How this luxury Aussie swimwear brand is taking the international market by storm
How luxury brand Bondi Born is making waves in the swimwear category
To an outsider, she seemed to have it all – an eye wateringly successful career, a loving family and a beautiful home in one of Sydney’s most iconic beach suburbs. But Dale McCarthy wasn’t satisfied – an ambition burned with an intensity that could not be ignored.
“I wanted to do something creative, to start something from scratch and build a really beautiful brand. I didn’t want to be in an armchair one day telling my grandchildren that I had this idea, but wasn’t brave enough to give it a go. So, the motivation to take Bondi to the world was rooted simply in loving Bondi; the beach, the suburb and the lifestyle. I wanted to share all of that through our brand, and put everything I’d learnt in business over the years to the ultimate test.”
Bondi Born started in 2014 in the sun room of Dale’s light flooded Bondi home, a stones’ throw from the famous beach after which it is named. With garments made in Australia by local designers and manufacturers, it truly epitomizes the concept of a luxury brand, created by Australians for stylish women all over the world. The Australian production base does add cost to the business, meaning that the price per item can fall between $190 to $440.
“If you look at swimwear generally, it was obvious to me that there was a gap in the market for women aged 30 and above. As you leave your twenties, and after you have children, everyone is different but many women find their bodies will change to some extent. When it comes to clothing in general, women still want style, but they also desire cuts that flatter them – this might be more coverage, slightly more support, or more tactile fabrics. Colour palettes also change, and women want something that will last them more than one season. “With the collection, we produced 12 stories and each had its own creative concept, unique fabric and shapes. We’d then change this each season, but the consistency comes with innovative, luxury fabrics.
“We’ve looked in great detail at all the variables, and tried to deliver a product that will perform really well, and that women will love.” And it appears they do love it, with the swimwear appearing on the Instagram pages of hundreds of women, including celebrities such as Beyoncé, Miranda Kerr and Hailey Baldwin.
Once she had developed the brand concept and positioning within the category, it was time to think about how and where to launch. With a background in digital, Dale knew that customers could come from anywhere in the world.
– Dale McCarthy, Founder and Creative Director at Bondi Born
While most startups launch locally first, Dale’s strategy was always for the brand to be ‘born global’, releasing the first Bondi Born collection in Europe. “I’d looked at European department stores, there were lots of brands at the luxury end of the category, but none of these were Australian. It seemed strange, given our nation’s active, outdoor lifestyle and affinity with beach culture.”
We had 1000 items shipped to a warehouse in the UK, and then got on the phones to some top e-commerce sites, and said “We’ve got this stock, would you like to trial it? We sold out in six weeks, then did the same thing in America”. The test season brought in $500,000 in sales and then a stroke of luck. “We were taken on by a fashion agent with 30 years’ experience, she knew everyone and her success was instant.” Bondi born was soon listed in some of the world’s most prestigious stores, including Harrods, Selfridges in the UK, KADEWE in Germany, the Four Seasons in Hawaii, and boutiques in the Caribbean. In 2017, the brand opened its own bricks and mortar store – where else but on the busy esplanade at Bondi, of course!
Central to Dale’s success story has been her diligent research of the swimwear category, globally, understanding the variables and looking not only what was on shelf, but asking herself what was missing. By launching the brand globally, she was able to establish success abroad first, before introducing the brand to Australia in 2017.
How OFX helped Bondi Born with international payments
Furthermore, careful management of capital has enabled her to pay international distributors and suppliers. “The currency side of things was challenging, I faced fluctuations in exchange rates that I hadn’t anticipated. To secure the best rates, and get some help with risk reduction, I teamed up with foreign currency provider OFX.” Interestingly, OFX were also founded on Sydney’s beaches – but on the Northern Beaches, by two banking entrepreneurs who shared a mutual love of surfing. Keen to offer consumers a fairer deal on foreign exchange, the company grew from local roots to support clients all over the world, helping them move money quickly and easily. Today, OFX is an ASX listed fintech success story, helping clients like Dale grow their businesses by expanding abroad or trading with international contacts.
Reflecting on the great strides made by her brand, Dale attributes success to her small but hard working team, “everyone has worked incredibly hard to get behind this brand and make things happen, in this size of team you really have to believe in the mission and be passionate about fashion.
“Being on board during the early years of a start-up gives everyone the chance to work cross functionally, and learn rapidly. Because we’re a global brand means there’s not much down time – we’re constantly hopping from the Western hemisphere summer to the Eastern summer, it’s incredibly busy, but it’s a good problem to have.”