A suitcase full of swim briefs — eight solid and four striped — has become the tipping point for one of luxury swimwear’s fastest-growing labels.
Solid & Striped, founded by Isaac Ross in 2012, has since grown to maintain a list of 400 global stockists — and that only accounts for half of the brand’s overall sales. The other portion comes direct-to-consumer, cultivated via the happy-go-lucky, fashionable personality that the brand articulates online.
While launched as a men’s brand, Ross expanded into the women’s market four years ago. Ladies’ sales now account for more than 90 percent of revenue, which Ross attributes to “the fact that women buy swimsuits at phenomenal rates. I am a man with a swimsuit company and only own two suits. Most women I know bring two bathing suits with them per day they are on vacation.”
His line is marked by a streamlined, classic aesthetic that avoids the novelty embellishments and complicated cuts that had previously populated the swim market. “I saw neon Neoprene and eight color prints. I saw lots of embellishments and I wanted to have a more stripped-down product that’s still fun but a little more undone,” he said of the brand’s founding principles.
Ross has also capitalized on Internet culture — collaborating with Instagram-beloved brands like Re/Done and Staud on their first swim designs, enlisting Rihanna’s stylist Mel Ottenberg for promotional imagery (that also resonates online), and creating “Swim Team” campaigns featuring an army of social media powerhouse models. For him, the next challenge is to build a more seamless e-commerce experience.
“I want to be better at what we already do. I want to give people a better digital experience, I want to expand our footprint and be a globalized brand — but globalized and localized at same time,” said Ross. “I don’t think we’ve scratched surface on a personalized web experience. Does a woman who is 40 and lives in Beverly Hills want to be served the same web experience as someone who is 18 and lives in New York? I think that is where the world is going.”
Ross — who worked at the William Morris Endeavor and MC Saatchi agencies prior to launching the line — declined to provide sales numbers. In 2013, Ross sold a minority stake in the company to Chris Burch.
Solid & Striped has gone on a hiring spree of late — recently tapping an e-commerce executive from Yoox to improve its own online domain. It has also hired creative director and girl-about-town Cassie Coane as marketing director. Next season, Solid & Striped will undergo a redesign, overseen by new design director Amelia Lindquist — a textile expert who has previously made her own mark on swim with indie line Solarium.
Lindquist will also help execute Solid & Striped’s new mode of commerce — which replicates the streetwear market’s hype-inducing drop system. “It’s very exciting, the way we are doing collections in 2019. In the past, I think we did a good job at making product that fit our overarching brand tone and aesthetic. Moving forward, we are spending much more time on powerful concepts. Each individual drop that we do will fit an overarching brand aesthetic, but what the customer gets is a much more differentiated product assortment. I think we will be putting things into the market that people are really excited by,” Ross noted.
These are only a portion of Solid & Striped’s expansion plans for 2019. Ross says he has a vested interest in categories with “repeat purchase opportunity.”
As such, the company will launch a beauty offshoot next year, with a line of sun care and skin care. “To me there was a good opportunity to make product that was thoughtful. When you put on a bathing suit, the next thing you usually put on is sunscreen, so it felt like a natural fit for us,” he said. A range of ready-to-wear will also be tested — with a line that Ross prefers to call “clothes you can take on vacation with you if you want to.”
“Ready-to-wear sounds so serious to me. We are a swim brand — it’s supposed to be fun. It’s fun to work on something that doesn’t take itself as seriously as fashion does.”