This story goes out to all of the female aquatic athletes who inspire us. Ever experienced the struggles of wearing a swimsuit that won’t stay in place if you do anything other than lay on the beach?
Think about this frustration -- now imagine being a professional swimmer who repeatedly accelerates off pool walls to turn around, an elite diver who crashes headfirst into the water dozens of times a day, or a surfing pro who is routinely engulfed by mountainous ocean waves.
Bathing suits are often no match for physics.
“We noticed that cute, trendy swimwear couldn’t always keep up with the high activity level of many women. It definitely caused a restrictive problem for anyone who wanted to wear a two-piece suit,” says Mallyce Miller, Creative Director at Jolyn, a Southern California-based swimwear company for female athletes. “When these women train, they need their suits to stay in place.”
The high-impact nature of watersports significantly reduced women’s viable swimwear options. The field of athletic suits was often unimaginative, filled with silhouettes that didn’t always take the variation of women’s bodies into account.
Jolyn’s founder, an ex-beach lifeguard, saw an opportunity to bring life and creativity into these designs.
Killing Two Birds with One Swimsuit
The gap Jolyn spotted in the swimsuit market was twofold.
Not only were two-pieces not living up to women’s basic activity requirements, but high-level female athletes lacked fashionable and flattering swimwear options designed with their training needs in mind. It was high time for style to meet substance.
In 2007, the physical aspects of this vision started to take shape. After extensive testing among top-level swimmers, water polo players, and lifeguards, Jolyn’s founder decided to create the suits out of a high-quality, Italian-crafted fabric.
The company’s members also felt strongly about having Jolyn suits manufactured in the USA, hoping to one day have the suits be worn by athletes representing the United States at top competitions. Jolyn also developed their first signature suit design -- an adjustable tie-back top.
“It was that first tie-back two-piece training suit that really put us on the map,” Miller recalls. “No one had ever seen anything like it used at the pool deck. It was our signature piece and really turned heads. ”
A new breed of swimsuit was born. Unfortunately, though, the world wasn’t initially convinced.
Shops refused to carry the suits, citing that the design was too unconventional and doubting its effectiveness.
Before Jolyn broke the mold, female athletes trained in fixed-back swimsuits, meaning that the athlete couldn’t adjust them. However, being able to loosen and tighten training suits seemed to resonate with athletes. “They loved being able to adjust them,” Miller says. “Our tops were accommodating to a large range of torso volumes and were designed with comfort in mind.”
For two-piece suits, Jolyn’s bottoms included drawstrings that athletes could adjust for the perfect fit. “The addition of a drawstring really helped athletes keep their bottoms from coming off,” Miller says. “Despite looking nothing like a conventional training suit, our suits stayed put.”
“The Jolyn brand has always been about offering a huge range of solid colors, prints, and designs,” Miller says. “Just because you’re an athlete training hard doesn’t mean you can’t also be stylish and look great while you’re doing it. No woman is exactly like another, so why should their swimwear say otherwise?”
Olympic Bound Swimsuits
“You can’t take it personally,” Miller says of the surf shops that initially refused to give Jolyn retail shelf space. “We were a young brand and hadn’t proven ourselves.”
The brick and mortar rejection prompted Jolyn to refocus their sights on ecommerce, and in the beginning, the young company lacked the know-how to be able to create a robust online site. Miller says the company’s site was anything but robust. “Our initial website wasn’t very attractive at all,” she recalls. “Plus it was really difficult to use.”
If Jolyn was to ramp meaningfully, a change was in order.
So in 2015, Jolyn replatformed with Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants interested in focusing on growth rather than technology. “It was amazing how much easier it was for us to customize our site and implement changes. We didn’t need to be programming geniuses for our new site to look great,” Miller says. “We now have a beautiful site that’s representative of the fun swimsuits we’ve created.”
But what about growth?
While the company is keeping its financials close to the vest, Jolyn has grown from a startup offering just a couple of original styles to a brand that now launches new products, styles, and prints on a weekly basis.
Team USA beach volleyball player Lauren Fendrick is even planning to wear a special designed Jolyn suit while competing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, fulfilling the company’s goal of representing the United States in international competition.
“Shopify definitely played a role in our company’s growth,” Miller says.
Besides an easily customizable site theme and product filters that allow shoppers to search for and quickly find the exact swimsuit they want, Shopify has given Jolyn many easy to integrate applications that help to drive growth. They credit Product Reviews, a free app by Shopify, with being especially useful.
Miller notes that having this communication option has helped inform many areas of the company, from fit adjustments to future suit styles. “Because we don’t have a physical store presence, we can sometimes miss out on getting that instant product feedback that comes from interacting directly with customers. Product Reviews has been invaluable for our design process since the ratings and comments allow us to hear directly from our wearers about what they like or don’t like.”
So what’s next? For now, Jolyn plans to use the Olympic spotlight to expand its footprint internationally as well as launch its new collection of activewear for training on dry land. “We’ll never lose sight of our core customer,” Miller says. “But we think girls who work out on land will love what we create for them just as the girls who train in the water do.”
Despite the lofty ambitions, one thing will never change at Jolyn…
“Our company motto is ‘For Women Who Inspire Us’,” Miller says. “These athletes work so hard and are so dedicated -- they constantly motivate us to create new products that live up to their accomplishments. To think that we’ve been able to help them in some small way, that’s really special to us.”