Fear of being judged gets in the way of women doing sport. Swimming is no different.
The stats are pretty depressing, with 500,000 women giving-up swimming (in England alone) in the last 10 years, because of body image concerns. This, combined with her own experience, was enough to galvanise Rosie Cook into action, and in 2017 she launched her own swimwear brand, Deakin and Blue.
Any excuse for a pun, I asked Rosie what made her quit her well-paid job and take the plunge into swimwear?
“I kept thinking, are my boobs in the right place?”
“Perfecting my front crawl was on my list of 30 things to do before I’m 30, but instead of concentrating on my swimming and my breathing, I found I was distracted by concerns about my swimsuit and whether it was keeping everything where it should be. I just couldn’t find swimwear that was both functional and feminine; that felt incredible on and that made me want to go for a swim. After chatting with friends and researching the market further, I realised I wasn’t alone. There is a distinct lack of quality swimwear out there for women who aren’t a size 8 with a small bust or who don’t feel incredible when they’re basically naked. I wanted to change that.”
“I wanted to create a range of swimwear that would help women get back in the water.”
“Our swimwear is designed for active use and to help women feel incredible – whatever their shape or size. So when it comes to product design, it has to be function-first and I test every product myself. Some brands only prototype their products in one size (usually the smallest). I deliberately prototype in multiple sizes to make sure that every piece is fit for purpose, as the size range changes. “
Deakin and Blue swimwear comes in a range of sizes from 8-24. And, you can also choose between Hepburn, Monroe and Hendricks (it’s a cup size thing).
I asked Rosie if she was a big fan of Deacon Blue. She said she’d not heard of the band, until she unintentionally named her company after it, (at which point I felt pretty ancient but ploughed on, heroically). She went on to explain that the Deakin and Blue name was inspired by Roger Deakin, author of Waterlog, a journal of outdoor swimming around the British Isles.
“He wrote a lot about the mental health benefits of swimming, and the childlike joy of being in the water and the new perspective it can give you. He called it a frog’s eye view of the world. And blue, for me – it’s the enticing, glittering pool of water that tempts you to step in. I suppose it’s about inspiring women to swim, but also to do it in a completely joyful, worry-free way.”
“Time in the water is a precious moment of escape.”
“I swim for relaxation. The hours I spend in the water is usually my only chance to get away from the phone and other distractions.And, I swim outdoors as much as I can, places like Hampstead Ladies Pond. For me, swimming is like time on the mat. In fact, I’ve just combined the two with stand-up paddle board yoga.”
Body & ocean-friendly
Deakin and Blue products are made from 100% recycled fishing nets and other nylon waste, and use totally recycled and recylable packaging. I asked Rosie how important ethics are to her?
“Although it’s not why I set the business up, given the choice I would always choose to operate sustainably. I think we have a real responsibility to do business fairly, transparently and in a way that is ecologically-conscious. Given the choice to use yarn that is made from regenerated fishing nets instead of virgin nylon, was an absolute no brainer for me. The fabric’s technical qualities are exactly the same; indeed the yarn is better, stronger and more durable, and we are not contributing more landfill for the planet.” “We have also recently collaborated with Love the Oceans, for every swimsuit sold throughout June, they removed and recycled 2kg of trash from the oceans and beaches. However, being ethical is about other things, too. Like promoting healthy models of all shapes and sizes and not altering body shape through airbrushing. That’s just as important.”
Starting your own business can be a hard and lonely experience, at times. What spurs you on?
“I think Sara Blakely’s story is proof that if you get knocked down, you just have to get back up again. She says that women stand differently in Spanx products. I love that and I see exactly the same with my customers – they stand taller, shoulders more relaxed and they smile at themselves. It’s transformational.
But on the darkest days, it’s the stories from women that keep me motivated. I’ve had customers tell me that they’ve been looking for a swimsuit like this for a decade or more.”
I’m so happy with my swimming costume! After buying it about six months ago I’m now finding myself in the pool at least twice a week and happy to be there! They’re incredibly well made and fit so well. Thank you! Jen Robinson-Slater, Facebook review, 2018
You’ve achieved a lot in a short space of time, your swimwear is already award-winning and getting five star reviews on Facebook – where do you go from here?
“Building on what we have today but bigger and better. I’d like to develop swimwear for different types of uses; from doing leisurely lengths in the lido, to triathlon training. In general we’re looking to expand our range of styles for SS19, so that we have something for every woman. I want Deakin and Blue to become the go-to brand for swimwear that women know they’ll feel amazing in.”
If like Rosie, you’re on a mission to help women feel good and confident, and you want help to articulate your purpose or embed it deeper within your business, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.