WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Island Company is multiplying into an archipelago. From its humble roots as a small collection of bikinis, the swimwear company based here has expanded into men’s swimwear, women’s accessories and women’s and men’s T-shirts, polos and shoes and is now positioning itself as a lifestyle brand, according to chief executive officer, founder and creative director Spencer Antle.
“We’re looking to create a very branded and broad image, like a younger version of Tommy Bahama,” he said, estimating swimwear will account for only 10 to 20 percent of the business within the next five years. “Swim is too seasonal for real growth.”
As far as Antle is concerned, the island lifestyle he leads both personally and professionally can be applied to an endless array of business offshoots including a TV channel, linens, resort apparel, furniture and freestanding stores. His ambitious push called for relocation from a cramped office at the southern tip of Miami’s South Beach to a 3,000-square-foot studio and showroom on West Palm Beach’s Clematis Avenue, the city’s original main drag-turned-nightlife district. The lofty setting is decorated with sea grass throw rugs, British Colonial-inspired desks and beachy, white sofas favored by Bahamian residents. It serves as an image-conscious workplace for 12 employees.
“We launched in spring 2003 with just two people — myself and my girlfriend at the time who couldn’t find a basic, cute bikini that fit,” said Antle.
After playing around with fabric swatches online, he settled on a factory in Brazil, where the line continues to be manufactured, and introduced his first collection of 13 pieces. As a former TV ad director in Los Angeles, Antle didn’t have a day of fashion design experience to his credit.
“When designing, I just think of what I’d like to see on a girl and now on myself, too,” he said.
Antle reports the only reaction he seeks about his styling is how clean and classic it is. If something looks too sexy on the rack, he thinks it overwhelms the wearer or appears dated. The company focuses on simple prints like nautical stripes or midsized polkadots without embellishment, a lesson he learned his second season.
“Applications are a nightmare because they’re inconsistent and too trendy. This is more about your favorite timeless suit,” said Antle, who plans to show geometric patterns, retro stripes and French sailor looks at the Miami Swim Show in July. The line also exhibits at MAGIC, Surf Expo and ASR Trade Expo.
Signature styles such as triangle bikinis, halters and bottoms with corset side detail are equally basic and never feature underwire support or built-in cups. Concerned more with fit and ease, Antle creates true sizing in 0 to 12 and added an extra small for 2007 due to juniors’ demand. “Fit determines 95 percent of swimwear purchases,” he said, predicting total company sales of more than $1 million for 2006. “We’ve had 100 percent growth annually.”
Wholesaling in the low $40 range, the women’s swimwear collection is sold in more than 100 doors including Urban Outfitters; Everything But Water in Orlando, Fla.; Darien Sport Shop in Darien, Conn., and C. Orrico in Palm Beach, Fla. The collection is also available through the company’s Web site, islandcompany.com, which Antle reports brings in 20 percent of total sales of all the firm’s divisions.
In 2006, the firm introduced men’s boardshorts in subtle tropical or graphic prints because Antle and his resort accounts, like the Ritz-Carlton, couldn’t locate looks that weren’t too short, conservative or surf-inspired. During the Miami Swim Show, he plans to launch a small line of polo shirts in pastels with the company’s palm tree and star logo for $30 wholesale. The women’s fit is slim, while the men’s is loose. He’ll also use the event to launch beach bags in sailcloth with zipper closures for $22 wholesale. The bags sport the company’s “Quit Your Job” motto patch, and come in navy, white or pale pink.
“We gave away T-shirts with the motto to retailers at shows, and now they’re selling like crazy at $15 wholesale,” said Antle of the division that began production in 2006. Other shirts read “Escapist,” “Island Maniac,” or “Escape Travel Live.”
Growth continues with a 2007 collection of classically styled flip-flops in pastel colors with nylon mesh webbing, leather detail and rubber soles. Eight women’s and men’s styles wholesale for $22.
In 2008, freestanding stores are slated for Grand Cayman Island and Nassau in the Bahamas.