Getting Into the Swim of Things: Swimwear Development

If your creativity has you diving headfirst into swimwear, you’re in very good company. Consider this: the global market value for swimwear has steadily increased and is predicted to hit 29.1 billion US dollars by 2025.  What’s more, during the pandemic, swim and activewear became increasingly popular –  likely due to so many people realizing the importance of exercise, as well as rediscovering the joy of the great outdoors.

There are many advantages to building a swimwear brand. Not only is it in high demand, but as you can see above, it’s a growing market as well. And, due to the fact that swimwear typically requires very little fabric yardage, it has a very lucrative profit margin (we love that part). Better still, swimwear is small and light, making it easy and inexpensive to store and ship.

Thanks to new fabrics and fabric technology, the swimwear market is more interesting than ever. Customers are looking for choices that are sustainable, diverse, functional, and comfortable, offering swimwear designers a myriad of opportunities to innovate. What’s more, swimwear consumers are actively looking to support smaller brands. This is nothing but good news for an emerging designer.

Choose Your Lane

There is a flipside to all of this however. Because of its high demand, swimwear is one of the most popular clothing segments for start-ups and entrepreneurs. As such, you’ll be facing intense competition, so finding a unique selling point is absolutely vital to the success of your brand.

Identify and understand the niche that best fits your design plans. The great thing about the swimwear category is that it offers quite a few options:

  • Active Swimwear: Although swimwear isn’t just used for sports alone, sporty styles are also in fashion. Comfortable swimwear that lends itself to exercise is a popular niche worth exploring.
  • Body-Positive Swimwear: Just as we’ve seen a shift in underwear marketing to include more diverse body types, swimwear is much the same. If natural bodies and body positivity is important to you, this could be your top niche and value proposition.
  • Modest Swimwear: This is a small by mighty niche that could be of interest if it aligns with your values. This swimwear features longer cuts, cover-up garments, or even clothing that can be comfortably worn in the bath.
  • Sustainability: One of the many swimsuit fabric innovations of recent years is fully recycled fabrics. Other new fabrics on the market today are quicker to dry, withstand sun, chlorine, and saltwater. They won’t break down anywhere near as quickly as they used to which helps to keep swimwear out of landfills. If you care about sustainability, this could be a niche worth considering.”

Fabric Makes All the Difference

The correct fabrics and trims are vitally important in the swimwear category. A fabric that’s too thin can lose elasticity quickly and not give the support your customer is looking for. Conversely, swim fabric that is too thick might not have enough elasticity, or will feel very heavy and keep the body temperature too hot.

Educate yourself on breathability, weight, elasticity percentage AND sustainability so you have a clear understanding of what you’re buying. It may seem counter-intuitive, but having too much spandex or elastane can cause more fit problems than it solves.

An added bonus would be to find a swim material that has UV protection built into it.

Jennifer Suggests: Pay close attention to colors. Light colors are very see through once they get wet! Remember to line them!

Keep a good line of communication open with your fabric vendor. Don’t be embarrassed to let them know that this is your first swimwear collection. A good vendor will be happy to assist you, advise you and guide you towards the appropriate fabric.

Next, consider your trims. One thing that people forget (but only once!) is that metal trim gets pretty hot on the skin when exposed to direct sun! Plastic is the better way to go, if it’s going to touch the skin.

Other options to consider:

  • Ties instead of an S-hook in the back. This allows for more size flexibility.
  • Add a removable triangle bra pad.
  • Use nude (or black, if it works for the design) for linings and bra pads. Chlorine can discolor white fabrics after time.
  • Don’t forget disposable sanitary liners for try-on purposes.

If you’re still not certain of the fabrics and trims to choose for your collection, this is where the assistance of an experienced Sourcing Manager comes in. Check with your manufacturer to see if they have a Sourcing Manager on staff. If they do, enlist their help!

Let’s Talk Fit

 If you’ve ever owned an ill-fitting swimsuit yourself, this section will be near and dear to your heart. Nothing ruins a day at the beach like tugging, pulling and adjusting your swimsuit.

Swim fabric combined with rubber elastic trim is very sensitive. The smallest you change you make to the pattern can alter another part of the suit you weren’t prepared to change. In other words, there’s a “domino effect” that happens with fitting swimwear.

Make a second sample to test the altered pattern so you can do a final check. It goes without saying, you want a perfect fit sample. Make a third sample, if you need to.

That said, there’s no need to overthink it either. If you find that you keep going back to the same thing over and over, and it just doesn’t seem like it’s getting fixed, but now you are on your tenth fit sample, STOP and take a step back. Have some other people try it on and test it out. In most cases the little fit problem you have been obsessing over actually isn’t that big of a problem and the average consumer won’t notice it.

Keep in mind, not every professional pattern maker is adept at making swimwear. At Teg, our pattern makers have years of experience in the swimwear category. Developing swimwear takes a little more time and testing than a ready-to-wear collection, but it’s worth it!

Dive on In

Once you’re ready to start designing, and have determined your perfect niche, keep a close eye on current swimwear trends. Of course, these dictate what sells well to the masses, but bear in mind that most competitors will be following the same trends. Therefore you’ll still need to search out unique ways to differentiate yourself from your competition. Then promote the heck out of those features!

When planning a swimwear collection, there is one more important thing to consider. Swimwear sales are likely to be affected by seasonal swings. When winter comes around, fewer customers are looking for new swimwear products. You need to plan your business – and your manufacturing – around an “uneven” sales cycle.

As we mentioned earlier, here at Teg we have years of experience in developing swimwear. So whether you have questions about fit and fabric, or marketing and market niche, we’re here to help. Feel free to reach out to us at or give us a call at 800-916-0910.

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