The art of French Swimwear
The founders of Bower Swimwear unveil how it’s done
When I decided to spend my summer holidays in Biarritz, France I couldn’t miss the chance to meet Fiona Ryn and Rupert Tapper – the two founders of Bower Swimwear. I discovered the brand a few years ago and since their first collection I had – how french would say – a coup de coeur. We met a few days ago in a typical French cafe for an interview where I had the chance to ask them more about their label and their stand on the current fashion situation.
FAP: You both are Australian. How come you decided to move to France and start your own swimwear comapny?
B: We started the brand in London two and a half years ago. We both come from a fashion background – photographer and PR. The main reason behind our decision to start Bower is that we saw a gap in the market for a cool and minimal swimwear brand, especially a functional swimwear. When we started the market was quite narrow and only in the last few years there has been a boom of swimwear labels. Moving the company and our lives to Biarritz was more of a choice and impulsive decision. Also, we felt that we had to be placed next to the coast in order to do a proper swimwear line. London was just not the right place for that.
FAP: You source your fabrics and materials in France and Italy. How easy it is to find sustainable materials? And what materials do you use?
B: Bower is an ethical swimwear brand. Sustainable is a misleading term which a lot of brands use nowadays. It is almost impossible to be 100% sustainable. Just in order to be able to have good quality swimwear fabrics that won’t fall apart you need to go to producers that already deal with recycled materials etc. Sourcing sustainable materials is easier than what most of people would think. Every luxury production has sustainable fabrics as well. The majority of our fabrics come from Italy, then France and Spain as well.
FAP: You produce in a family factory based in Portugal. How do you ensure an ethical production?
B: We visit the factory a lot. All workers are highly skilled and they don’t work more than 8 hours per day. This is great but also makes the production process slower, especially when there are deadlines and deliveries to respect. But we are aware of that and we made a decision since the beginning to produce ethically and have well payed workers with high living standards.
FAP: You use SensitivEcoSystem® fabrics. Can you explain what they are ?
B: SensitivEcoSystem® fabrics by Eurojersey are produced in Italy. They are top quality fabrics in solid color and printed with innovative techniques that exalt the creativity of design. Based on a fully integrated production cycle, they make it possible to reduce the use of natural resources and attenuate the impact of our operations on the environment. It also protects the quality of our environment and preserves the ecosystem. The fabric uses a solar panel photovoltaic system, generating enough electricity to power the lighting of Company facilities. Thanks to a highly advance fume extraction and filtration system, besides meeting the legal requirements, the Company makes a significant contribution to the improvement of the plant’s energy efficiency. All this has reduced the quantity of natural gas used at its plant.
FAP: Swimwear is growing as an international label and there are always more sustainable brands. How would you explain this focus on sustainability in fashion?
B: I think there is a general pressure and demand as well for sustainable fashion. However, it’s not as great as what we would expect. Some bigger brands might do just a few pieces or capsules that are ethically produced and even there it’s not all clear. Younger brands are more aware and conscious about the environment and do not want to produce something that destroys the planet. Nonetheless, I deal with our suppliers personally and I know that our consumers don’t buy Bower because it’s sustainable, but because of its design and style.
FAP: How is Bower different from other swimwear brands?
B: We do our own thing and we didn’t start Bower to be a sustainable brand. Our aim was to fill this gap in a market dominated by super commercial brands. We wanted to be a smaller, considered brand – which translated into being ethical because we don’t produce big quantities or go to big factories. Swimwear has a quite limited design. We focus on our inspiration and translate it into something different. We also use amazing fabrics, which definitely sets us apart from other brands.
FAP: What is your most successful item?
B: All our one pieces do really well. They are quite simple but they have a really good cut. They fit to any kind of woman. A lot of our costumers work in fashion and they like to be able to style their one piece when they are back in town. The tangiers bikini also does really well.
FAP: Bower has a quite feminine design. Where do you get your inspiration from?
B: When we start designing we focus on a specific time. We also choose women with great style and career but also something more, strong women. Even if we change inspiration every season we still continue some carry on styles – it’s more about the color tones, prints and style that change…
FAP: Who is your main competitor at the moment and how do you position the label in the market?
B: Our price point is a bit higher and the brand directive is different, but Solid & Striped could be our competitor. They are made in USA and they have taken over the market for simple swimwear. It’s a top brand to compete against. There are also a lot of European brands that are our competitors. We have been compared to a younger version of Eres and through time we have found our own fade and direction. We definitely try to be fun and real.
FAP: What is the next step for Bower in term of sustainability and as a global fashion label?
B: For Resort ’19 we will focus on RTW as well as collaborations. We are now working with two young artists, one for prints and one for illustrations. We like to work with emerging young people. Concerning our sustainability we just want to continue our commitment and research better fabrics and be as much ethical as we can. For example, we are going to change our packaging in order to make it less wasteful and more organic. We are also joining “Positive Luxury” which will certify us as an ethical brand, allow us to meet more suppliers and ethical brands.
Text: Margaux Lombard, August 29th 2017