Does your cup size make shopping for swimwear a nightmare? I've certainly struggled over the years to find pieces that go up to my cup size without compromising on style.
Lilly & Lime is set to change the game for fuller busted women looking for swimwear. Founded by friends, Ashleigh Hill and Emma-Jane Hughes, the label caters for women who are D-cup and beyond.
Co-founder Emma-Jane spoke with She Does This recently on the inspiration behind the brand, getting it off the ground and the future of Lilly & Lime!
SDT: Your range of swimwear caters specifically for bigger busted, fuller figured women (AMAZING!), what made you want to target this market?
EMMA-JANE: Ash and I are both bigger busted. We love Summer, the ocean and being outdoors but we could never find swimwear we liked.
Our smaller busted friends always found great swimwear in fashionable designs and colours. We sometimes adjusted ours (I once bought a size 18 top from Topshop so the cup size would fit and had to cut the clasp off and tie it!), while Ash was forever buying the same style bikini in black or navy as there weren’t any other colours on offer.
We actually came up with the idea while at our best friend’s hens weekend. After a few glasses of champers we decided there was no reason why we had to be wearing these swimsuits by the pool when all the others had great bikinis on. Basically, we couldn’t find what we wanted so thought there must be a gap in the market!
SDT: Aside from catering to such a wide range of sizes (6D to 40HH), what are some other features that set Lilly & Lime apart from the rest?
EMMA-JANE: We've always wanted to empower women and young girls rather than body shame them. We want to be inclusive for all bigger busted women. We want our customers to feel confident and comfortable in their swimwear. There's nothing worse than feeling self-conscious while at your child’s swimming lesson or going for a swim in the sea worrying you might pop out of your top. So fit is really important to us, we spent 3 years perfecting the fit and are continually working on this to better the fit every season.
We also don’t airbrush models at all, we look for diverse models so that customers can get a realistic idea of what they would look like in the swimwear.
We sell all pieces separately so you can buy your tops and bottoms to suit you in whichever colour, print or style you like. Our range is designed to be mixed and matched so we always try to use colours that carry over from the previous season. So if you've bought something from us the previous year, you can buy another piece that can be worn with the old set too, which gives you so many options!
SDT: Such an incredible idea, its no wonder the label is so popular. Did either of you have a background in fashion or design prior to starting Lilly & Lime?
EMMA-JANE: I worked at a fashion brand in London but on the Marketing side, but I've always had an eye for colour and trends, however it's really down to our amazing team. When we came up with this idea we literally did not know where to start. There was a lot of Googling and asking people that we thought might have the answers. Luckily I had friends from my job in London I could call on and our print designer is a designer I worked with over 10 years ago in London.
Our fit and pattern expert, Brenda, who we call our BRAchitect has spent her whole career designing bras for bigger busts in some of the biggest brands in the industry. We were in the right place at the right time when we found her in 2013 and she has been with our business every since.
SDT: What have been some of the biggest challenges starting your own swimwear label?
EMMA-JANE: The biggest one was having the confidence in ourselves to actually launch the business. There was a moment when we were placing our first order with the factory and had to back ourselves and assure our families it was the right use of our savings. What a nerve wracking moment that was!
We've had a lot to learn, which has been fun but also very daunting. Finding someone to manufacture bigger busted swimwear has been a challenge, you need specialist machinery and a lot of different components so there aren't many factories who will take this type of project on.
Delegate and outsource – realizing we can’t do everything, even though it means we spend more money, we free up our time to grow the business.
In the beginning, Ash was packing all the orders in a storage shed in Bulimba and it just became the only jobs she could do so we realized we needed to get a warehouse to fulfill our orders. We also wanted to expand the business to the ROW and shipping from Australia was too expensive and took too long. Plus the fact she was 9 months pregnant in the heat of summer packing orders – it was awful!
We learnt early on we were going to make a LOT of mistakes! Accepting this and not beating ourselves up about it has been a total learning curve, knowing that as long as we're learning from these mistakes and improving, it's all worth it.
SDT: What would be your biggest piece of advice for women wanting to start their own fashion label or business in the design industry?
EMMA-JANE: Ask for help, it sounds like common sense but often we are so caught up in our situation and we forget to ask others for help or advice. Our experience has been that there are so many people out there willing to help you out as a new start up, especially other women. They all have advice and stories you can learn from. And some of them even have the right connections you need.
SDT: Looking forward, what does the future look like for Lilly & Lime?
We’re always wanting to push the style and size limits to the higher end of our size range purely because Ash has been a HH cup before. If a customer says PLEASE can you go up to an HH cup in your balconette…We’re on the phone to Brenda (our BRArchitect)!
We're also trying something new with the sizing on our two new styles this year – a cap sleeve one piece and a high neck top. We have essentially grouped the sizing by small, medium and large and by cup size so D-E and F-G. We’ll see how that goes. We hope it’ll give more flexibility in terms of fit!
It’s an exciting time for us, we're also looking to grow our team and expand our business into the wholesale arena in the US and Canada.
Watch this space!
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