“Waste is a design flaw”: Why Baiia swimwear is taking the

As society becomes more equitable and inclusive, the narrow focus of traditional fashion brands is coming under scrutiny, creating opportunities for smaller, more agile brands to reach customers who have largely been ignored. Sustainable swimwear brand Baiia seeks to do exactly that, by creating modular bathing suits in a wide range of sizes — from size 4 to 26, to be precise.  According to Baiia, over 68 per cent of Australian female shoppers are considered plus-size, though the majo

e majority of brands tend to cater only up to size 14.

Baiia’s core product, a wraparound swimsuit, was created specifically to tackle that problem after founder Amber Boyes saw the lack of size diversity in fashion.

“When I first wanted to start building the brand, people would say ‘swimwear is a saturated market, why would you even try?’,” Boyes told Inside Retail. 

“But it’s only a saturated market for one type of woman. [A majority] of women aren’t being spoken to, and there’s a huge opportunity there.”

An unintended side effect of the business’ clothing design is that, since it allows customers to tailor the swimsuit to their own body shape, it has become popular with women with uneven breasts: either naturally, or due to mastectomies. 

“The design was born out of me figuring out how to make the suit reversible, and make it so that people can mix-and-match different parts,” Boyes said. 

“From that, I came up with the design, and it allowed me to then speak to women who have had a mastectomy, or women who have one breast larger than the other, or just women whose bodies and hormones are changing. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Recycled and repaired

More brands are touting their sustainable aspects than ever before, to the point that the ACCC is cracking down on greenwashing and some claims are getting walked back.

But in Baiia’s case, sustainable fashion is baked into the design process.

“I use recycled fabrics, use water-based eco-friendly dyes, and by creating things that can be worn in different ways, we’re making sure that each piece has some longevity,” Boyes said. 

“When we start designing, we often ask, ‘Can we wear this in more than five ways?’ That’s at the core of what we do.”

And although the brand’s designs tend to suit a variety of shapes and sizes, Baiia has started offering $30 to customers who need to pay for slight alterations in order to cut back on returns, and ensure customer satisfaction. 

“I introduced that during the Covid lockdowns, and there was a big focus on getting out and supporting small, local businesses,” Boyes said. 

“A lot of people were buying our swimsuit, but the design isn’t going to work for everybody. We asked what the most common alterations were to get the suit to fit, and they averaged out to around $30.

“It’s a good way to give money back to our customer who could then go and support other people in the fashion industry, and bring work to alteration providers.”

Baiia founder Amber Boyes

Bricks-and-mortar on the cards

So far, Baiia has found most of its success in the United States, Australia and Canada, though it also sells into parts of Europe and New Zealand. 

And while it has largely been available online only up until now, it will soon be stocked in select resorts in the Caribbean and Fiji, and a bricks-and-mortar expansion is on the cards in the near future.

With most customers wanting to touch and feel products before buying, Boyes said that Baiia will likely focus on its wholesale business in the year ahead.

“I feel like you’re doing people a disservice if you’re going to sell swimwear, but aren’t letting people try it on before they buy,” she said. 

“I’m going to Europe and the States to set up [third-party logistics] partnerships soon, so we can really start increasing our physical footprint in other markets.”