Bower Swimwear was founded by Rupert Tapper and Fiona Ryn and is currently based out of London and Biarritz, France. The brand draws inspiration from the duo’s time spent at Sydney’s Fairy Bower and in London and New York. With a shared goal to design modern, beautiful and functional swimwear, Bower Swimwear was born.
While in the midst of designing their 2017 collection – which includes metallics that are soft to the touch, and as you’ll soon find out, this pays homage to the founders’ desire to stay true to their core while still offering modern pieces – we got to speak to Rupert and Fiona.
MalenDyer: As Bower Swimwear was founded due to the swimwear in Europe being “either super expensive and not particularly practical or cheap and not really lasting,” how has Bower come to differentiate itself?
Rupert Tapper: We make sure that all our fabrics and components are safe in chlorine, sun and salt water and use quality hardware so that you can have a swimsuit that is reasonably priced and will last you more than a few dips in the sea. We also think about the active girl who likes diving under waves and how the swimsuits hold up – literally.
MD: Fit is very important to the brand. How do you work to ensure Bower has the perfect fit?
Fiona Ryn: The fitting process is really important to us. Usually we will produce a first sample then actually visit our factory with a model and fit everything. Often we will revisit styles again throughout the season, up until we start production. We have a very strong relationship with our factory. They have so much experience in fit, so we can trust their opinion and be guided when we are trying to do something new and are unsure how to make it just right.
MD: Speaking of the relationship you have with factories, share with us more about why you work to have a strong relationship with them.
RT: It is so important for us to know who our factories are and that the materials we are using are ethically produced, from manufacturing through to a proper living wage being paid to staff. Plus they are artisans in the trade and have been producing these fabrics and components for so many years they have it down to a fine art, and you can really see and feel the difference.
“It is so important for us to know who our factories are and that the materials we are using are ethically produced, from manufacturing through to a proper living wage being paid to staff.”
MD: As you both were fashion professionals before starting Bower, did you have hesitations before leaving it behind to start your own business?
FR: I don’t think either of us were hesitant. We have both worked for and are surrounded by people who run their own businesses. It is still fashion and all our previous experience is transferable. The only difference is we now have to make sure our accounts are up to date.
RT: As Fiona said, we both worked in smaller companies, as well as larger, so got to see how it is running your own show. It does take much more self discipline and hard work, although the rewards are ten fold. I have had a few little projects in the past and really like being an entrepreneur, so for me it was a no brainer.
MD: Since Manly, Fairy Bower has such strong ties to the brand – part of the inspiration for the brand – what’s one of your favorite memories of the area?
FR: I spent so much of my childhood here – running around in bikinis, barefoot with my best friends…there are too many memories. On my last trip home three years ago, Rupert, a few of his best friends and I sat on the dock eating a bag of prawns and [drinking] beers – that was the ultimate way to spend a summer day at the Bower.
RT: Yes, Bower was my second home as a child – surfing, swimming snorkeling and just taking in the beauty of this little cove. I can’t count the times I have spent on the docks drinking beers and swimming in the sun at Bower.
MD: Can you share with us how Gisele Bündchen came to wear your brand for Vogue, which was also shot by the one and only Mario Testino?
FR: As with any press, you never know if you will make the final edit. It was a bit of a surprise to us. It was the first piece of press we ever got and was so amazing.
RT: Yes, being a photographer, you are always a little unsure anything will run. So when we heard, it was super exciting. We love Gisele!
“It was the first piece of press we ever got and was so amazing. We love Gisele [Bündchen]!”
MD: What do you prefer designing – bikinis or one pieces?
FR: I quite like doing one pieces, making something often seen as mumsy a bit more sexy.
RT: For me, it’s about making both as fun, comfortable, flattering and sexy as each other. It’s a challenge for either.
MD: When designing, what’s your preferred mode of brainstorming?
FR: We are a bit more free form. There is a lot of searching for old editorial images and then Rupert works on Illustrator to bring it together.
RT: Yes, we love to look at old magazines and films. Then, we go through all our fabric swatches, start to draw sketches of shapes and details we like and then refine these with minute details – right down to stitch types and millimeter measurements.
MD: Although still a young brand, the designs seem to be well-received with stockists including Madewell, My Theresa, Harvey Nichols, Le Bon Marche, La Garconne, Sunset Beach @ The Standard and the list goes on. What has surprised you most since launching in 2015?
FR: I think the fact that so many fashion-forward and trend-focused stores have picked up on us is really incredible. We steer away from designing around what is in fashion, but it gives us confidence that we are doing something innately right.
“The fitting process is really important to us.”
MD: What other store(s) or location(s) would you like to see your designs?
FR: We really want to increase our presence in Europe. Being based here, it would be great to have a few more retailers in Italy, Germany, Netherlands etc.
MD: Lastly, and on a different note, is it safe to say we share a mutual appreciation for coffee?
RT: Yes, I am involved in a coffee shop in a lovely nearby beach village. Although not a Bower venture, we will be selling our swimwear in the retail section of the store, and there is definitely more to come on this subject.
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