LONDON — You would think that during the year of little to no travel, swim and resort labels would take the biggest hit. Who would buy a new bikini if they can’t go the beach?
It turns out, the scores of women who wanted to take in the sun from their gardens or balconies during the U.K.’s lockdown; Chrissy Teigen while cooking and tending to her children at home, and Instagram’s biggest fashion personalities, from the Kardashian clan to Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Hailey Bieber, as soon as they managed to escape to a warm destination.
In many cases, their swimwear of choice was by Hunza G, a London-based label known for its vibrant colors and stretchy, one-size-fits-all materials.
The small label — which was originally known as Hunza in the ’80s and was behind the famous blue and white cutout dress Julia Roberts wore in “Pretty Woman” — had been on an upward trajectory long before the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We were growing quite rapidly, around 50 to 60 percent year-on-year. But we thought there would be a massive slow down for us, being a swimwear brand, when the pandemic hit. Yet the minute we went into lockdown last March, our sales went through the roof and it’s been continuous ever since,” said Georgiana Huddart, who brought the brand back to life as Hunza G in 2014.
The label has experienced 233 percent sales growth across its own e-commerce channels, while sell-throughs at wholesale tend to be upward of 98 percent.
The brand’s “swimwear for all” ethos clearly is working.
“People love the heritage aspect, and I think the one-size approach is just amazing for women. There’s nothing better than everyone being able to shop for the same product whatever size or body shape you are,” Huddart said. “The universal feeling that everybody is allowed to buy into it and feel good wearing it because it’s flattering has been a huge part of [the brand’s success].”
Huddart still uses the original stretchy, crinkled fabric the brand was known for in the ’80s to make the label’s now-famous one-piece swimsuits and bikinis, in an array of joyful, sorbet shades. She has also been developing new materials in-house, including a ribbed Nile fabric that has the same ability to stretch and fit every body shape. A new “flat” version of the Nile fabric, without the ribbing, is also in the works.
It’s always been about the fabric for Huddart, who used to play dress up in a red version of the famous “Pretty Woman” dress as a teenager. In her early 20s, she’d scour vintage shops across Europe to find Hunza pieces from the ’80s and even made her own samples, to wear to festivals and parties, when she managed to get her hands on some crinkle fabric.
“I was always obsessed with the fabric. It was so nostalgic and you could no longer find it anywhere, apart from eBay. But for me, it was just such a no brainer: It was so flattering, it was one size and no one was doing it. Swimwear at the time was either very glitzy or all about the surfer vibe, there wasn’t anything that was fashion-led and comfortable,” said Huddart, who then managed to locate Hunza founder Peter Meadows and relaunch the brand with a 21st-century spin.
This meant creating a more sleek, contemporary image, fit for a London-based label. For as many beach shots on the label’s Instagram feed, you’ll also find images of women wearing their swimsuits with jeans or turning the brand’s crinkle minidresses into their pregnancy go-to’s, “because it’s the only thing that fits.”
Huddart added that the label’s ready-to-wear, which includes the famous “Pretty Woman” dress as well as halterneck and tank dresses, miniskirts and shorts, has been picking up steam in the last year.
The idea is to still keep the offer tight, but slowly introduce new items. A new “fashion piece” is set to launch this fall, while this summer the label is also launching a children’s range, as well as towels.
“They’re really fun, branded towels and it’s not that high of a price point, so people can just have a nice add-on,” added the designer, who is adamant on keeping price points accessible, even as hype and demand increase.
“It almost costs us the same amount to make the kids’ wear as it does to make the collections for grown-ups, meaning we are actually making much less of a profit on the kids’ wear or barely a profit. But I feel really strong about keeping the prices within the same bracket,” she added. “We sit quite low on most of our retailers’ websites in terms of price point, and we are sustainable and made in the U.K., but that also explains why our sell-through rates across the board are 98 to a 100 percent with most retailers. Part of that is definitely the people that can afford to buy it and feel good about their purchase, because it’s one size, it’s sustainable and not a crazy price.”
As the company grows, Huddart is also working to increase its production capabilities to cater to both its wholesale and direct-to-consumer businesses, while keeping it all local to the U.K. She also makes a point to differentiate between the two parts of the business, by offering most wholesale clients the opportunity to order in a “semi-bespoke” manner and pick exclusive styles and colorways.
As travel resumes, the brand is expecting to have another good round this summer — but the ultimate goal for Huddart is for all women to feel welcome in the Hunza G community, be it a supermodel; somebody who is a size 16, or Kim Kardashian West, who picked many of the label’s bikinis for her private island birthday celebrations last year.
“If you look at our Instagram, you’ll find celebrities wearing Hunza G, but 80 percent of it is our regular customers. And even [in the case of] the celebrities, they’ve most likely bought it themselves because we don’t gift too much. We might send a thank you after someone has bought into and supported the brand, but we don’t make enough profit on a sustainable item to just give it away the whole time. Plus gifting makes everything a bit inauthentic and inaccessible. Why would customers want to pay for the product, if everyone on Instagram is getting it for free?” Huddart said. “I’ve never really loved the idea of things being really exclusive or inaccessible to certain people — and the world just doesn’t work like that now.”