Company pressAugust 31, 2017
In the summer heat, swimsuits are an obvious choice. However all that outdoor activity has a downside: the fabrics used in swimwear are primarily synthetic materials –nylon, lycra, and polyesters, which fail to break down. It gets worse: manufacturing swimsuits produces waste — excess fabric that goes unused and trimmings to get the right shape.
Orange County-based RAJ Swim has been manufacturing swimwear for national brands such as Reef, Athena Swimwear, and Next. With 50 years in the swimwear industry, they could be considered a stalwart. This summer, co-CEOs of RAJ Swim, Lisa Vogel and Alex Bhathal, decided to experiment, rethinking how they could tap into millennial sensibilities and build a more eco-conscious line of swimsuits. The duo allowed 12 millennial team members — notably all women– to build a new brand: VYB (pronounced as “vibe”). All the swimsuits for this proprietary brand would come from deadstock.
“I vividly remember Yvonne Macias, our assistant manager, pointing to the rolls of multi-colored deadstock fabric saying, ‘Why don’t we just use the fabric we already have?’ Instantly, we had that ‘aha moment’ and collectively, we decided deadstock would root VYB as a brand,” says Holly Harshman, the 29-year-old Marketing Director of VYB.
Essentially, RAJ Swim incubated a new brand — and potentially a new company, explains Britt Hertel, one of the 12 women behind VYB. “VYB has an extraordinary setup—as an authentic extension of our internal group, we were able to craft a brand because we have the luxury of corporate backing from an established manufacturer that has been in business for 50 years. Unlike a startup, VYB has the foundation because we have the expertise in place and necessary resources on hand—fabric, pattern makers, a distribution center, and the list goes on.”
VYB has access to a fabric library of 200,000 yards of excess fabric. If fully converted, this could make 1.2 million units of swim. Since launching this spring, the company has produced a line up of 110 designs and over 100,000 units in total. Obviously when a particular fabric is used up, that design will no longer be available. And that does not seem to be a problem:
RAJ Swim is one of the last domestic swimwear manufacturing plants in the United States: bulk of the production takes place in California, which further reduces the company’s carbon footprint. “We are not shipping fabric from overseas which helps to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Swope.
“When it’s about being quick to market repurposing existing fabric eliminates the long process of lab dips, strike-offs, and approvals,” adds Harshman.
Of course slow fashion, or sustainable fashion wear, can be pricey. So VYB promises to have a line of suits and swimwear that fall under $50. “Our goal is to continue to lead the market in sustainability, and produce unique limited-edition swim at affordable price points,” adds Harshman.
Although the company has a positive response from customers, the VYB founders recognize that getting people to care about fashion manufacturing is a long-term goal. “Consumer behavior is not going to change overnight, so it’s important to back our story with quality products at affordable price points to influence environmentally responsible purchases,” says Hertel.
VYB’s model, however, poses a simple question: could more established brands give freedom to their staff to produce lines, or incubate startups, that help move their respective industries towards sustainability? If VYB succeeds, not only would it benefit the environment (with less fabric ending up in dumpsters), but also its parent company with another revenue stream, and a new type of customer.