Tale of an Industry-Disrupting Swimwear Company


For a lot of women, buying a swimsuit can be a torturous experience. The bright lights of the fitting room, the poor fits, the pale legs, expectations dashed . . . In response we stop wearing swimwear all together, or cover ourselves with t-shirts and athletic shorts, or avoid places where swimwear is necessary.

11417768_449639328546027_6559483613777134683_oI could step up onto my soapbox and talk about how terrible society’s portrayal of women is, how unrealistic the expectations are, and what being completely unrepresented in the editorial modelling world feels like, but I won’t. I won’t because someone has done something about this painful reality.

Nettle’s Tale Swimwear is based in Vancouver, Canada and is the brainchild of a woman named Julia Church. Instead of being discouraged by the options and giving up altogether, Church decided to try and change the system by creating a new kind of swimsuit, by marketing it with real women, and by providing a system of measurements that mean the suits actually fit when they arrive.  

Church’s motivation was personal – inspired by her own swimsuit shopping experience and body image. Women responded. Men responded. Their $10,000 Indiegogo campaign raised $70,300 – 703% of their goal.

In case you missed it, this isn’t about swimwear anymore. It’s about real women and a product that strikes a nerve. It’s about putting real women’s bodies in swimsuits that actually make them feel confident as they are instead of questioning how they are told they should be. It’s about turning marketing on its head and doing something different with a product that has a long history of being part of over-sexualization, unrealistic projections and body-image issues spread far and wide.

Oops, I stepped up on the soapbox.

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

13641051_603290529847572_8153574321527484548_oWhat can entrepreneurs learn from Church’s model? Bucking the system is sometimes the best way to take over the system and make a splash.

Church questioned every element of the industry she wanted to change. From materials used to marketing standards, to logistics around sizing. She created by taking nothing at face value, even though her chosen industry was well established. Women have been wearing swimsuits for decades!

Church threw out what wasn’t working. Conforming is never the keyword in entrepreneurship, but identifying opportunity for change can be harder than it sounds. Entrepreneurs sometimes get stuck assuming that the bigger corps know something they don’t. Without even being aware of it, that can affect marketing efforts, logistical decisions and even product style. Think about it – how many new companies do you know that still use twig-thin, trendy models in their marketing and branding instead of real people with real people bodies? Church bucked that. How many new start-ups use the same packaging style as their competitor? Bucked again. How frustrating can it be to not know how to choose between a small, medium, large or extra large item because there is no way to know what the company has decided is a small, or medium, or large or extra large. Buck it! There is no singular idea of beauty, so why was there a singular idea of swimwear? Read this.

13528302_601222576721034_5306866771286343214_oChurch created a new set of expectations. This is huge. She didn’t just give people what they expected, but better, she changed the expectations all together. She didn’t design a new swimsuit, but put it on the same teeny model standing the same unnatural pose at the same sandy beach location. She designed a new swimsuit, put it on a woman from her community, and took photos at the local beach in Vancouver, B.C.

She didn’t copy and paste a size chart from another swimsuit company, leaving her customers to wonder. She creates individual size charts for each style so a women can choose the perfect fit. Some of her suits are even customizable – tying exactly where you need them to tie, padding only if you want padding, fabric in all the right places.  

Church bucked the system and found like-minded women who supported and needed her. Can you buck your chosen industry? Commit to throwing out the bad and bringing the world better by tweeting #BuckMySystem to @StarterNoise on Twitter.

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