Most of us have at least one drawer brimming with bathing suits, all shapes and sizes, many of which would never hold up to swim workout. And, lets face it – when we reach for the one suit for the laps it usually serves more of a utilitarian purpose than one befitting the style of the chic swimmer.
So, here’s something for the fashionably athletic femme it’s called Lo Swim, designed by Sarasotan Annie Babicz and her biz partner Sheeva van Gemeren, both of whom are legit former competitive swimmers who were forced to leave their style at the locker room door. And, it’s working. The Lo Swim collection is a major hit with competitive swimmers around the country not only for the design but the quality as well.
Tell us about your path to designing athletic beachwear…
My business partner Sheeva van Gemeren and I grew up as swimmers and swam competitively through college. We met after college, and had a shared feeling that feminine, fashion forward swimwear was largely absent from the world of competitive swimming.
Although neither of us have design backgrounds, we cut up our old suits, and pieced together the first prototypes of our Original Training Bikini – which combined feminine and beach-inspired details into a suit that functioned for intense workouts. We used leftover scholarship and babysitting money to fund our first order of suits, and haven’t looked back! 4 years later, we are now both full time employees of our own company (we quit our "day jobs" in May of 2013), and have a huge year in front of us.
During the early stages in deciding to start Lo Swim, we were talking to a fellow swimmers who said “Men perform well in order to feel good about themselves, and women need to feel good about themselves in order to perform well” – this sentiment was a HUGE inspiration for us to launch the brand, and has remained a motivating factor throughout our journey.
How did that evolve into hair ties and headbands?
Our line of Lollies hair ties and headbands happened as an accident. In order to add color to an all black swimsuit photo shoot, we started cutting up old books of fabric and braiding strips together to wear on our wrists and in our hair. At the time, I was coaching swimming, and as soon as my swimmers saw them on my wrist, they were obsessed! Sheeva and I were braiding non-stop for months to keep up with demand from friends, family, and local swimmers, so eventually we turned production over to our suit manufacturer. Lollies are made with new and remnant swimsuit fabric, and we sell them in several small boutiques, on our website, and through our fundraising program that benefits sports teams.
There must be a level of difficulty in designing for more than one body type, how did you overcome that hurdle?
Since we specialize in designing for athletes, we started designing around body types with which we are familiar – the “swimmer” body of strong shoulders and back, and a small waist – using swimmer bodies as our muses. From there, we focused on adjustability. All of our suits have multiple points of adjustment (shoulder and back straps and draw-cords in the tops and bottoms), so that fit can be customized for many different body types.
What do you like about running your business from Sarasota? What's your favorite part about our city?
Although I no longer live in Sarasota, it has served as an inspiration for me. I grew up swimming for Sarasota YMCA Sharks, which fostered my love for swimming – and playing at Siesta Key beach, which fostered my love for swimwear. Lo Swim combines the two loves of beach and pool, and we are hoping for our next photo shoot to be at Lido Pool, the perfect location to showcase the collision of the two worlds!
My favorite parts of Sarasota are the beach and the weather. I love warm, balmy nights and the intense summer thunderstorms.
Speaking of Sarasota, we love an earnest fundraiser for a good cause – tell us about your Lo Swim fundraising opportunity and who can participate?
Since sports (particularly swimming) played such a huge role in our lives, we wanted to give back in some way. After seeing the excitement behind our hair ties and headbands, we created a fundraising platform similar to the Girl Scout cookie model. Open to any sports team or girls organization, we provide groups with bags of our hair accessories for each participant to sell, and offer prizes to the highest seller. We donate 25% of proceeds back to the team to help them fund travel trips, equipment, scholarship funds, or whatever cause they need additional funds for! Not only does the money raised benefit the team, but the kids involved gain a sense of pride in seeing a direct result of their work, and we’ve witnessed some truly amazing entrepreneurial sales tactics!!
What’s next for the Lo Swim collection?
We are anxiously awaiting our Summer 2014 collection, which will be available in May and will more than quadruple our product offering. Since we are self-funded, our product offering has been relatively small for the past few years, but we are introducing 14 new colors, and 3 completely new styles.
We plan on introducing new color palettes and product lines twice per year from here on out, and plan to continue our quest in empowering female athletes to feel great while working hard – both in and out of the pool.
Click here to read Heather's Fashion IQ in our January issue. >>