tightly edited selection of swimwear from brands that focus on fit.
Having grown up in the industry (her parents own several swim and lingerie stores for which she’s done most of the buying in the past few years), she’s well-versed in the woes of the dressing room. That’s why she decided to take her fit expertise online.
“It’s a very rewarding thing to find brands and products that cater to the different needs of every woman’s body,” Resnick said.
Consumers browsing Wala Swim can choose to shop by brand, style or fit, the latter of which is helpfully filtered by such tags as “underwire support,” “bust booster” and “anti-muffin top.”
“I based the fit guide off of my time in swimwear fitting rooms because there’s a big pattern to the way people shop for swim,” she explained, adding, “In my own experience, people tend to come in with things they do like or don’t like about their top, middle or bottom, so the fit guide was put together largely based on separating those issues.”
Perception of sizing is another hot topic she aims to address. “Forget any notions you have about numbers, especially for what we do,” she said, noting that most people tend to go up one full size for swim based on what they are in apparel—a major mistake. “Even if it’s marginally too big it’s going to do nothing for your body.”
And given that Wala Swim carries an assortment of brands sourced from all over the world, there’s no such thing as standard sizing on the site. Select styles from the likes of Australian labels Jets by Jessika Allen and Seafolly appear alongside U.S.-based Karla Colletto, Eberjey and Mara Hoffman, as well as the Brazilian Cia Maritima and the Belgian Prima Donna, among others.
“I have a longstanding relationship with a lot of these vendors but we don’t walk into a manufacturer and buy the whole collection. We really cherry pick,” Resnick shared, pointing out that the site launched with just 147 suits. “The underlying message being that we’re curating very tightly based on what we see as the best. Even as we grow and pick up new brands we’re always going to keep that number in check.”
Retailing from $54 to $325, these suits and separates aren’t cheap, but as Resnick said, “If the price points are elevated it’s because of the caliber and quality.” Karla Colletto, for instance, hand manufactures and hand cuts every suit in Virgina, from a high density Xtra Life Lycra fabric imported from Italy.
You get what you pay for, basically.
“For us, it’s really nice when things are trending that are also very fit focused,” she said, noting that athletic-inspired looks, like sports bra-esque bikini tops, have been doing well on the site. “High necks, athletic tops and bra top closures are really great for us because they’re very helpful in the fit market. Those trends allow us to piggyback our concept on theirs.”
One thing that’s surprised her since setting up shop a few months ago is that a lot of online shoppers spend more—most likely because Wala Swim offers free shipping, free returns and free home try-ons.
“There are a whole lot of double-sized purchases and multiple style purchases. People are scouring the site to see what could potentially work and then treating their home as a fitting room,” she said.
And while Resnick has no plans as yet to open a brick-and-mortar store, she does intend to offer personal shopping appointments in the company’s New York City showroom in the lead up to Thanksgiving, giving consumers the chance to touch and feel the collections before they buy.
She added, “We’ve definitely been getting a diversified audience, from people that are looking for better quality and style to curvier women that don’t have an easy shopping experience walking into a lower-priced store and need to put the emphasis on a certain aspect of fit.”